Campus Life

Bruyere looking to make a difference

Gord Bruyere is a well-travelled educator who’s on a mission to make a difference in the lives of Canada’s Indigenous people. As a new faculty member in the Aboriginal Health program in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, Bruyere is in an excellent position to do just that.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Social Work at Lakehead University, Bruyere went on to earn a Master of Social Work at Carleton University. After that, he crisscrossed the country, working as a teacher and curriculum developer at post-secondary schools, both public and Indigenous. As a member of the Anishinaabe Nation, his work in Indigenous schools was often hard on his heart.

Gordon Bruyere will play a key role in developing the curriculum for the University's Aboriginal Health program.

“Seeing students so hungry for an education, determined to climb out of poverty and transform their lives; it motivated me to do more,” says Bruyere. “Aboriginal people face challenges and obstacles that most Canadians have no idea about. I’ve worked in communities where families have no running water; where 20 people are living in a three-bedroom house; where a carton of juice costs 15 dollars. These are very specific public-health issues that have a very broad impact. My goal is to bring awareness so we can initiate change.”

Through his work at the U of L, Bruyere plans to put Aboriginal issues in the national spotlight, bringing to light the situation that many of Canada’s Indigenous people are in, and creating a blueprint to explain to the country how it all happened.

“The historical undercurrents and complexity of the issues are just starting to be examined,” he says. “The Aboriginal Health program and University of Lethbridge are microcosms for what Canada as a country is grappling with — how to include Indigenous people in the framework of our nation. Aboriginal health issues are among the most pressing public policy and social justice issues the country faces today, and the program is a springboard for awareness and change.”

Bruyere will play a key role in developing the curriculum for the program, and says his approach is to flip the script on traditional post-secondary learning models.

“Indigenous knowledge will be the centre of learning in the program,” he says. “University programs usually take a colonial approach to curriculum. In Aboriginal Health, we need to learn from the people who’ve been affected, and strike a balance between Indigenous and Western knowledge. We can all learn and benefit from that.”

Bruyere learned the value of education and the importance of serving others at an early age. His mother and father fostered several of his cousins, and both were examples of a strong work ethic.

“My dad was a manual labourer sun up to sun down, but also served our community as a councilor and Chief, and took courses to advance his career into a managerial role,” he says. “My mother went back to school in her 50s, earning her high-school equivalency and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. When I was born, neither of my parents had more than a Grade 8 education from residential schools, but they understood how important education is. They showed me how to work hard for what I want and how to take care of others.”

Public health is a commonly misunderstood field of study, but Bruyere has a very clear voice on the subject, particularly when it comes to Aboriginal health.

“If part of your body is unhealthy, it affects the rest of you,” Gord says. “Aboriginal health is Canadian health. The health of the Aboriginal community is important to the country as a whole.”

He was drawn to the U of L because he believes it’s the place where real change can begin.

“The University of Lethbridge is positioned to lead Aboriginal health education in Canada,” says Bruyere. “We’re at the heart of traditional Blackfoot territory. Being welcomed into the Blackfoot community; to hear their stories and learn their traditions, it’s been a tremendous gift.”