‘Everything starts with education’
Guy Losier didn’t know his First Nations heritage until his early 40s when his mother found historical papers for his great grandfather while researching genealogy. One word stood out: “Savage.”
That moment changed Losier’s life. More than a decade later, he still gets a chill up his spine remembering seeing the slur. He began learning as much as possible about his tribe, Mi’kmaq. It wasn’t long before he started taking action – first in his role as a respiratory therapist, then as a sales representative at Medtronic.
So, when news of mass graves at residential schools in Canada came out in 2021, Losier was not surprised. But it was a wake-up call for many.
“I believed my elders and heard the stories,” he said. “But it’s also like war; sometimes they don’t want to talk about what they saw or who they did not come back with. It’s a real-life trauma.”
As a leader in an employee-led group of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis employees and allies at Medtronic Canada, the news spurred him and other employees to act. And the perfect opportunity was just around the corner.
Looking back – to move forward
The group put together a series of six lunch and learn sessions, leveraging the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course.
“Learning about what happened at the residential schools is an important way for people to connect with our Canadian history — and understand the inequities First Nations face,” said Roxane Belanger, a communications specialist and member of the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis group. “We’re helping our employees gain more empathy and understand intergenerational trauma and inform how they interact with our indigenous community in healthcare settings — and in the community.”
For Suzanne Thomson, a senior program manager in Medical Education, who has been in education at Medtronic for 15 years, the initiative combined her passion for education and social justice.
"Everything starts with education, so I am very grateful that Medtronic and the Medtronic Foundation recognize the value of education pertaining to volunteerism and that education is the first step towards positive change,” she said.
Manon Desrochers has volunteered for Project 6 many times in her 10 years at Medtronic, from participating in food drives to bringing feminine products to a women and children’s shelter. But this year’s Project 6 initiative was different.
“I have knowledge now and can be an ally for the Indigenous community,” she said.
Before the six-week course was even complete, she found herself sharing her learnings with family and friends.
That’s exactly what Losier hopes for other employees who came to the lunch and learn sessions. He remembers wanting to speak up while witnessing inequities in his time as a respiratory therapist.
“I couldn’t teach before because I didn’t know, but now because of the knowledge I have gained, I can speak up,” he said.
During this year’s Project 6 kick-off, 9,164 Medtronic employees around the world participated in volunteer events and 3,995 Medtronic employees donated to their favorite nonprofits. Learn more about the Medtronic Foundation here.