Celebrity couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have made a donation of $250,000 to help Indigenous post-secondary students access better career opportunities in Canada.
The funding will go towards Influence Mentoring Society, a Calgary-based organization that connects Indigenous youth to professional mentors in an effort to strengthen relationships and enhance cultural understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
Although not all mentors are Indigenous, the organization prides itself on a “two-way mentoring model” based on First Nations’ principles of kinship and the values enshrined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — a governmental institution that seeks to redress the grim legacy of residential schools.
In a press release posted on Tuesday, Influence Mentoring Society Chairperson Colby Delorme thanked the pair for their contribution.
He added that Reynolds’ and Lively’s donation would strongly benefit the mentorship program, which he said was designed to bridge representational gaps in the private sector.
“Eliminating these gaps and ultimately increasing Indigenous representation in the private sector, including in management and executive positions, should be a shared journey,” Delorme said. “We are incredibly grateful to Ryan and Blake for their generous donation of $250,000. This speaks not only to having the resources available to support Indigenous youth, but also is a signal of true reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.”
According to a recent study conducted by Statistics Canada, 60% of Indigenous people pursue careers in privately owned companies, but only 5% make it to managerial positions. Researchers also found that high-earning positions were less readily accessible to Indigenous professionals than to their non-Indigenous counterparts — a trend that is attributed to deep-seated inequities within the Canadian education system itself.
In the long run, addressing these structural barriers would not only help students advance their careers, but it could also lift the 25% of Indigenous people currently living below the poverty line. Experts argue that educational attainment is one of the best means at our disposal to achieve equity across all levels of society.
Reynolds and Lively have supported various charitable causes throughout the years, with previous donations to Indigenous groups across Canada and organizations such as the Ottawa Food Bank and Covenant House, among others.
“We are so happy to support the Influence Mentoring program that will help Indigenous youth in Canada, who are trying to successfully complete their post-secondary pursuits and enter the job market for the first time,” the pair said. “All too often, diverse groups are left behind in the things we take for granted. This program aims to rectify that imbalance.”