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PRESS RELEASES & ANNOUNCEMENTS

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  • 28 Jul 2022 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    KAMLOOPS, BC, June 28, 2022 — On the territory of the Tkumlups te Secwepemc near the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where unmarked graves were found in June 2021, the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation Board Chair, Tony Williams, announced the termination of the relationship between the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation (VJKF) and the Sisters of Saint Ann (SSA) by returning a $500,000 endowment donation.

    The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation Board Chair, Tony Williams, announcing the termination of the relationship between The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation (VJKF) and the Sisters of Saint Ann (SSA) by returning a $500,000 endowment donation.

    VJKF Board Chair, Tony Williams

    The VJKF Board finds it impossible to maintain a relationship with the SSA after learning about their involvement in the Indian Residential School in Canada. In June 2021, when Kukpi7 Casimir announced the findings of the 215 unmarked graves, the VJKF Board learned of the SSA’s direct involvement in running the Kamloops Indian Residential School and other Indian Residential and Day schools. The VJKF board was disturbed to learn this information and arranged a meeting with the SSA.

    It is the VJKF’s belief that the SSA have not taken responsibility or apologized for their role in Residential Schools and the harm done to Indigenous children and their families. Therefore, the SSA’s actions are irreconcilable to the values and mission of the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation.

    The Board hears the Survivors and finds the stories of the abuse that happened to them as children at Indian Residential Schools (IRSs) located in Kamloops, Kuper Island, and other locations to be true. Many children did not survive Indian Residential School, which is direct evidence of the terrible conditions the children were subjected to while attending. The purpose of our Foundation is directly related to correcting the harms caused to Indigenous children by IRSs and those organizations that were in charge.

    The VJKF board no longer feels it is appropriate for our Foundation to retain the gift from the SSA, a branch of the Catholic Church, while agreed compensation from the Church to Survivors remains unpaid. We do not have the authority under our agreement with the SSA or our charter to use the money to benefit Survivors. But we strongly urge the SSA to use any funds they may have to honour previous commitments by the Catholic Church to directly benefit Survivors.

    As an organization focusing on supporting Indigenous students, we want to show our complete and unwavering support for the Survivors and victims of Indian Residential Schools. This necessitates that we, the VJKF board, wholly disassociate with the SSA by terminating our 4.5-year-long agreement.

    It is the hope of the VJKF Board that the Sisters of Saint Ann will one day take full responsibility for their role in Indian Residential Schools and begin to work toward Truth and Reconciliation.

    ABOUT THE VERNA J. KIRKNESS EDUCATION FOUNDATION

    The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation works to address the under-representation of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students at Canadian universities in science, technology, engineering, and math programs.

    MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION

    Tony C. L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors: tony.williams@vjkf.org
    DeDe DeRose, Board Secretary and Communications Committee Chair: dede@vjkf.org 

    Website: https://vernajkirkness.org/

    ###

    For a PDF of this release, click here.


  • 25 Jan 2022 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    Cochrane, Alberta, January 25, 2022 — The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation is pleased to announce Amber Boyd as the new Executive Director for the foundation.

    Amber holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology, a Human Resource Management Certificate and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Calgary. She is a Registered Professional Recruiter, and for the past three years, has been responsible for finding Indigenous talent for Indigenous-led organizations across Canada.

    She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Verna J. Kirkness Foundation, having worked in finance, human resources, marketing, event planning, business development, and fundraising. Her previous employers include Fidelity Investments, RBC Dominion Securities, and Spirit Omega. Amber has been a corporate trainer for over 18 years and has previously worked as the Executive Director of Ups and Downs — the Calgary Down Syndrome Association. She is a proud citizen of the Métis Nation of Alberta, a published author, and is passionate about working with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

    The VJKF board of directors is confident Amber will lead their staff to accomplish its vision of seeing more Indigenous students graduating from science, engineering, and medicine at post-secondary institutions across Canada.

    About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation

    The foundation was established in 2008 with the goal of increasing the number of Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) post-secondary students graduating in science, engineering, and medicine.

    To accomplish this goal, Grade 11 Indigenous students are given the opportunity to learn and conduct research at one of the program’s 12 participating universities across Canada for a week in May. Students live in residence, meet with Elders at Indigenous student centres, and do independent research with faculty mentors, graduate students, and their peers.

    The foundation’s namesake, Dr. Verna J. Kirkness, has been a leader in the field of Indigenous education since the 1950s. To date, over 500 Indigenous students have completed the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program. This year, the foundation anticipates accepting 150 students to the program.

    MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION

    Tony C.L. Williams,
    Chair of the Board of Directors: tony.williams@vjkf.org Website: https://vernajkirkness.org/

  • 25 Oct 2021 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation announced today the appointment of Mark Whitmore to the Foundation Board of Directors.

    Dr. Whitmore holds degrees in Mathematics and Physics from McMaster University. He was a faculty member at Memorial University of Newfoundland from 1977 to 2014, where he also held a variety of academic administrative positions. He moved to the University of Manitoba in 2014 for a ten-year term as Dean of Science, during which he became a strong supporter of the the Verna J. Kirkness program. Following the completion of his term as Dean, he led the Faculty of Science Indigenous Achievement Initiative for three years until his retirement and move to Blind River, Ontario. He served on a number of boards of directors during his career, and has recently joined the North Shore Health Network Board of Trustees in northern Ontario.

    About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation

    The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation’s Mission is to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from science and engineering programs in Canada.  

    The Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program (Science and Engineering Program) offered by the Foundation addresses the under-representation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students at Canadian universities. One of the factors contributing to this is the lack of academic role models for these students. 

    The Foundation addresses this by providing an opportunity to for Indigenous grade 11 students to spend a week at a Canadian university interacting with scientists in their research laboratories. The Foundation covers the full cost of the Science and Engineering Program including travel and accommodation. During their week on campus the students have the opportunity to meet role models, learn about the support systems that are available to them on campus and experience the excitement of doing research. The Science and Engineering Program develops motivated role models who foster the importance of graduating from high school and obtaining a postsecondary education.

    For information about the Foundation or to learn how you can support our programs, please contact Tony C.L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors tony.williams@vjkf.org

  • 25 Oct 2021 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation announced today the appointment of Laura Buller to the Foundation Board of Directors.


    Laura Buller graduated in 2014 with her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Winnipeg’s Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (CATEP). She is currently a high school support teacher in the Winnipeg School Division, working in a program that builds foundational relationships with students and supports both their academic and social-emotional needs. Laura began volunteering with the foundation 3 years ago as a mentor/volunteer, spending the week with the students on campus at the University of Manitoba.

    About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation

    The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation’s Mission is to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from science and engineering programs in Canada.  

    The Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program (Science and Engineering Program) offered by the Foundation addresses the under-representation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students at Canadian universities. One of the factors contributing to this is the lack of academic role models for these students. 

    The Foundation addresses this by providing an opportunity to for Indigenous grade 11 students to spend a week at a Canadian university interacting with scientists in their research laboratories. The Foundation covers the full cost of the Science and Engineering Program including travel and accommodation. During their week on campus the students have the opportunity to meet role models, learn about the support systems that are available to them on campus and experience the excitement of doing research. The Science and Engineering Program develops motivated role models who foster the importance of graduating from high school and obtaining a postsecondary education.

    For information about the Foundation or to learn how you can support our programs, please contact Tony C.L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors tony.williams@vjkf.org

  • 29 Sep 2021 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    Sept 29th, 2021 – The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation is dedicated to providing support to Indigenous youth to pursue education in science engineering and medicine. We join our donors, volunteers, students, and partner universities in supporting this day on behalf of all Indigenous Canadians.  

    The designation of September 30th as a day of reflection is an important step toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.  The day addresses Call to Action 94 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

    “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

    The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) has unveiled a new Survivors’ Flag to mark the first official National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This commemorative flag was created by Survivors to share their expression of remembrance with the broader public and to honour all residential school Survivors, families, and communities impacted by the residential school system in Canada. The flag was developed through six weeks of consultation, discussion and collaboration with Inuit, Mi’kmaq, Atikamekw, Cree, Ojibway, Dakota, Mohawk, Dene, Nuu-chah-nulth, Secwepemc, and Métis Survivors. 

  • 25 Jul 2021 6:00 AM | Anonymous



    The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation announces the retirement of the Foundation’s founder, Dr. Ron Woznow.

    In 2008, while Chief Executive Officer of the Advanced Food and Materials Network, Ron established the Family Food Research Foundation (Foundation). The mandate of the Foundation was to create educational opportunities. In 2009, eight Indigenous high school students from across Canada participated in the first “Be a Food Research for a Week” (Program).

    In 2011, Ron ended his 40-year career as a CEO and Board chair of companies and charities and became a full-time volunteer for the Foundation. In 2012 he approached Dr. Verna Kirkness to lend her name to both the Foundation and the Program. Both now bear her name, the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation and its lead Program “Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Program”.

