M’akola’s Board of Directors consists of Indigenous representatives who hold the holistic vision that improves living conditions for Indigenous people while encouraging and reinforcing traditional practices and cultural beliefs.
Bruce has been member of the Board of Directors since the early 1990s. He has played an influential role in the society and throughout his time on the Board he has accepted many roles including President, Vice President and Treasurer.
“When I joined the Board, M’akola was a much smaller operation. We were still in the building stage, but now we’ve seen huge growth,” Bruce said. “We’ve moved beyond the boundary of the Island, it’s impressive. We started in Victoria and slowly moved up the Island. Now we have homes in Terrace and Prince Rupert.”
Bruce is passionate about serving urban Indigenous people and cites more than 60 per cent of Indigenous people live off-reserve. The majority of family members M’akola serves are people living off-reserve.
“Here at M’akola we meet the needs of Indigenous people. We’ve been gaining the resources to support our communities and now even with 1,600 homes we still have wait lists.”
Through the growth M’akola continues to build and provide quality affordable housing including its latest housing project and Administration and Development offices at 550 Goldstream Avenue.
“We need to be really proud of this space and this office we’ve created,” Bruce said emphasizing the executive leadership from the CEO and a strong Board of Directors plays a crucial role in the success of the society.
Bruce is Cree from Saskatchewan.
Roger Kishi has been on the board of directors for nearly five years and his presence on the Board is a perfect pairing with his passion for affordable housing.
“It’s really important to provide First Nations access to affordable and appropriate housing,” Roger said. “It’s a very important issue that needs to be delivered. There is an increasing need.”
Roger is the Director of Homeless and Housing Programs at the Wachiay Friendship Center in Courtenay and a municipal councillor of the Village of Cumberland. His passion for affordable housing was sparked in 1998 when he joined a housing taskforce public advisory committee for North Vancouver. He also spent two terms on a social planning advisory committee in North Vancouver.
Since its inception M’akola has always been a part of Kolette Cristante’s life. The long-time board member once spent her summers working in Victoria as a M’akola maintenance worker starting in 1986. She moved up to work in other front-line positions including office assistant and then a Tenant Relations Manager in Duncan. Her mother Judy Bourne was the first executive director of M’akola.
After graduating from University of Victoria Kolette left M’akola to pursue her passion of teaching. Kolette has taught in a variety positions in School District 61 including Aboriginal Education. She has been teaching for more than 25 years. Not long after becoming a teacher she joined the M’akola Group of Societies Board. She has also been on the Hulitan Child and Family Services Board for 10 years. Hulitan was originally developed under the M’akola umbrella.
Bruce has been a member of the Board of Directors for a number of years, he joined the board in 2007. “We are definitely growing for the better and the communities we serve value the opportunity of affordable housing.”
Bruce has seen overcrowded homes on reserve and says it is a major reason why family members often move to urban centres. “Overcrowding forces our members to move off reserve and it can be a lack of education or income that limits them. M’akola is seen as a provider of opportunity to these families,” he said. “It’s nice to see our children have a safe place to live.”
Bruce’s proudest moment at M’akola is when it opened it’s first assisted living building in Langford and equally proud when it opened its second assisted living project on the reserve of Cowichan Tribes.
“M’akola is working with First Nations and this is important, it shows that we are working with the same vision and towards the common goal,” Bruce said.
The cultural element M’akola bring to the table is a success Bruce appreciates. “It’s part of our governance, we respect all the cultures of Vancouver Island and BC. We have an elder at the table to ground our discussions and our thoughts.”
Bruce is a member of Tsawout First Nation.
Cyndi was born in Vancouver, BC and raised in Port Alberni for most of her life. She is of Nuu-chah-nulth ancestry from the Ahousaht First Nation and through marriage was adopted to the Hesquiat First Nation. For nearly two decades, Cyndi Stevens has been a key player on the M’akola Group of Societies Board of Directors. She was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1994 through her position at the Port Alberni Friendship Center where she has worked for 29 years.
“In all the years I’ve never missed a M’akola board meeting because I am very committed to the people we serve and the work Makola does,” Cyndi said. “M’akola is very well respected organization provincially and nationally and I am proud of all M’akola has accomplished.”
