2018 Manitoba Harm Reduction Conference:  Improving Access in Rural, Remote, Northern, and Indigenous Communities

We will be updating this page regularly as speakers are confirmed!

Keynote speakers


Dr. Marcia Anderson

is Cree- Saulteaux, with roots going to the Norway House Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation  in Manitoba. She practices both Internal Medicine and Public Health as a Medical Officer of Health with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. She was recognized for her contributions to Indigenous peoples health with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. She has recently been appointed Chair of the Indigenous Health Network of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.


Tasha Spillett

Tasha Spillett is a Cree and Trinidadian woman, a celebrated educator and an active member of Manitoba’s Indigenous community. She is a ceremony woman and a traditional singer, often offering her voice at community gatherings. In her work as an educator, Tasha makes every effort to infuse her cultural knowledge into her teaching philosophy and practice to support the positive cultural identities of Indigenous students and to strengthen relationships between all communities. Tasha acknowledges her unique opportunity and
responsibility to create learning environments that are culturally responsive, and foster belonging for Indigenous students and families.

Tasha has experience working in the school system as a classroom teacher, and she is also asked to work with educators on increasing their understandings of Indigenous peoples. This year, she will be teaching an Introduction to Aboriginal Education course at the University of Winnipeg for teacher candidates. She is also actively involved in the development of Indigenous Education policies and curriculum and shares her traditional knowledge and educational pedagogy with school divisions and the community.

To honour her responsibility to the community, Tasha shares her cultural knowledge and teaching background beyond the classroom. She has served as a mentor in the Sisters Circle, which is an after-school program for Indigenous girls, that is focused on promoting cultural identity, positive self-esteem and academic success. Tasha is also a member of the Manito Ahbee Festival board of governors and in her capacity with Manito Ahbee she helps to shape the annual Education Days, which brings youth, Indigenous community leaders and cultural knowledge keepers together to learn and share with the intent of preserving Indigenous ways of being. Tasha is also the chair of the Miss Manito Ahbee Youth Ambassador gathering in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and
is actively involved in other initiatives to ensure that Indigenous women and girls are safe in our communities.

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Ian Whetter

Ian Whetter is a family doctor, medical educator and father of three.  He works at the University of Manitoba with a focus on increasing access to high quality, non-judgemental, and anti-racist healthcare for rural and remote communities.  With the U of M’s Max Rady College of Medicine, he is the Lead for Social Accountability and the Director of the Alan Klass Memorial Program for Health Equity. He is an Education Director with the Northern Remote Family Medicine Residency Stream. He is also a Medical Program Advisor with Ongomiizwin Health Services.  He was a founding clinician with the Transgender Health Program and Klinic Community Health.


Substance Consulting

Lukas Maitland and Margaret Bryans formed Substance Consulting to provide facilitation, education and support to agencies and organizations  looking to improve, increase, or just get started on ensuring services are meaningful and valuable to people who use drugs.

Margaret is a nurse and has been working in sexual health and harm reduction for 18 years, specifically with women who use drugs and who are pregnant and/or mothers.

Lukas has been a social worker for 17 years, working in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and Winnipeg. He is a passionate harm reduction activist and front line worker.




Uzoma Asagwara

Uzoma Asagwara is an entrepreneur, registered psychiatric nurse working in youth addictions and acute adult mental health, and founder of QPOC Winnipeg. QPOC is an initiative that creates safer spaces for queer and trans people of colour in Winnipeg. She is also a former member of the Premier's Advisory Council on education, poverty, and citizenship, retired member of the Canadian Women's National basketball team. 


Brielle Beardy-Linklater

Brielle is a young, transgender, Indigenous woman from the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and who grew up in Thompson. She is a courageous young leader and a voice in the struggle for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirted, Queer (LGBTTQ) rights. She also made history as the first trans woman to sit in Canadian Parliament on International Women's Day in 2017. She is proud of her identity and encourages others to be proud of theirs; Brielle works to reinforce the importance of the Indigenous community within her own community and in her advocacy. Brielle speaks out about the need to challenge transphobia in her community and in society and played a key role in the first ever Pride celebrations in northern Manitoba. She works tirelessly to educate others on LGBTTQ rights, women's right, and Indigenous rights.


Melissa Brown

Melissa Brown is an Anishinaabe/Dine Midwife, currently serving as Co-chair for the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives. She is a member of Kagike Danikobidan council, the advisory committee on Indigenous women’s issues to the College of Midwives of Manitoba and also serves on the Federal Health Task Team on Indigenous Midwifery. 

