Country of Origin:
Racism/Discrimination, Aboriginal Issues, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada
Influenced by his northern upbringing, Michael has always stayed connected to community, spending much of his personal time volunteering through Passages Canada as a speaker to schools, colleges, and universities. This, along with his experience as Cultural Program Manager of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, and trainer for the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, have garnered Michael the personal and professional recognition as a valued speaker.
Michael grew up in poverty and saw many social issues such as addictions, violence and suicide. However, is family instilled within him a strong belief of being a leader to change the stories people tell themselves. Direct lived experience allowed Michael’s capabilities to embody compassion, empathy and a strong resiliency. His strong voice and profile at institutional levels have raised his recognition as a leader yet Michael remains grounded with his community.
With family roots and heritage from James Bay, ON, but growing up in the urban setting, Etherington is a proud yet humbled Indigenous speaker and representative of Omushkego-Culture. Michael attributes his speaking messages to his experiences growing up both on-reserve and off-reserve. Having developed a unique perspective by being able to see conditions in both remote communities and urban spaces, Michael is able to share insight of the barriers, misconceptions, and assumptions within communities that can perpetuate a narrative not reflective of Indigenous peoples. Michaels presentations challenge the status-quo to break down barriers, by identifying opportunities to enhance representation of Indigenous peoples, build leadership capabilities and encourage meaningful engagement.
Michael’s late great-aunt was the oldest residential school survivor in Canada at 111 years of age – and in 2008 was one of four invited attendees to House of Commons to hear Stephen Harper’s formal apology to Canada. When asked about her legacy Michael’s great-aunt said ‘poonenamok’ – (forgiveness). Today, Michael strives everyday to honour his great-aunt’s wishes, in every presentation he delivers.
"I am a seed sown from my past, therefore I shall not be lost." I have been quite fortunate in my earlier years to be raised on-reserve/off-reserve which enhanced my perspective to undestand life from a rural and urban context. Growing up, I saw the old Omushkego ways of my family and hearing stories of living off the land and learning from a land-based knowledge. Currently, I am based in Toronto, ON - working with agencies, organizations and community members to continue providing cultural-based services.
One of my relations Margeurite "Granny" Wabano is the oldest surviving Residential School Member in Canada at 111 years old based in Moosonee, ON. She is my great-great-aunt, and CBC interviewed her in 2014 asking her 'what is her keys to life?' of which she replied 'Poonenamook' – Cree for “forgive others.” I am one of promoting Truth & Reconciliation - sharing true Canadian History while also reconciling our past - connecting the present to move forward in our future to share our paths together.