Trailblazing Indigenous Success

Featured Speakers' Bios

Deborah Young

Deborah Young is a graduate of the University of Manitoba and holds a Bachelor of Social Work and Masters of Social Work in Policy, Administration and Evaluation.  She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Winnipeg.

Over the past twenty years, Deborah has dedicated both her professional and academic life working with and for Aboriginal peoples of Canada.  After six years as a policy advisor at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Deborah joined the Public Service of Canada in 1997 where she worked on a number of key federal policy and program initiatives, including serving as advisor to two federal cabinet ministers.

One of Deborah’s major accomplishments was her role in the overall planning and coordination of the Prime Minister’s historic Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools on June 11, 2008.
In July 2011, Deborah joined the University of Manitoba as the Executive Lead for Indigenous Achievement.

Deborah is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Manitoba, and was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She remains connected to Opaskwayak Cree Nation through her large extended family, and to the Indigenous community both in Manitoba and nationally through an extensive network.

Michael Hart

Michael Anthony Hart is a citizen of Fisher River Cree Nation and an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Work. He has worked in areas of child welfare, mental health, addictions, and family therapy, and was the co-director of the Manitoba First Nations' Centre for Aboriginal Health Research. His research interests are focused on Indigenous Knowledges, particularly around Indigenous ways of healing and well-being. His research projects have also addressed Indigenous health, Indigenous youth suicide, Elders participation institutions of higher education, and the education of Indigenous peoples in social work. He is presently the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledges and Social Work. In this capacity, Dr. Hart will continue his work on the developments of helping practices in social work that are based in Indigenous Knowledges. The overall intent of his work is to further develop Indigenist social work as a means to countering the colonial oppression and support Indigenous peoples to stand strongly in their ways of being.


Catherine Cook

Dr. Catherine Cook received her medical education at the University of Manitoba (1987), certified in Family Medicine in 1989, with a MSc. through the Department of Community Health Sciences, in 2003.

Dr. Cook has a joint role with the University of Manitoba as the Associate Dean, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority as Vice-President of Population and Aboriginal Health. She is engaged at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine in the areas of teaching, student supports and research.

Heather McRae

Heather McRae is a Metis-Anishinaabe woman with extensive work experience in the field of community development and sport. In October 2012, she received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Manitoba where she was a member of the Ph.D. Studies for Aboriginal Scholars (PSAS) program. Her doctoral research project examined the politics and praxis of culturally relevant sport education – specifically, program planning and leadership practices - as an alternative to deficit-based and culturally inappropriate sport programs for urban Aboriginal youth.

Currently, Heather is the Indigenous Research and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator / Acting Director of Rec and Read, a community-university sport organization whose mission is to develop and deliver relationship-based, communal mentor programs involving children, youth and adult allies from diverse cultural backgrounds. She is also involved with a number of community engagement initiatives near the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne Campus and the William Norrie Centre.

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