Melissa is one of the founders of Wiijii’idiwag Ikwewag, the Manitoba Indigenous Doula Initiative, which empowers Indigenous people to become full spectrum doulas that support families throughout their pregnancy experiences, birth and postpartum.

Currently, Melissa is the First Nations Doula co-ordinator and mentor for the research project, Indigenous Doulas as a Culturally Based Health Intervention to Improve outcomes for First Nations women who travel for birth. 

Melissa is committed to breathing life back into Indigenous birth knowledge as a way of restoring health and wellbeing to Indigenous communities.

Mary Choy

Mary Choy is the Regional Health Education Coordinator, Western Region with CATIE. She received her Master of Arts in Sociology focusing on issues of access to housing and care for at risk populations facing homelessness and precarious housing. Prior to joining CATIE Mary managed a learning centre for women facing homelessness and social isolation in Toronto. She has worked in the fields of education and mental health in communities across Ontario and in Baie-Comeau, Quebec. Mary is thrilled to work with the remarkable service agencies and partners in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta with CATIE.


Cheri Downey

Cheri attended Acadia University and graduated with a Bachelors degree in science and continued her education at St. Claire’s school of nursing obtaining her Registered Nursing. Cheri specialized in Cardiac intensive care. Her career in nursing spans over 25 years were she had been in many different roles from bedside nursing to management. Cheri has been at Ginew since April of 2015 where she presently works as the CHN.


Levi A. Foy

Levi has been the Program Coordinator for Like That @ Sunshine House since 2014. Foy is a two-spirit member of the Couchiching First Nation who was raised in Treaty Two territories and formally educated in Winnipeg, and Guelph, ON. Levi has lived in Mexico for three years, spent two adult years working in his community, and has worked in Winnipeg at the Main Street Project, Aboriginal Health & Wellness Centre, and most recently at the University of Winnipeg. Levi is by no means an expert on any one particular subject and is committed to the principles of safety and respect in the work that he does. Foy will be presenting on some of the personal and professional experiences that he has had as an queer individual navigating and working in multiple different environments, with a specific focus on the things that he has learned through his time at Sunshine House. 



Lawrence Henry

Lawrence Henry’s spiritual name is Sitting Eagle from the Golden Eagle Clan. Born in 1950, He is an Ojibway from Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation (RRAFN). Sitting Eagle has been a part of the traditional movement for over 40 years. He’s been gifted by the creator with a Sweat Lodge, carrying a Big Drum, Water Drum, and a Spiritual Pipe as well as serving as a Sundance Chief. He keeps his way of life of living off the land alive by farming, trapping and hunting. He is passionate about his community having served on a political level as Chief for 1 term, and a Councillor for 24 years.


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Hazim Ismail

Hazim Ismail is a Bugis, Javanese Malay, Chinese gay refugee, migrant and guest on Winnipeg Treaty 1, who's currently embroiled in academia at the University of Winnipeg in Anthropology and Psychology. They're a spoken word and wayang artist, writer, poet, and lover of cute guys who don't just recite anti-oppression 101s so they can garner Facebook likes, but live, breathe, and learn from it.



Dawn Lavand

Cree and Ojibway, was born and raised in Winnipeg. A former youth in care and a former great deal of other things; she strives to share the teachings/ lessons she has learned
along her journey in a good way. As a young adult Dawn was drawn to the people and community work of the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network in 2004; starting as an active peer
on the Peer Working Group and joins the team this year as Project Coordinator.


Shelley Marshall

Shelley is a nurse that has been working in community health in Winnipeg’s core area since the
1990s. She works at multiple levels in overdose and harm reduction programming and policy
with positions at the WRHA Population and Public Health, and with Manitoba Health, Seniors and
Active Living. She sits on the boards of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, and the Social Planning
Council of Winnipeg, and is soon to defend her PhD in Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba,
with a focus on the historical, social, and policy conditions that shape drug-related benefits and harms.


Bernalda J. Robinson

Bernalda J. Robinson is the Executive Director for the Sagkeeng Mino Pimatiziwin Family Treatment
Centre. She’s a sun-dancer, a wife, a mother, and a very proud grandmother to a new baby girl. She
began her healing journey at the age of 21 when she was introduced to the field of helping. She started her work with Indigenous Youth who struggled with mental health complications, often resulting in addictions; however, it was at this time that she realized that she needed to heal herself first so that she can truly help others to heal their own hurts & pain. While she worked on her road to recovery, Bernie successfully tackled the field of Accounting and has been working in this area for the past 17 years. She held Management/Financial positions for most of those years. She is happy to have returned to the social field since 2008, first as the Office/Finance Manager for 7 years and now as the Director for the past 2 years. Her belief is that there is a reason for everything and that we must find the good in all of life.