Through her 20 years of experience as an Executive Director, Cyndi is well-versed in a variety of areas including program planning and development and implementation. She brings her knowledge and expertise to the M’akola Board Table. M’akola was one of the first boards she was a member of and since then has sat on over 20 boards and committees at local, regional, provincial and national levels.
For nearly a decade Carl Mashon has been on M’akola’s board of Directors.
Through this time Carl has witnessed many housing projects start as ideas and come to fruition. Some of M’akola’s successes that Carl boasts about include the first assisted living site in Duncan on Cowichan First Nation’s Traditional Territory Ts’I’ts’uwatul Lelum and now the latest project 550 Goldstream Avenue with head offices of the society and 36-affordable family units.
“M’akola is creating partnerships to make new housing available. We are planning what the future of affordable housing looks like,” he explained.
Carl is proud to see the innovation come out of M’akola while preparing for the expiration of federal operating agreements and for M’akola
Carl currently serves as the Treasurer for the M’akola Group of Societies. He has been involved in Indigenous organizations for more than 20 years. Carl has a deep understanding of the scale and diversity of needs of Indigenous families, especially those that are more specific to urban communities.
He is of Cree ancestry from the Saddle Lake First Nation in Alberta and brings a wide range of professional and life experience to the Board. Carl is always grateful for his guest status, living, working and playing on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen Peoples.
Grace initially joined the M’akola Board of Directors shortly after its incorporation in 1984. She welcomed the idea of providing housing for Indigenous families. In the late 1970s she recalls seeing apartment buildings with signs stating, “Indians Not Welcome”. She fought hard to have the sign removed and for First Nations rights.
“I think M’akola has been a tremendous success. Our housing has helped out students who are finishing their education, single parents and young families,” Grace said. “We are giving families a proper place to live and over the years we’ve expanded in a positive way.”
Grace is proud of M’akola’s ability to meet the needs of Indigenous Families and its ability to be a professional housing provider while remaining culturally sensitive.
“M’akola is a part of cultural events, National Indigenous People’s Day and community events like the Back to School Picnics,” said Grace. “We recognize the importance of being in our communities while always remembering the importance of why it was created in the first place.”
Grace is a member of the Stz’uminus First Nation.
Debbie was first introduced to M’akola in the 1990s when Duncan, BC was selected as the first outreach community for M’akola’s growth. Shortly after the introduction M’akola built its first housing project in Duncan on Trunk Street.
“What drew me in was M’akola was building homes and not just houses,” said Debbie explaining common rooms and playgrounds at M’akola sites helped build communities.
The growth of M’akola brings pride to Debbie who has seen M’akola provide more than 100 homes to people in Duncan and 1,600 homes across the Province of BC. “We are here for the 5,000 family members who live in our housing,” Debbie said.
The growth of M’akola and the focus on both development and human resources are important aspects of M’akola’s strong future.
The vast strides M’akola has made, leaves Debbie in awe as she remembers watching M’akola Board members jump up and down in celebration of landing funding for its first project, Caledonia Avenue, in the early 1980s.
Debbie’s traditional name is Latethia. She is a member of Cowichan Tribes, born and raised in Somena Village.
Elder Advisor, Honorary Member
George Cook is an honorary member of the Board and serves as our Elder Advisor. George has lived in Victoria for the past 24 years and is originally from the N’amgis Nation. He has been married for 49 years and is the father of 7 children. He is very active working as an elder with the Tsowtunlelum Treatment Center and the Tsowkwaluten Healing Lodge. He is also the elder advisor for the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centers.
M’akola Group of Societies would like to Honor:
Judy Jerome Bourne was born on Valentine’s Day, 1940, in Saskatchewan of Cree ancestry. She was a devoted wife and mother of six children. Judy was well-known for her athletic and coaching abilities, particularly as a volleyball coach of national and international recognition. She was an outstanding educator and taught for many years in a variety of subjects and grade levels. From 1984 – 1989 she was the Executive Director of M’akola Housing Society and under her guidance the Society became a model for many housing projects across Canada. Judy died on December 30, 1989 in Victoria.