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Membership

Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) membership is based on the establishment of either Chapters or Councils within the province of Ontario. Membership provides Indigenous women the support, capacity development opportunities, and visibility they need to further enhance their lives. ONWA Membership provides Indigenous women within Ontario the opportunity to collectively influence both national and provincial policies and legislation as it relates to issues that affect them.


Chapters are incorporated organizations, and Councils are non-incorporated grassroot women’s organizations. Chapters and Councils are registered by regions (North, East, South, and West) based on the Medicine Wheel so that the voices of Indigenous women are heard from all four directions.

Chapters

Any previous Local or new group of Indigenous women whose organization is registered and in good standing as an Incorporated group through the provincial or federal government will be eligible to become a full service delivery site of the ONWA. Chapters will be required to enter into a MOU with the ONWA in order to strengthen clarity and accountability in the relationships.

Councils

A grassroots group of women, who chose not to become an incorporated body, but maintain a presence to provide supports, educate and advocate for Indigenous women and/or children in their community.  These groups can also be in the process of becoming an ONWA Chapter.

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Announcements

SAVE THE DATE: 53rd Annual General Assembly (AGA) & Leadership Conference

WHEN: September 13-15, 2024

WHERE: Thunder Bay, ON at the Best Western Plus Norwester Hotel & Conference Centre (2080 Hwy 61, Thunder Bay, ON P7J 1B8)   

May 3, 2024: MEMBERSHIP PROFILE UPDATES OPEN

All membership main contacts will receive an email regarding the annual profile update. Profile updates for all Chapters and Councils are required in order to be in Good Standing (By-law 1, A14) and to be eligible to attend and vote at ONWA's 53rd AGA & Leadership Conference.

This must be completed and submitted by 12:00 PM EST on Friday, June 14, 2024.

If your Chapter or Council has not received a request to update your membership profile, please contact members@onwa.ca

ONWA in Ontario

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As of April 2024, ONWA’s membership consists of 14 Chapters (incorporated organizations providing frontline services) and 23 Councils (grassroots groups supporting community development models), representative of ONWA’s four regional directions – North, South, East, West – throughout the province. (This number is likely to increase as ONWA continues to work with communities and expand the membership.)

Reflected in the map, ONWA is currently delivering services and programs in 24 sites across Ontario. 10 of these sites are direct service delivery sites, whereas the remaining 14 are through our Chapter membership organizations.


ONWA recognizes that Indigenous women’s agencies are stronger together as a collective and we will continue to build relationship and capacity with Indigenous women and their agencies as a result our membership numbers may change from year to year.

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Board of Directors

ONWA’s leadership is based on a policy governing board of Directors comprising of twelve Indigenous women, including four youth Director positions to ensure the mentorship and voices of our future generation is reflective in our work. All the Directors are elected from ONWA’s membership. A regional Grandmothers’ Council, who are non-voting members of the board, provide advisory and mentorship support to the Board of Directors.

EAST

Melinda Commanda

Secretary

JoAnne Thibodeau

Director

Hunter Corbiere

Youth Director

Vacant

Grandmother

SOUTH

Krystal Brant

Vice President

Paula Whitlow

Director

Alana Robert

Youth Director

Vacant
Grandmother

WEST

Debra Vermette

President

Tana Troniak
Treasurer

Madison Wigwas

Youth Director

Catherine Everson

Grandmother

NORTH

Lisa Echum
Director

Audrey Fisher

Director

Shanayah Echum

Youth Director

Gwen Prevost

Grandmother

Board of Directors

Debra Vermette

PRESIDENT

Debra Vermette is Dakota from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation located just outside of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. She is passionate about ensuring Indigenous women have culturally grounded access to supports, services, and programs that can best help them. This is evident in her role as President of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) and previous role as Executive Director of Beendigen.

Debra has often been the first point of contact for women leaving abusive and violent situations. She began her work at Beendigen Anishinabe Women’s Crisis Home & Family Healing Agency as Resident Counsellor in 2005, became the Finance/Human Resources Manager in 2009, was appointed the Executive Director in 2015, and retired July 1, 2022. When asked what the focus of her work with Beendigen was, Debra commented, “to end violence against Indigenous women and to empower women.” In her seven years as Executive Director of Beendigen, Debra led an amazing team committed to working with Indigenous women so they can lead lives without violence, reclaim their power and culture, and take their rightful place in their communities.

Debra sat on the board of the Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario (ASOO). ASOO works collaboratively and supports Indigenous shelters across Ontario in addressing and ending family violence.

Debra holds a Business of Administration degree and an Honours Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) degree from Lakehead University. She also holds a Post-Degree Human Resources Management certificate from Confederation College.

Cora McGuire-Cyrette

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Cora McGuire-Cyrette has been serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), the largest and oldest Indigenous women’s organization in Canada, since 2015. Ending violence against Indigenous women and their families and ensuring equal access to justice, education, health services, environmental stewardship, and economic development, sit at the cornerstone of the organization. 

 

A proud member of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (Sand Point First Nation), she uses her voice to champion the rights of Indigenous women and girls, cultivate healing, create safe spaces, and supporting Indigenous women and youth as they reclaim their role as leaders.

 

As a role model in Indigenous women’s leadership, Cora was integral to the development of the Ontario Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Cora serves as Co-Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council of Ontario, and the Chair of the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, among others.

 

Cora holds a BA in Indigenous Learning and Sociology from Lakehead University and an MMBA from York University, Schulich School of Business. She lives in Thunder Bay with her husband and has three children and two grandsons.

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