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Dr Savage Bear of McMaster University, Walls to Bridges is Named to the Order of Canada for her work in advancing the education of Canadians about the history of Indigenous Peoples with Canada and her leadership in advocating for post secondary education in prison.

| Source: McMaster Indigenous Research Institute 

HAMILTON, Ontario CANADA ., June 30th, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Her Excellency, the Right Honorable Mary Simon, the Governor General of Canada, announced today the recipients to the Order of Canada.  

Dr Savage Bear has been named as a member of the Order of Canada for her work in education, leading the incredibly popular massive open online course (MOOC) called, ‘Indigenous Canada’ boasting over 560,000 learners. Bear was also a member of the national collective, Walking With Our Sisters, a traveling memorialization and honouring of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit peoples. Bear is also the National Director for Walls to Bridges, a program bringing post-secondary education to incarcerated folks.

“Today, we recognize individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution to our society. A group of individuals who, through dedication and ajuinnata—perseverance—make our communities and our country better every day. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that work remains to ensure that Canada honours better reflect the full diversity of our country.  Nominations continue to fall short of representing the excellence achieved by women, Francophones, persons with disabilities, and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.  We want to learn more about the contributions from Indigenous peoples, Black and 2SLGTBQIA+ communities, to truly honour the richness of our country. We encourage everyone to have a say in how we honour our fellow Canadians by nominating individuals that reflect the very best of who we are and want to be. ” said her Excellency Mary Simon, Canada’s Governor General. 

Walls to Bridges (W2B) is an innovative educational program that brings together incarcerated (“Inside”) and non-incarcerated (“Outside”) students to study post-secondary courses in jails and prisons across Canada. The National Hub for the program is now based out of McMaster University in partnership with Wilfred Laurier and Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.  The McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI) is a world-class facility recognized for its leadership in the field of Indigenous research.  Dr Bear leads the organization as the Director of MIRI.  McMaster University through MIRI is the Educational Institution hosting W2B. 

“It’s truly an honor to receive this award among such a prestigious group of nominees. I can’t describe what it means to be in the company of Indigenous changemakers and leaders like Jeanette Armstrong and Kent Monkman,” said Dr Savage Bear. “This award represents the culmination of many years of hard work by many people working within the carceral system to bring about change.” I want to thank my ancestors, my family, friends and amazing colleagues. I also want to say kininaskomtinan to all my relatives and folks who have worked with me on these life changing projects. My sisters with Walking With Our SIsters, and the folks who supported the making of ‘Indigenous Canada’. A shout out to Dan Levy who took the course with Dr. Paul Gareau and I – your influence and dedication brought this course to over half a million people.  

An interesting note about Dr Bear’s work is that investing in prisoner education such as the Walls to Bridges program leads to lower recidivism rates and saves taxpayer money. Dr Bear adds “this program is one of those programs that creates outcomes that we want while saving the taxpayers money. Its truly a win-win.”

MIRI Contact:

Savage Bear, Director 


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