Our MAWG team

Modernized Annuity Working Group

   Based on the principles of reconciliation, inclusiveness, respectful dialogue, compassion and an understanding of diverse viewpoints, the Modernized Annuity Working Group (MAWG) is a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women. Our team models the importance of settlers and first people working together to develop a new relationship.

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Sheilla Jones

MAWG, Co-Chair

(Winnipeg) Sheilla Jones is the author of Let the People Speak: Oppression in a Time of Reconciliation. She is an award-winning Canadian journalist, former CBC news editor, and author of several books on popular science. She served as the facilitator and researcher for the Treaty Annuity Working Group, and advanced research on modern annuities as a Senior Fellow of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (2018-20). Sheilla’s roots in Canada run deep: her French, English, Welsh and Scottish ancestors have been settling Canada for nearly 400 years.

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Wayne Helgason

MAWG, Co-Chair

(Vancouver Island) Wayne Helgason served as a special adviser to the Minister, Employment and Social Development Canada (2016-18). He is the former chief executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, retiring in 2011. He was a three-term president of the National Association of Friendship Centres, and was co-chair of the Treaty Annuity Working Group. In 1989, when Wayne was running Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, the largest non-profit, Indigenous-led child welfare agency in Manitoba, he championed taking over the abandoned but magnificent CP railway station in Winnipeg. It has been turned into the Neeganin Centre for Indigenous social services, education and business. Wayne grew up near his Ojibway home reserve, Sandy Bay FN in central Manitoba, and lives in Saanich, BC on Vancouver Island.

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The Rt. Hon. Ed Schreyer,


MAWG, Policy

Ed Schreyer is a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and has served, on behalf of the Queen, as Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces (1979-84), Canadian High Commissioner to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Ambassador to Vanuatu (1984-88). Ed was the first NDP premier of Manitoba (1969-77). More recently, he served as Chancellor for Brandon University, Manitoba (2004-10) and as a guest professor at four universities in Canada and four in Europe. Ed is chairman of the Canadian Shield Foundation, and an avid supporter of environmental causes. He was the first Canadian of Ukrainian descent to be appointed Governor General, and is a 3rd-generation settler.

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Leona Freed

MAWG, Community Impact

(Portage la Prairie) Leona Freed, a Saulteaux-Ojibway activist, was the first to bring the idea of modernized treaty annuities into a public forum in her presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in 1999. She did so at the behest of TAWG co-chair Jean Allard. Leona had become the national voice for the First Nations Accountability Coalition, representing some 300 bands, and her fearless condemnation of FN political leaders at that time drew international media coverage. However, her message on modernized annuities was lost in the outcry over her criticism of FN leaders. She received a standing ovation in the House of Commons in 2000, just before the bill she championed for a National Aboriginal Ombudsman failed on third reading. Leona is the daughter of Chief Rufus Prince of the Long Plains FN in southern Manitoba. Prince was a founding director of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood and fronted one of the first successful Supreme Court of Canada (Prince and Myron v The Queen, 1964) cases on Indigenous hunting rights. Leona was a participant in the TAWG National Workshop in 2003.

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Inez Vystrcil-Spence

MAWG, Community Impact

(Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Winnipeg) Inez Vystrcil-Spence has been working for 30 years as an advocate, social worker and researcher, and advisor to the leadership of Northern First Nations and on multiple Aboriginal/First Nations and northern issues. She has been directly involved in the development, negotiation and implementation of Manitoba-wide, regional and community initiatives, including the Manitoba Framework Agreement Initiative and the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry-Child Welfare Initiative. As an informed voice and social justice activist, Inez has advocated action on poverty, discrimination, trauma, addictions, mental illness, sexual exploitation, and family and community disruption in the common journey towards wellness and community healing. Inez grew up in Thompson, Manitoba and is of mixed Czech/Slovak and Cree heritage.

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Noah Fournier

MAWG, Youth Representative

(Winnipeg, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation) Noah Fournier is a recent graduate of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, and a casual hockey player. He is providing a youth perspective to the MAWG team, along with his social media chops. Noah considers himself an in-betweener: between his Cree culture and the settler culture, without attaching his identity to either.

MAWG is working with coalition partner,

the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg,

to explore the implications of a modern annuity.

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