Partnership Announcement

As part of the United Way’s strategic priority to enhance Indigenous Collaboration, and in seeking partners who share their concern for the wellbeing of Indigenous children, youth and families to invest in this initiative, Albert Brulé, Chief Executive Officer, United Way of Thunder Bay contacted Shania Kids Can (SKC) to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the United Way and Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon (Shkoday) to fund a new Biwaase’aa program at a school in Thunder Bay. Country music icon Shania Twain, a long-time advocate for improving the lives of under-privileged children, founded SKC in 2010.

The Biwaase’aa program, offered by Shkoday has similar goals to SKC which are to increase the life skills of Indigenous & non-Indigenous children, youth, and their families through strategies of academic improvement, emotional development, cultural awareness, and nutritional support. Like the SKC program, Biwaase’aa focuses on mental health, social & emotional behaviours and physical well being while using cultural teachings to achieve these goals. Ultimately both organizations are helping kids succeed in school and in life. Marilyn Junnila, Executive Director of Shkoday, says of the program: “There is considerable evidence that the Biwaase’aa program has a strong, positive impact on the children it supports”. Junnila goes on to say that the Biwaase’aa program provides key essential programs filling identified gaps thereby meeting the needs of Indigenous children (ages 7-13 years) and high-school youth (ages 13-18 years) and their attendant families living in the city of Thunder Bay.

Shania Twain says: “We have been seeking partnerships with organizations that share SKC’s mission, vision and goals, when we were introduced to Shkoday and to the Biwaase’aa program, I was excited to realize that we found a perfect fit”. She goes on to say “We are so pleased to announce that SKC, Shkoday, and the United Way of Thunder Bay will be bringing the Biwaase’aa program to St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School beginning October 12, 2021. I look forward to working together with Shkoday to deliver these critical programs and services to children and youth in Thunder Bay”.

The latest project from musical icon Shania Twain sees her lending her vocal talents to the narration of “For Love” and tells the story of how Indigenous Leaders across Canada are working together to heal generations of colonial harm by revitalizing their ancient cultural traditions in order to protect and empower their most vital asset, their children. For Love was directed by Matt Smiley and co-produced by Mary Teegee debuted at the Vancouver Convention Centre, with a private ceremony and screening in honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day. “Programs offered by SKC and Shkoday are supporting and improving the lives of all children, while narrating this film I thought about the immense amount of work still to be done, especially within the Indigenous communities. I am proud to be part of this project and the new partnership with Shkoday”, says Shania.

“Having the Biwaase’aa program at St. Vincent is very exciting for us. This program will enrich the school experience for our students, foster knowledge building with our staff and support the school community. We will be able to further enhance culturally relevant in-school programming, after school programming and provide additional food support for students. We are looking forward to building a strong partnership with Biwaase’aa and we thank Shkoday, the United Way of Thunder Bay and Shania Kids Can for making this possible.” Tracey Rabachuk, Principal of St. Vincent Elementary School.

A special screening of For Love will be held in Thunder Bay on November 10th, at the Victoria Inn. Tickets are available online at, with all funds raised supporting the new Biwaase’aa program at St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School. Seating is limited and all attendees will be required to follow provincial guidelines and provide proof of their vaccination status.

“We believe that everyone has an important role to play in improving lives and building a strong community. My thoughts in bringing SKC and Shkoday to the table is that, together we can: ensure that the immediate needs of local individuals and families are met; focus attention on creating an inclusive and connected community, and increase supports to children and youth to help them succeed in school”, says Albert Brulé. Brulé goes on
to say, “The United Way of Thunder Bay is proud to be collaborating with Shania Kids Can and Shkoday on this important program.

For Further Information or Interviews:
Amanda Bay,, 807- 628-7109

About Shania Kids Can
SKC provides children, youth and their families with services and support that promote positive change in times of crises and economic hardship. SKC partners with elementary schools to provide a safe place within the school where students can go for help. The goal in the SKC Clubhouse is to support students by offering a program that increases academic achievement, improves emotional development, and provides nutritional support. The SKC staff work with the students and their families to help them overcome hardships, in turn improving their ability to succeed in school and in life.

About Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon (Shkoday)
Shkoday was developed to support the Aboriginal Head Start initiative and to provide opportunities for children, youth, and families through increased participation in cultural and neighbourhood-based programming. Incorporated on January 20, 1997, Shkoday supports children, youth, and caregivers on their life journey by providing a healthy environment and experiences that reflects the cultural values of the extended family and community. In their programming, they see and nurture the spirit/fire in every child, youth, and family member through the presence of strong, caring people who share and carry on the love, skills, language, and knowledge. Children are honoured as gifts from Creator. We are here to help guide their young spirits. Our responsibility is to see and nurture a strong Anishnabek identity in children, youth, with families, community members and partners.

About the United Way of Thunder Bay
The United Way of Thunder Bay is a community leader, serving as a convenor and backbone organization since 1967. Working collaboratively with community agencies, businesses, government, volunteers, and donors, we seek to build a community free from poverty. We focus on the #UNIGNORABLE issues of poverty in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. We do this in many ways, including supporting community initiatives and inspiring individuals, organizations, businesses, and workplaces to get involved, working with our partners nto address key issues and find solutions, and by investing resources into these collective efforts. The United Way of Thunder Bay is committed to a relationship with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples based on the principles of mutual trust, respect, reciprocity, and collaboration in the spirit of reconciliation.

