Jennifer Campeau’s drive and leadership skills have taken her on an amazing career path — from teaching and administrative positions at universities in Canada and the United States, to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan where she served as an MLA and cabinet minister, to northern British Columbia as an executive in the natural resources sector, and now to downtown Toronto where she takes up the role of George Brown College’s first Director of Indigenous Initiatives.
Campeau is Anishinaabe from Yellowquill First Nation with kinship ties to the Eastern Region III Metis Nation of Saskatchewan. She leads George Brown College’s efforts to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and oversees Indigenization measures as part of the college’s Vision 2030/Strategy 2022 initiative. She is also focused on providing increased opportunities for Indigenous students through strong community and industry partnerships.
“I’m really excited to get started and build on the great work that has already been done here at the college,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to connecting with our students, with Indigenous communities in the area and forging relationships with industry downtown.”
“I have great ideas I bring from various institutions and a strong network of Indigenous educators to draw from.”
While Campeau has spent a good portion of her life in western Canada, she attended high school in Ottawa, her daughter attends university in Toronto and she has professional contacts in the city.
“Ontario is home,” she said.
Connecting to Indigenous students
Campeau is a big proponent of access programs and partnering with industry to provide increased access to higher education for Indigenous students. She draws inspiration from initiatives at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Lethbridge and hopes she can use those ideas to build on work that’s already underway at George Brown.
And when it comes to connecting directly with Indigenous students, Campeau said, “my life is not unlike other Indigenous students and the barriers they’re facing.”
“I’ve lived on reserve as well as in urban areas. I was a single mother while going through my undergraduate and graduate school studies and an auntie, raising my nieces and nephews. I was the last generation that was in residential school — not a lot of people know that,” she said.
“I bring those experiences with me, definitely mirroring what students’ parents, aunties and grandparents are going through—the effects of the colonization process. I’m very open to their experiences and open to addressing the barriers they experience so they can be successful with their studies.”
When asked what advice she offers to Indigenous students, she said: “Don’t be afraid to be the only person in the room that looks like you.”
“To grow you’ve got to be uncomfortable and that’s what drives me to do things that I likely wouldn’t have done.”