    During the last 12 years Ron, and his wife Susan, have built a strong volunteer charitable organization that has allowed the Program to grow from 8 students in 2008 to a total of 550 students in 2019. When COVID-19 made 2020 and 2021 Programs impossible Ron worked with volunteers including, 10 faculty from 5 universities to provide a virtual Program.

    The Foundation is in an excellent position to continue to grow. There is a commitment from 98 professors at 12 universities to host Indigenous high school students for the week-long research Program. Unlike many programs for high school students, the Kirkness Scholars spend a week doing hands on research. On average 3 students are mentored by a professor and their research team.

    As a volunteer Ron has served Foundation in the capacity of Executive Director, Chairman of the Board and Director. While Ron’s term on the Board will end on September 15, 2021 he will continue to advise the new management team.

    Ron and Susan are living in Powell River, BC. We wish them well in all of their endeavors.

    About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation 

    The Foundation was founded in 2008 by Ron Woznow and Susan O’Brien and was originally named the Family Food Research Foundation. It is a registered Canadian charity. Its goal was to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from post-secondary science programs.

    In 2008, Dr. Woznow was the CEO of the Advanced Food and Material Network (AFMNet). In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the Foundation received seed funding from AFMNet. The first program was started in 2009 and was called the “Be a Food Researcher for a Week” which provided an opportunity for students to spend a week on campus learning about food research and the support that was available to them if they did post-secondary studies. This program was modeled after the “Be a Genetic Researcher for a Week” program which Dr. Woznow started in 2001 while he was the CEO of the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network. 

    In 2010, Dr. Emoke Szathmary, the past president of the University of Manitoba, introduced Ron to Dr. Verna Kirkness who was widely regarded as the leading Indigenous educator in Canada. She was supportive of foundation’s goal and agreed to lend her name to the foundation which was renamed the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation. In 2013, the Foundation expanded the scientific scope of its program to include research in both science and engineering and renamed the program the “Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program”. 

    From 2012-2014, the Program was offered at the University of Manitoba. In 2015, a Program was added at the University of Saskatchewan and in 2016 at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, the Program expanded to the University of Calgary, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Ottawa. In 2019, Programs were added at the University of Victoria and University of Alberta bringing the number of programs to 8. 130 students from across Canada attended the 2019 Programs and were mentored by 53 Professors and their research associates.

    For more information about the Foundation please visit www.vjkf.org or contact Dr. Ron Woznow, Executive Director, ron@vjkf.org

    For information about supporting the Foundation please contact Tony C.L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors tony.williams@vjkf.org

  • 6 May 2021 5:19 PM | Anonymous


    Thomas Berger, a distinguished lawyer and supporter of Indigenous rights, passed away in Vancouver on April 28th at the age of 88.  Tom Berger and his wife Bev have been strong supporters of The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation and he will be missed by all the Foundation community. 

    In the words of Verna Kirkness “we have lost a champion”. Throughout his career, he was involved in many important legal decisions related to Indigenous rights and justice. Many of Tom’s accomplishments are shown on this interactive site about his life and work:

    http://www.theatreoffire.org/

    The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation is one of the charities Tom’s surviving wife and family asked to be supported in lieu of sending flowers.  To make a donation to the The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation in Tom’s memory, please click here

  • 30 Apr 2021 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Actuarial Foundation of Canada (AFC) became a Kirkness Foundation sponsor in 2019. The mission of the AFC includes promoting awareness and education in mathematics, actuarial science and financial matters. First Nations, Metis and Inuit people are very underrepresented in the actuarial profession and other mathematics-related careers and the AFC has established scholarships to help change this. In 2021, the AFC established its Equality of Opportunity Fund (EOS) to promote diversity in the actuarial, mathematics & statistics, data management and computer science professions. The EOS Fund will provide scholarships to eligible Black, Indigenous and People of Colour Canadian students who are facing financial and societal barriers to attending their intended university or college program. The AFC also sponsors the Memorial Actuarial Aboriginal Scholarship to First Nations, Metis and Inuit students studying actuarial mathematics at the University of Manitoba. 

    Click here to learn more about the AFC Equality of Opportunity Scholarship and other AFC education funding.

  • 5 Mar 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Vancouver BC, March 1st, 2020 — Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation announced today the appointment of Annemieke Farenhorst to the Foundation Board of Directors. 


    Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst is a Professor of Soil Science and the Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Univ. Manitoba. She holds a Doctorandus in Physical Geography and Soil Science from the Univ. Amsterdam and a Doctoral degree in Geography from the Univ. Toronto. Dr. Farenhorst was the Prairie NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering from 2011-20, and directed the NSERC CREATE H2O program for First Nations Water and Sanitation Security from 2013-19. Previously, from 2005-14, she also led a large network to advance food security for small-scale farmers in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. 