About St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School
The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board is committed to providing quality education which combines academic excellence with a concern for the spiritual, moral, social, emotional, cultural, and physical growth of their students. St. Vincent is a Kindergarten to grade 6 school, providing a safe and inclusive learning environment with faith-based education and academic calibre. With an enrollment last year of 101 students, 1/3 (39%) have self-identified as being Indigenous. St. Vincent provides the opportunity for grades 4-6 to choose to learn the Ojibwe Language.

Board Recruitment

Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon is currently looking for passionate individuals to join our Board of Directors.

For more information visit this link.

Shkoday Annual Report

Take a look at our 2019-2020 Annual Report and see how Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon is helping to paint a brighter future for our children and their families.




Upcoming Sweat lodge Dates

Due to COVID-19, Sweats are no longer scheduled on a regular basis.

For more information, visit the contact page to get in touch with us.



Our team is working behind the scenes to find ways to continue to meet our community’s needs. We hope you’re doing as best you can during these difficult times. We will post more information once we have it.

Biwaase’aa Announces 1600 Students Without Local Aboriginal Program Services

(THUNDER BAY,ON): Today, Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon announced that the Minister of Education office indicated that there has been a delay in the decision to approve their proposal for the BIWAASE’AA program. For the last 14 years, Biwaase’aa has provided much needed educational, nutritional, emotional, recreational and cultural support to 1600+ children and youth in need in Thunder Bay.

Marilyn Junnila, Executive Director of Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon, said that she was informed that the delay of the proposal decision is due to the recent election and the need for the Minister of Education to orientate herself to her new portfolio and the proposals that they fund.

“This delay in funding approval by the Minister of Education is extremely unfortunate news for the children in Thunder Bay. Our programming currently supports over 1600+ Indigenous and non-Indigenous children per month in seven local elementary schools and one high-school. Without this funding, prior to the beginning of the school year we are forced to discontinue or delay start-up of the program leaving these children and their families in a vulnerable position. We are deeply saddened that it has come to this particularly because these children depend on us, but at this point in time, we do not have any other option,” she said.

In 2004, the Thunder Bay Urban Aboriginal Strategy, in consultation with the grassroots community, developed the BIWAASE’AA program, originally called the Neighbourhood Capacity Building Project. Biwaase’aa was designed as a wholistic program to address child poverty issues by increasing the life skills of Aboriginal children, youth and their families through strategies of cultural awareness, academic improvement, structured activities and healthy nutritional supplementation.

Paul Francis, Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon’s President, said that there is considerable evidence that the Biwaase’aa program has a strong, positive impact on the children that it supports.

“The Biwaase’aa program has proven to be enormously successful over the years. We have the research to prove is, as well as testimonials from many local families who this program has positively impacted. Biwaase’aa really makes a difference in people’s lives which in turn positively impacts the entire community. By investing in our community’s children, we invest not only in their future, but our future as well. There should not be any reason why this program should not be funded moving forward,” he said.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the Biwaase’aa program requires $900,000 to run status quo in order to offer its specialized services in Thunder Bay’s most impoverished neighbourhoods.

Junnila added that the Biwaase’aa program has been working on sustainability for a number of years. In recent years Biwaase’aa has received a large amount of their funding from the Minister of Education and has continually solicited and applied to other potential funders including both government and non-government organizations and businesses to enhance and expand the Biwaase’aa program.

“The unsolicited donations from the community are both generous and encouraging but without the Minister of Education making a decision regarding funding availability immediately, we do not have any other choice but to delay the start up or end the program,” she said.

Junnila explained that the announcement of the Minister of Education’s delay in making a decision regarding the Biwaase’aa program was being made to inform the community and to allow the Biwaase’aa staff to make plans for their future.

“By early August we have normally already advised out Youth Outreach Workers, and After-school Assistants, when their return to work date would be in August. We do not want to leave our nine Youth Outreach Workers, the After-school Assistants, Program Manager and Assistant in uncertainty. They need to be able to make plans for themselves and their families; therefore, we are announcing that the Biwaase’aa program may not start at the beginning of the school year in September 2018,” she said.


Biwaase’aa provides key, essential programs filling identified gaps in services thereby meeting the needs of Aboriginal children and youth aged seven to thirteen (7-13) years and their families residing in the city of Thunder Bay by providing opportunities to participate in programs that contribute to their cultural, mental, physical and emotional well-being.

For more information:
Marilyn Junnila, Executive Director 807-768-2342 (ext. 23)
Paul Francis, President 807-630-3209
Kelvin Redsky, Biwaase’aa Program Manager 807-623-0500
1610 John Street Road
Thunder Bay, ON P7G 1J9

BMER – 2016-17 Final Report

In 2007 the Ministry of Education released the Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework (the Framework). In this document, the Government of Ontario promised all Indigenous peoples that their children attending provincially funded schools “will have the traditional and contemporary knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to be socially contributive, politically active, and economically prosperous citizens of the world”