As part of our organizational efforts to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) made a commitment at Summit 2016 to intentionally and purposely collaborate with Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans peoples. Due to colonialism, systemic anti-Indigenous racism, transphobia and homophobia, Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans peoples are drastically underserved communities who experience a range of health and social inequities. At CBRC, we are aware of our place of privilege and commit to centering the voices of Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans communities at the tables of which we sit.
Working collaboratively and meaningfully with Indigenous partners, leaders, community members, and elders, CBRC pledged to contribute high quality, respectful, and relevant Indigenous health data and research. Part of that commitment was to ensure that this work, which goes beyond HIV prevention, is not done “off the side of one’s desk,” but meaningfully led and supported by paid staff and consultants within our organization.
This is why we are proud to announce our partnership with First Nations Health Authority, which has resulted in the hiring of CBRC’s first Two-Spirit Program Manager, Jessy Dame. Jessy’s role, building on the previous work of our Two-Spirit Health Promotion Lead, Glenn Tssessaze, aims to work with Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans communities to increase access to testing, sexually transmitted and blood borne infection (STBBI) prevention tools, and other services and supports. Jessy’s involvement across CBRC’s research, knowledge exchange and network building initiatives ensures that our programming better reflects the needs and priorities identified by these communities.
PROGRAM MANAGER: JESSY DAME
Jessy Dame is a proud Two-Spirit Métis Registered Nurse with a background in perinatal, rural/remote, and STBBI certified nursing. Jessy is working with Two-Spirit peoples and Indigenous communities to create new resources and connect communities to existing resources available to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and supports health promotion in Indigenous communities with a focus on Two-Spirit peoples. A major project in his portfolio is the creation of an at-home HIV testing project for Two-Spirit and Indigenous gay, bisexual, trans, and queer men, which is currently in the consultation phase.
“This position allows space to challenge the colonial myths and current misinformation related to Two-Spirit peoples and work together to improve health outcomes.”
Jessy Dame, Métis, CBRC Two-Spirit Program Manager
EMISSARY: ROCKY JAMES
In addition, CBRC is furthering its commitment by employing long-time collaborator Rocky James, who has recently been hired as a Coast Salish Emissary to guide our efforts in engaging elders and advocating for Indigenous leadership roles within the organization.
“My plan is to strengthen the organizational capacity of the organization to better understand what the 94 Calls to Action from the Canada Truth and Reconciliation Commission mean and how to create a sense of community and responsibility for social change that enhances the wellbeing of Two-Spirit people.”
Thiyustun (Rocky James), CBRC Coast Salish Emissary, Penelakut Tribe
ASSOCIATE RESEARCHER: HARLAN PRUDEN
CBRC will also continue to work with another long-time collaborator Harlan Pruden, who works with and for the Two-Spirit community locally, nationally and internationally. Currently, Harlan is an Educator at Chee Mamuk, an Indigenous public health program at BC Centre for Disease Control and is also a co-founder of the Two-Spirit Dry Lab, North America’s first research group/lab that exclusively focuses on Two-Spirit peoples, communities and/or experiences. Along with this busy portfolio, Harlan has been key in the development and mentorship of the Two-Spirit Program Manager and provides guidance to CBRC regarding Two-Spirit health.
“CBRC is a model of reconcilia(c)tion! It makes my heart sing to witness and play a small role in how CBRC is embracing, understanding and breathing life into reconcilia(c)tion – be it through Two-Spirit inclusion at the Summit, Two-Spirit research and advocacy, to the hiring of Two-Spirit staff – thereby redressing and mending of the historical wrongs which is laying the ground work to being in better relations with Two-Spirit and Indigenous peoples and communities.”
Wanka Mon Manni (Harlan Pruden), CBRC Associate Researcher, member of Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation #128 Cree Nation
Both Jessy Dame and Rocky James are on the BIPOC planning committee for the 2020 Summit, and will be presenting on a Truth & Reconciliation panel where you can learn more about their exciting programs and how you can participate. Harlan Pruden and Jessy Dame will be presenting on research methods to support culturally affirming and safe research for and with Two-Spirit people and communities. You can also email them directly at [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected].