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Niagara chamber honours Indigenous advocate
Michele-Elise Burnett will be honoured at the Niagara chamber's annual celebration of International Women's Day this Friday. Supplied

The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce is honouring an advocate of Indigenous culture at its 22nd annual celebration of International Women’s Day.

Michele-Elise Burnett is this year’s winner of the chamber’s annual International Women’s Day award.

The event is Friday, March 3, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Central Community Centre on York Road. Tickets can be purchased through the chamber’s website.

Burnett is a Metis citizen of Ontario with Algonquin roots and member of the Bear Clan and has earned a reputation as a fierce and proud advocate of Indigenous culture.

Chamber president Mishka Balsom described her as “innovative” and “ground-breaking,” noting she “brings a voice to women’s issues.”

“Each year the Women in Niagara Council (WIN) presents the IWD award to a woman in Niagara who captures the spirit of the values celebrated that day,” Balsom said in an interview.

Burnett has done much to capture that spirit.

She is president of Kakekalanicks, an art consultancy organization that promotes Indigenous art and education across Niagara.

Burnett is also president of Landscape of Nations 360, the non-profit organization that built the Landscape of Nations monument in Queenston. 

The non-profit directs the annual Celebration of Nations, a large gathering of the Niagara Indigenous community which promotes education, art and culture to a wider audience.

Burnett is also the artistic producer for Artpark’s annual Strawberry Moon Festival, an Indigenous community festival in New York state. 

The chamber’s choice to award Burnett is in the spirit of this year’s theme of embracing equity.

The chamber is also hosting Dr. Kate Bezanson, Dr. Tapo Chimbganda, Trecia McLennon and Dr. Samah Sabra, all of whom specialize in an area of diversity or equity.

Bezanson is a federal adviser on gender rights and professor of Social Justice and Equity at Brock University.

Chimbganda is the founder of the non-profit organization Future Black Female, which works to help young black women “take charge” of their own futures.

McLennon, director of equity diversity and inclusion at Brock University, works to teach “cultural competence” with her company Culturiousity.

And Sabra manages workplace diversity and inclusion at Niagara College. 

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