Thank you for attending!

And there is still so much more celebrating to do!

miigwetch, mikwêc, marsee, nia:wen, wela'lioq, nakurmiik, mársi, nitsiniiyi'taki, merci, thank you

The Indigenous Innovation Initiative and the Circle of Abundance at the Coady International Institute gathered to celebrate with Indigenous Innovators, honoured FireKeepers, and distinguished guests and launch the Paddles UP! fundraising campaign.

PaddlesUP! is a $10-million giving campaign to catalyze Indigenous innovation and change people's lives. Your contribution allows us to support more innovators to develop and test their innovation towards impact – to get more paddles in the water. Did you know that even though Indigenous Peoples are about 4.9% of the population in Canada, they receive just over 0.5% of grants? That is $1 for every $178 given to non-Indigenous groups (source: Future of Good). Here are some ways you can change that reality:

Each component of the celebration acknowledged, amplified and told the story of Indigenous innovation leadership in Canada, including:

  • Keynote Panel explored transformative impact through Indigenous innovation leadership

  • Indigenous Innovators shared stories and described their journey of reconceptualizing what innovation looks like within an Indigenous context and what they need next to achieve their fullest potential

  • Filmmaker, storyteller, and performer, Ecko Aleck of Sacred Matriarch Productions, called us up-river to remember the whole story of who we are and why we are here

  • Paddles UP! Fundraising Campaign Launch was announced with an introduction to the next innovators and an invitation to reimagine a future of hope and strength guided by Indigenous knowledge and innovation

  • You are invited to 'Grab a Paddle' of support and join our ongoing celebration of Indigenous Innovation. Contribute to the next group of innovators and their transformative impact guides by values of inclusion, self-determination, sustainability, and creativity



There is much to celebrate about the work that has been done, and even more excitement with Paddles UP! on the river to the reality of reconciliation with Indigenous innovation. We all have a role to play in creating the conditions for Indigenous Innovation Leadership to thrive.

Learn more about the Advancing Gender Equality through Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program here


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Dr. Peter A Singer

World Health Organization

Dr Peter Singer is Special Advisor to the Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization. He supports the Director General to transform WHO into an Organization sharply focused on impact at the country level. Dr Singer co-chaired the transition team; was the architect of WHO’s strategy and its “triple billion” target; supports colleagues to guide consistent strategy implementation of WHO’s programme budget, results framework, delivery stock-takes, investment case, and innovation strategy; and provides leadership to the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Wellbeing to strengthen collaboration among 13 multilateral agencies to accelerate the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Before joining WHO, Dr. Peter Singer co-founded two innovative, results driven, social impact organizations. From 2008-2018 Singer was Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada. During this period Grand Challenges Canada raised CAN $450M to support 1000 innovations in more than 90 countries, which have the potential to save 450,000-1.6 million lives and improve 11-35 million lives by 2030. From 1996-2006 he was Sun Life Financial Chair and Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. He is also Professor of Medicine at University of Toronto.

In 2007, Dr. Singer received the Michael Smith Prize as Canada's Health Researcher of the Year in Population Health and Health Services. In 2011, Singer was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to health research and bioethics, and for his dedication to improving the health of people in developing countries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (where he was Foreign Secretary), U.S. National Academy of Medicine, and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).

As a researcher, Dr. Singer published over 300 articles, received over $50 million in research grants, and mentored hundreds of students. He studied internal medicine at University of Toronto, medical ethics at University of Chicago, public health at Yale University, and management at Harvard Business School. He served his community as Board Chair of Branksome Hall, an internationally minded school for girls.

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Alex & Angel

Indi City

Angel and Alex are a 2S BIPOC couple and co-founders of Indi City. In 2017 they became the first global Indigenous Designers to incorporate wearable technology into traditional regalia.  Their first piece a Woman’s Traditional outfit called “ The Matriarch Speaks,” exhibited in Calgary, Ottawa and Shenzhen, China.  In the same year they both graduated from the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership Program at St.FX University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

Together they design and create fashion accessories according to the current indigenization of Turtle Island in contact with their ancestral roots. Indi City has grown from a small business on Instagram to a newly launched online store with products also found in shops and boutiques across the country. With an in-house multi-media productions company they work to curate a 100% Indigenous made brand through visual marketing and story-telling.

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Jeff Cyr

Raven Capital

For nearly 25 years, Jeff has provided strategic leadership for Indigenous, not-for-profit, and government organizations and now works in Indigenous social finance and the social innovation space.  Métis from the White Horse Plains area of the Red River Valley of Manitoba, Jeff is a proud husband and father of five.

He is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, CEO of the Raven Indigenous Impact Foundation and past Chair of the Indigenous Innovation Council at the Indigenous Innovation Initiative. He has helped create the $25M Raven Indigenous Impact Fund, pioneer the community-driven outcomes contract (a unique pay-for-success social finance model) and the Indigenous Solutions Lab process, which earned him an Ashoka Fellowship in 2019.

Jeff’s work enables Indigenous social innovation and builds Indigenous social finance in Canada, empowering Indigenous communities and innovators.

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Sara Wolfe

Indigenous Innovation Initiative

Sara is Anishinaabe from Brunswick House First Nation in Northern Ontario. She is a Registered Nurse, a Registered Midwife, and holds a master’s in business administration (MBA) from the Rotman School of Management. Working more than two decades primarily in sexual and reproductive health, Sara was the founder and managing director of Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto and co-led the development and implementation of the Toronto Birth Centre, Canada’s first mainstream healthcare facility to use an Indigenous governance and leadership framework.

Today, she is the Director of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative at Grand Challenges Canada, one of the largest impact investors in Canada. They are an innovation platform dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Through the Indigenous Innovation Initiative, Sara is supporting innovators and communities to identify and solve their own challenges, drive inclusive growth, and improve peoples’ lives through Indigenous innovation. Their inaugural program is to advance Indigenous gender equality through innovation and social entrepreneurship.

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Justin “Jah’kota” Holness

Hip-Hop Artist & Entrepreneur

Justin “Jah’kota” Holness made history for being the first Native Hip-Hop Artist to drop a verse in the Senate 2016. He is an award winning entrepreneur receiving the 2018 CBC Trailblazer Award for TR1BE Music.

Currently he works for Futurpreneur Canada as a Business Development Manager for Young Indigenous Entrepreneurs. He is inspired by the mission that through entrepreneurship we can to achieve self-determination. He is also a passionate advocate for the rise of the sacred feminine and the rematriation of this nation.