Andrée Lacasse, 2018 HSD Exemplary Alumni

Andrée Lacasse with son SilaCongratulations Andrée Lacasse, 2018 HSD Exemplary Alumni

The UVic Human and Social Development faculty recognized Andrée Lacasse as the 2018 UVic Distinguished Alumni during alumni week celebrations. Andrée is an extraordinary individual whose passion and commitment impact children youth and families locally, nationally AND internationally. 

Co-founder of the Isa Mundo Foundation and a dedicated mother of an Inuk son, she is a Manager of Policy in the Lands and Economics Development Sector of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

In 2007, answering the call of her life-long passion for serving children youth and communities, Andrée registered in the Bachelor of Child and Youth Care (BCYC) from the University of Victoria through distance Education.  While juggling family, volunteer and professional responsibilities, Andrée achieved her BCYC degree in 2014. The BCYC degree was a welcome addition to the two Schiller International University degrees (BA in International Relations and Diplomacy, Madrid, Spain, and an MA in Business Communication, London, England), she had already completed.

Andrée credits her BCYC degree with providing her with the “knowledge and skills to make sense of concrete and tangible issues facing Indigenous communities….” She explains that the degree shaped her thinking about child and youth development and notes that the CYC field is “relevant in influencing how our society progresses.” In addition to important practice and theoretical skills she points out the valuable leadership skills she gained: “active listening, empathy, being strategic, having sound judgment.” The combined child and youth care knowledge and skills have been invaluable to her work, volunteer and personal spheres.

Andrée’s career as a public servant has involved positions focused on social policy, regarding homelessness, caregiving, multiculturalism, marginalized youth and human rights. “All my positions in the Government,” she explains, “have been directly or indirectly linked to improving lives of children in communities whether on-reserve or urban environments…As a public servant I find value in my work by knowing that I am contributing to the betterment of Canada as a whole. Most importantly, now that I am at Indigenous and Northern Affairs… an important part of my work is about improving the situations of Indigenous communities by providing better economic opportunities.  Sound economic opportunities mean stronger social and cultural ties within the community, which leads to thriving Indigenous communities as a whole.”

On the local front, Andrée is an Executive Board member with the Ottawa Inuit Children Centre (OICC) where she also completed her first CYC practicum.  She remembers being “amazed to see little 2-6 year olds Inuit children dressed in their traditional wear, throat singing and drumming with their cultural teacher… this Center was so vibrant and makes such a difference in the lives of Urban Inuit children in Ottawa…It is not part of my work but it is a very important part of my life…I strongly believe in the importance of growing up and having a sense of belonging to ones culture...The OICC does exactly that. It is creating a community of Inuit children and youth by surrounding them in their culture, and teaching them the history, values, and language.  My son is my inspiration. I am not Inuk myself, but the OICC is providing my son with the sense of belonging that he needs to grow up to be a strong and proud Inuk.”

Karen Baker-Anderson, Executive Director of OICC explains that Andrée “sees and understands that in order for a child to truly life a life of wellness that they need a deep understanding of their cultural identity” and notes that as a result of her degree at UVIC, she understands children, youth and families.  As a result of raising her Inuk son and her work at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre she understands community.  With the combination of both Andrée has become a leader in our community and someone we value as a passionate advocate for our children and youth.”

Andrée is not content with making local and national impacts, she is also the co-founder of Isa the Mundo Foundation (IM) and Chair of Children and Youth within this international foundation:  “I dedicate my time to Isa Mundo Foundation because it has a global reach and it is important for me to provide my skills, resources and time to improve the lives of children and youth that otherwise, may not have opportunities given to them.  I have always envisioned working with children from an early age and my love of travel exposed me to many situations and challenges that are facing so many children and youth worldwide.  My work for the Foundation comes from my belief that everyone can make a difference and this is my way of contributing…

The Isa Mundo Foundation, Andrée  explains, “is dedicated to supporting small, local and international projects by collaborating and partnering with other not-for-profit, non-governmental and community organizations to improve the situation of families and communities around the world…(It) provides assistance and care to children and youth, environmental health and education projects identified by communities…I have seen tremendous concrete and tangible impacts in communities we have served... improved education and health situations of children and youth. Our work is based on collaboration and partnership – and with a single focus of improving the lives of children, youth and families whether through education, health and community development projects.”

When Andrée starts talking about specific projects she paints a vision of hope and possibility. The IM work in Mexico, for example, includes a not-for-profit centre for children with disabilities. The centre fills a gap in services that the Mexican government has not been able to provide. The centre “opened their doors a couple of years ago to provide services for the children such as massage therapy, physiotherapy and other needed support.” The work of the centre brings physical relief to the children while also making space for parents to work and, therefore, bring much needed financial resources into their households.

When asked if she has any words of advice for individuals thinking of going into child and youth care, her response is emphatic:  “Do it! I embarked on this journey after already having completed a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree and already having a fruitful career as a public servant.  This degree has taught me so much, I have learned so many transferable skills that helped me improve myself as a person, as a parent, as a public servant, as a Chair in a not for profit and as a board member.”

Thank you for sharing your story Andrée Lacasse! It is inspirational.  We are proud that you have found value in your BCYC degree.