Canet Foundation

Canet Foundation
John Hart gives UVic staff a tour of Spirit Bear Farm

Learning from and with the land

Listening to the sound of waves crashing on the side of rock formations, John Hart sits on a tree stump and breathes deeply before launching into a story, “When I was a little boy, I would escape to a tree because it felt like a safe place for me.” Hart explains. “Being in and around nature was always a restorative and calming place for me.

John’s yearning to share his love of nature led him to East Sooke and the Spirit Bear Farm. “I hoped to preserve the 60 acres as a place where people could learn with and from the land,” he explains, “There is so much benefit to learning within nature and cultivating respect for Indigenous cultures.” 

In Collaboration with UVic’s School of Child and Youth Care, Hart opened up the farm to students and faculty as a living classroom to support Indigenous land-based education. 

“It is especially important for Indigenous students and young people to see their ways of knowing included and learn from elders through traditional practices involving learning with land and waterways and all our relatives,” explains Sandrina de Finney, UVic School of Child and Youth Care associate professor. "We can’t just think of a classroom in the context of four walls with desks and books.”

de Finney says the experience both fosters a deeper connection with Indigenous knowledges and teaches holistic ways of healing that can address social issues many communities face today.

Canet Foundation Graduate Scholarship

For Hart, creating dynamic learning experiences was only part of his vision. “I wanted to make sure that students have the financial freedom to develop projects that directly impact communities.

With that in mind, the Canet Foundation also established a graduate scholarship in the School of Child and Youth Care for students working with children and families to improve mental health and well-being and Indigenous education.  

“Words cannot express how grateful I am for the Canet Foundation’s support,” explains Addison Mott, a 2018 recipient of the award, “It reassured me I was on the right path and pushed me to expand the reach of my research.”

Mott is studying how the use of space affects counselling. The funding allowed him to travel around to see differences in counselling techniques and areas across Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

“I am inspired by the all the work students and professors are doing at UVic,” says Hart.

Sisters Rising
Sisters Rising hosted forum on Indigenous gender well being at UVic's First Peoples House

Support for Sisters Rising

Working with de Finney, the Canet Foundation helped fund a community-based research project for Indigenous youth. In its third year, the project called Sisters Rising, aims to honour Indigenous youth who have experienced sexualized or gender-based violence by offering traditional land- and arts-based teachings.

“It is so important that our research and knowledge translates into real projects in communities that address social issues,” says de Finney, “through Sisters Rising we can do that.”

Rather than focus on trauma, participants are supported to speak to their strengths through learning and experiencing Indigenous knowledge systems involving artwork, ceremony and land-based practices One of the locations where students and participants have undertaken their projects is Spirit Bear Farm.

“It is incredibly inspiring to see the young girls engage in leadership building, and share their stories and artwork”, says de Finney.

For Hart, supporting Sister Rising brings his vision of the Canet foundations gifts full circle. “My hope is my gifts continue to empower students and communities to create a better world.”