    Dr. Farenhorst has earned a range of teaching, research and outreach awards, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for leadership in pesticide research, and she was named a Women’s Executive Network 2016: Top 100 Award Winner.

    About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation

    The Foundation was founded in 2008 by Ron Woznow and Susan O’Brien and was originally named the Family Food Research Foundation. It is a registered Canadian charity. It’s goal was to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from post-secondary science programs.

    In 2008, Dr. Woznow was the CEO of the Advanced Food and Material Network (AFMNet). In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the Foundation received seed funding from AFMNet. The first program was started in 2009 and was called the “Be a Food Researcher for a Week” which provided an opportunity for students to spend a week on campus learning about food research and the support that was available to them if they did post-secondary studies. This program was modeled after the “Be a Genetic Researcher for a Week” program which Dr. Woznow started in 2001 while he was the CEO of the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network.

    In 2010, Dr. Emoke Szathmary, the past president of the University of Manitoba, introduced Ron to Dr. Verna Kirkness who was widely regarded as the leading Indigenous educator in Canada. She was supportive of foundation’s goal and agreed to lend her name to the foundation which was renamed the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation. In 2013, the Foundation expanded the scientific scope of its program to include research in both science and engineering and renamed the program the “Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program”.

    From 2012-2014, the Program was offered at the University of Manitoba. In 2015, a Program was added at the University of Saskatchewan and in 2016 at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, the Program expanded to the University of Calgary, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Ottawa. In 2019, Programs were added at the University of Victoria and University of Alberta bringing the number of programs to 8. 130 students from across Canada attended the 2019 Programs and were mentored by 53 Professors and their research associates.

    For more information about the Foundation please visit www.vjkf.org or contact Amber Boyd, Executive Director, amber@vjkf.org

    For information about supporting the Foundation please contact Tony C.L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors tony.williams@vjkf.org

  • 9 Apr 2019 3:27 PM | Anonymous

    Vancouver BC, November 16, 2020 — Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation announced today the appointment of Karen McMahon to the Foundation Board of Directors. Karen will serve as part of the communications committee where she will work on the development of the Foundation's Ambassador Program.

    Karen McMahon is a Human Resources Professional who has 9 years of post-secondary education from 4 different programs including a Bachelor of Business from Laurentian University. She is Dene from Deninu K’ue First Nation in Northwest Territories but grew up just north of Toronto in Ontario. As a lifelong learner, she believes in continuing education and training to stay relevant and up to date in her career. Having 2 professional designations as a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) and Certified Payroll Manager (CPM) have added to her overall credentials.

    Karen has over 15 years of work experience within the Human Resources field and for various employers (2 of which were Indigenous) and industries such as non-profit, entertainment, retail and banking. After taking a short break to complete a BBA, she recently returned back to the corporate Human Resources field. Karen is a passionate advocate that Indigenous youth have both education and employment opportunities.

    About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation

    The Foundation was founded in 2008 by Ron Woznow and Susan O’Brien and was originally named the Family Food Research Foundation. It is a registered Canadian charity. It’s goal was to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from post-secondary science programs.

    In 2008, Dr. Woznow was the CEO of the Advanced Food and Material Network (AFMNet). In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the Foundation received seed funding from AFMNet. The first program was started in 2009 and was called the “Be a Food Researcher for a Week” which provided an opportunity for students to spend a week on campus learning about food research and the support that was available to them if they did post-secondary studies. This program was modeled after the “Be a Genetic Researcher for a Week” program which Dr. Woznow started in 2001 while he was the CEO of the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network.

    In 2010, Dr. Emoke Szathmary, the past president of the University of Manitoba, introduced Ron to Dr. Verna Kirkness who was widely regarded as the leading Indigenous educator in Canada. She was supportive of foundation’s goal and agreed to lend her name to the foundation which was renamed the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation. In 2013, the Foundation expanded the scientific scope of its program to include research in both science and engineering and renamed the program the “Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program”.

    From 2012-2014, the Program was offered at the University of Manitoba. In 2015, a Program was added at the University of Saskatchewan and in 2016 at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, the Program expanded to the University of Calgary, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Ottawa. In 2019, Programs were added at the University of Victoria and University of Alberta bringing the number of programs to 8. 130 students from across Canada attended the 2019 Programs and were mentored by 53 Professors and their research associates.

    For more information about the Foundation please visit www.vjkf.org or contact Amber Boyd, Executive Director, amber@vjkf.org

    For information about supporting the Foundation please contact Tony C.L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors tony.williams@vjkf.org

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