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A passionate advocate, a tireless volunteer, and a proud Mohawk, Nicole McCormick urges action to bring healing and hope for Indigenous peoples

With every heartbeat and every breath, Nicole McCormick compels us to listen, to understand, and to act. Nicole is the Assignment Manager for CityNews in Toronto and leader with Rogers Indigenous People’s Network employee resource group – and we meet her in a special two-part edition of The Spark as an Indigenous storyteller and teacher.

A childhood legacy of abandonment and abuse spurred Nicole to connect with Mohawk Elders in her teens where she discovered a space to connect with her roots, sparking a drive for advocacy and building awareness and allyship. She is committed to healing inter-generational trauma amongst Indigenous peoples across Canada. Nicole is a passionate leader within Rogers, generously sharing her personal story and her teachings to help build a more inclusive company, community, and country.

The Spark:

Abandoned by her Mohawk birth-father and failed by her mixed-heritage mother, teenaged Nicole started to search for community and forge her own connection to her Indigenous heritage.  Seeking mentorship and healing, Nicole reached out to the Indian Regional Center in Hamilton and started attending beading and cooking classes, and learned to make dream catchers to help with her anxiety – a way to keep her mind occupied and begin to connect with her culture.  As her bonds with the Indian Regional Centre grew, Nicole’s relationships with her community deepened.  She participated in cultural events and was introduced to medicinal gardens, connecting Nicole to the land and traditional wisdom.

Admission to Mohawk College’s television broadcasting program marked a turning point for Nicole.  A professor encouraged her to apply for an Indigenous internship award – and among thousands of applicants – Nicole won.  And for the first time, she felt seen and validated as an Indigenous person.  It was the affirmation she needed to fully believe she had a right to take up space, use her voice, and make a difference. She mattered. Indigenous people are storytellers, and journalism was her calling.

As a storyteller and assignment manager at CityNews, Nicole was a driving force behind a segment on Residential schools, which aired on Orange Shirt Day (Sept. 30th, 2020), a national day of awareness and recognition about the lasting impact of the Residential school system on generations of Indigenous people*. The powerful segment was recently nominated for an RTDNA Award.

The power of her voice is growing:  With the help of her community, Nicole is learning to speak Kanien’kéha (the Mohawk language).

The Impact:

From seeker to mentor, her commitment to helping others is seemingly boundless.  She gives back by teaching kids how to make dream catchers, she’s served on multiple advisory boards to support Indigenous teens, and she’s a mentor with the Indigenous community organization Indspire. Nicole has volunteered with people who suffer from addiction, and she’s served on a board for an alternative restorative justice program.  She maintains a strong relationship with Mohawk Collage and sits on Program Advisory Council Boards for journalism at both Mohawk and Centennial College. 

Nicole has volunteered at The Woodland Cultural Centre, which serves to preserve and promote Indigenous history, art, language and culture. The Centre is on the site of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, where Nicole has worked on the “Save the Evidence” project, a restoration campaign to develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource. The Centre will serve as the definitive destination for information about the history and impact of Residential Schools in Canada – a resource we need now more than ever.

At Rogers, Nicole’s fingerprints and impact are everywhere.  She spent nine months creating the now-iconic Downie Wenjack Legacy Space at our Rogers Toronto campus, and then Kelowna’s Legacy Space in the new customer solution centre.  And she consults across the business to bridge communities and teams to make more possible, like fostering long-lasting relationships with Peguis, Enoch, and Westbank First Nations. 

And yet, her work is not done. The mantle of advocacy isn’t easily laid aside. Everywhere we look – the foster care system, prison systems, education, hospitals, even walking down the street – Indigenous people are made to feel like they don’t belong, and they are not enough.  At every opportunity, Nicole focuses on education:  why it’s important to hire Indigenous people; why it’s important to show Indigenous people in our content; and why it’s important to have Indigenous people at the table. It’s heartbreaking when those lessons don’t land the first time, but it doesn’t stop Nicole.

Because making it comfortable for others isn’t the solution.

Nicole points to the path forward, but each one of us must walk it ourselves.  Allyship is a verb, and it requires action.  Reading to reach a deeper understanding of the Indigenous experience and healing is the first step, starting with Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action; then see how Rogers celebrates and honour Indigenous Peoples and culture.

*Note:  This conversation took place between Nicole and Sev prior to the horrific discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children found buried near a former residential school in Kamloops. Nicole recently shared her reflections on this imaginable loss, and you can read it here.

To learn more about Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation, visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and honour Nicole’s work by learning more or donating to the “Save the Evidence Project.”  And to support the survivors, visit Indian Residential School Survivors Society.