Congratulations to Catherine Langille, Indigenous Relations Coordinator at SFI/Project Learning Tree Canada, for winning a 2023 Skills Awards for Indigenous Youth at a National Forest Week celebration in Ottawa on September 20. The awards were presented by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) in partnership with the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM). The awards celebrate Indigenous youth for their achievements and aspirations in the forest products sector.
“I’ve worked in the forest sector for almost eight years, so this award means a lot to me and holds a special significance. It not only recognizes my personal achievements but also symbolizes the progress we are making in promoting diversity and inclusion in our industry. I am immensely proud to represent other young Indigenous women who are breaking barriers and making their mark in forestry,” Langille says.
Pictured (Left to Right): FPAC President and CEO Derek Nighbor, SFI Indigenous Relations Coordinator Catherine Langille, student Makué Vollant, SFI VP of Communications Christine Leduc, and SFI Senior Advisor of Indigenous Relations Paul Robitaille.
Langille’s emphasis on the importance of belonging can be traced back to her early days in forestry, starting at 16 years old, and representing her community: Seine River First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. A community that values coming together to prepare for the future and ensuring prosperity for generations to come, she shared.
“Being grounded in community helps me remember that I belong. There were networking events for this award where I needed to remind myself that it is important I am here, for me and for other young professionals. And that it’s always good to embrace unknown spaces and push yourself to connect with different people,” Langille says.
When it comes to belonging, Langille also drew on some great advice she got from a familiar face at the award event, Jess Kaknevicius, CEO of Forests Ontario and formerly the Vice-President of Education at SFI. “Jess encouraged me to accept my authentic self and to never be afraid to say: ‘Hey, what’s up?’” Langille says. She uses this simple question not just as an icebreaker but as a way to remain authentic while helping form a deeper connection with different people.
Catherine in the field with OYEP.
As Langille’s career expands, she is learning to make the most of every professional encounter. Her advice to young professionals starting their career journey? “Share your story in a humble way; talk about what makes you uncomfortable and what you learned from your failures. Young people are looking for authenticity.”
One of Langille’s most important mentors, Paul Robitaille, SFI’s Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations, presented her with the Skills Award. “Paul shows that being a leader means supporting people around you and giving credit where credit is due. We met seven years ago when he was a master’s student, and I was an OYEP participant,” says Langille.
Another mentor, Étienne Vézina, Resolute’s Senior Director of Forestry, encouraged Langille to apply for the award. Vézina and Langille met in Project Learning Tree Canada’s (PLT Canada) free Green Mentorship Program and regularly stay in touch.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to Paul and Étienne for their unwavering support and guidance that has been instrumental in shaping my career,” Langille shared. She credits Robitaille and Vézina with helping her see her valuable contribution towards advancing truth and reconciliation working in the forest sector.
“SFI’s Indigenous Relations Commitment is an opportunity to listen and learn from our Indigenous partners, to co-create positive stories about, and for, the Indigenous communities we work with—hopefully contributing to a more positive and well-informed public discourse in the process,” Langille says.
Langille plays a central role in SFI’s partnerships with Indigenous communities, with a specific focus on understanding the unique realities faced by First Nation, Métis, and Inuit youth. Langille also works to expand PLT Canada programming and to ensure that all initiatives are accessible and responsive to the unique needs of Indigenous youth across Canada. She is a PLT Canada ambassador, inviting Indigenous youth, professionals, and employers to join PLT Canada’s growing community.
Prior to joining SFI, Langille worked with Indigenous youth through the Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) and as a biologist assistant in an Ontario provincial park. She holds a diploma in environmental science and natural resources from Fleming College and is working toward a degree in Indigenous environmental studies at Trent University.