By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Jacqueline Biollo is a mover and shaker in Alberta but also on a human level she yearns to explore her Ojibwe heritage. A heritage connection that she lost and never had the unique opportunity to develop. In an exclusive interview with Alberta Native News, Biollo shares her story.
Biollo is not only a top political strategist but a former Councillor for the Town of Beaumont. She has worked with Edmonton Police Services, served as director of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, a member of Canadian Federation of Municipalities, a Board Member and Presiding Officer for the Municipal Government Board as well as being a Member of the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board in Alberta.
In the past she was a Mentor with the interVivos’ Mentorship Program that connects young professionals with Edmonton’s most influential and esteemed leaders from across professional fields. (She mentored the writer of this article). Biollo earned an MBA in Executive Management from Royal Roads University. She also completed the Institute of Corporate Directors program from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
Biollo explained an Angus Reid Public Opinion survey conducted in 2010 found that a majority of respondents believe that Canadian society is tolerant towards most groups, and appear to be growing fond of the melting pot.
“As a child, I wasn’t sure what was melting in the pot – but I did know, and understand, that cultural differences within society are deemed valuable, and regarded as something that should be preserved,” said Biollo.
“As the daughter of Indigenous ancestry and Jamaican heritage, leaning on my unique characteristics, I never really sought to assimilate or blend into society. Rather, as an actress, model, community leader, and social advocate, I did my best to stand out, and bring cause and awareness to initiatives I was passionate about.”
“It wasn’t until my adult years that my Indigenous ancestry started to be of interest,” continued Biollo. “I had questions about where I came from and how to incorporate culture into my current lifestyle. I had heard stories of my dad’s maternal ancestry, rooted in the historic Anishinaabe settlement on Manitoulin Island, but never had an opportunity to experience the culture first hand. More specifically, M’Chigeeng First Nation, also known as West Bay, is an Ojibwe First Nation band government.”
She explained, “Perhaps my curiosity stems from recent results from my DNA story. Ethnicity regions spanning the globe, from England, Wales & Northwestern Europe to Cameroon, Congo, and Southern Bantu Peoples. Perhaps it stems from the government’s efforts to action recommendations outlined in the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Reports. Or, perhaps my curiosity, to find out more about Indigenous peoples and communities, stems from recent opportunities to embrace the culture in my personal and professional activities.”
“Knowledge of our Indigenous heritage was likely lost through my dad’s maternal ancestry by the lack of status, education, social programs, and community,” said Biollo.
She hopes to gain by learning more about her Indigenous status – about treaties and agreements, policy frameworks, recognition of Indigenous rights, and delivering on Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.
And initiatives she can use in her personal and professional networks to advance.
Additionally, she hopes to experience firsthand some of the social programs (including ceremony and food) and community infrastructure that is vital to maintaining and improving Indigenous Peoples’ way of life.
“I know many First Nations have lost connection to their community and heritage,” noted Biollo.
“I think our role, as human beings, is to enhance community cohesion of diverse cultures by focusing on situations or scenarios where individuals and communities can be more diverse, through arts and culture, education, travel and tourism, food, employment, through compassion, understanding, and so much more.
“I believe the future is rooted in our ability to create a sense of belonging to a world that is dynamic and filled with individuals from multiple cultures and traditions, and where we strive to live in harmony and balance.”