THUNDER BAY – Wiikwemkoong band member Regina Mandamin has recently been appointed as the City of Thunder Bay’s new manager of Indigenous relations and inclusion, a brand-new position that supports the city’s anti-racism and inclusion accord which passed in June of 2018.
“I’m very excited and honoured; it’s a very large responsibility but I feel like I’m up to the challenge and I’ve got a lot of support so I’m feeling optimistic,” said Ms. Mandamin.
She began working in this role on May 27 and the new position was celebrated at a City of Thunder Bay press conference in late June. The exact specifics of the role had not been explicitly defined when Ms. Mandamin started, which is both a by-product of being a newly-created job and also an opportunity for her to help shape and define what that role would become.
Ms. Mandamin told The Expositor that she will be working with the anti-racism and inclusion accord, a group of organizations in the city that work together to support equity and diversity and discuss how they can address racism within their organizations. She will also be providing advice and support to the city’s senior management and internal departments, as well as strengthening the city’s relationships with Indigenous partners.
“We have such a diverse population in the city of Thunder Bay,” said Ms. Mandamin. “Having dedicated senior management positions such as this would be a really great first step in taking a look within our city, our corporation, on how we can do better, be more inclusive and be an employer of choice for Indigenous and under-represented groups in the city.”
She added that the new role is timely because Thunder Bay has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years, as well as public calls to do a better job of addressing social issues and eliminating barriers in order to be more welcoming and inclusive.
“I’m hoping to build stronger relationships with our partners, building that sense of trust and collaboration in our day-to-day operations, and to better equip our staff and the work they do,” she said, adding that her work will extend to Indigenous groups in the city as well. “I will be looking at how we can tell our stories, how we can better educate the public and create awareness that we’re a vibrant and resilient people in the city.”
Ms. Mandamin was born and raised in Thunder Bay—her parents and family had moved from Wiikwemkoong to the city before she was born. However, she spent all her childhood Christmases and summers in Wiikwemkoong and she visits her family back there whenever she can.
She has been a senior policy advisor for the Indigenous health policy unit of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and a policy analyst with the Industrial Relations Advisory Service as part of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. She has also been a senior research advisor with the Chiefs of Ontario, attended law school at the University of Ottawa and holds a BA from Carleton University in Canadian studies.
Ms. Mandamin was a youth board member within the Ontario Native Women’s Association for several years until 2010. She has worked as a summer student for the Thunder Bay Friendship Centre and the regional multicultural youth centre.
“For me, it’s about giving back to my community and continuing on some of the work I started before I left Thunder Bay. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my family and friends,” she said.
A good portion of her workload will involve working to rewrite the city’s internal policies in an effort to improve the work the city does for its constituent communities. Ms. Mandamin added that she is determined to bring her own culture, teachings and values into her work.
“One thing the city was looking for was an Indigenous person with lived Indigenous experience. Because that was such an important component of the hiring process, I feel supported to bring my true identity to my role and daily work life here at the city. I feel it’s a supportive environment and I’m very excited to work in this role moving forward,” she said.