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John - Indigenous Innovations


So what we do at Indigenous Innovations is helping First Nations in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland with healthcare. We're basically a healthcare advocate. Everything actually started from Edmonton, Alberta. I had a conversation with my business partner about how his uncle was frustrated about getting a cane. At that time, he was the only Indigenous person that I knew. And I, you know—from the outside looking in—thought, “Doesn't the government pay for that stuff?” Then, he commented, “You know that, but my people don't know that.”


And then I realized that we could help some people with a business or organization.


Moving to Vancouver, the biggest difference I see between here and Edmonton is the level of…uh, I’ll call it fakeness. As you travel and you go to bigger and bigger cities, the level of fakeness increases accordingly. I feel that the people in Edmonton are more authentic and more grounded. Whereas people in Vancouver are more…big talkers; they probably do stuff, but there’s a lot more showboating and talking. If you go to a bigger city, there's just more things to look at. Bigger dreams and bigger aspirations.

My favourite part about my job is getting to know a culture and getting to know the people of this land. A lot of people don't know the truth of what has happened to Indigenous peoples. And most outsiders, most non-Indigenous people, look at them like they're playing victim or are too lazy to save themselves, so then they just rely on the system. I would like for society to see the Indigenous peoples as people, and not as circumstances.


As weird as it sounds, my favourite thing about Vancouver is the Downtown Eastside. I find that it’s one of the very rare neighbourhoods in Vancouver that have any authentic personality or character. If you look at Yaletown, it's all fake people parading around in suits. There's no substance to it. It's just like a whole manufactured part of town where everyone comes there to pretend to be somebody. But the Downtown Eastside has got so many hidden benefits. Even more importantly, it's where people actually know each other.

You know your neighbours, and you have strong relationships—in my opinion, the strongest of any community in Vancouver. People here actually rely on each other and trust each other to take care of each other. There’s a really strong bond that unless you're part of the community, you would never have known it existed.


But I think the government wants to do the least in the Downtown Eastside. I think that they don’t want to deal with the actual solutions, so they come up with bad, temporary band-aid solutions to sweep the problem under the rug. It’s a vicious cycle, and it displaces a lot people.


Do I think that they have the potential to fix it? Absolutely. Do I think they want to fix it? No, they don't. From the government's point of view, the Downtown Eastside is a losing investment. Very few taxpayers who don’t vote draining the social system. So why would a politician want to help the Downtown Eastside? There's zero reason until they create problems for voters. They leave it until it bothers and scares voters or travellers who are not from a marginalized community .


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