Shannon Simpson, U of T’s Senior Director of Indigenous Initiatives, wins 2023 Access, Equity and Human Rights Award

Shannon Simpson, U of T’s Senior Director of Indigenous Initiatives, has received the Mino Bimaadiziwin Award (Indigenous Award) as part of the City of Toronto’s 2023 Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards. Named after the Anishinaabemowin expression for “living the good life,” the Mino Bimaadiziwin Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the well-being and advancement of the urban Indigenous community of Toronto. Simpson is Anishinaabe and Scottish and is a member of the Michi Saagiig of Alderville First Nation. In the two decades that she has worked at the University of Toronto, she has made a lasting impact on our community and across all three campuses.
Shannon Simpson

“Since 2003, Shannon has led cumulative and substantial change to make our University a place where members of Indigenous communities feel supported, and where non-Indigenous students and employees are well-prepared to follow the path to reconciliation,” said Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President of People Strategy, Equity & Culture. “She is a patient advocate and innovative and inspiring leader.”

Simpson’s work with and for Indigenous students has been an important throughline in her career. In addition to well over a decade working at First Nations House (a “home away from home” for Indigenous U of T students), she co-chaired the Indigenous Students Working Group for the University’s Truth and Reconciliation Steering Committee and is currently leading an Indigenous Student Advisory Circle. In all these roles, she has given Indigenous students of all ages a sense of belonging and common purpose.

Since joining the Office of Indigenous Initiatives in 2020, Simpson has guided the tri-campus community in initiatives, policies, and programs to advance reconciliation at and beyond U of T. She played pivotal roles in the realization of the renovation of First Nations House and the Ziibiing landscape project, a learning, teaching, and ceremonial place close to completion at the centre of St. George campus.

Simpson championed the recent initiative that will cover the cost of tuition for members of nine neighbouring First Nations communities, as well as offering domestic tuition rates to Indigenous students from provinces outside of Ontario and from the continental U.S. She has also significantly expanded Indigenous cultural competency within our non-Indigenous community through the hiring of a full-time training coordinator and the expansion of trainings to students as well as employees.

“Under her leadership, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives has matured and grown significantly – becoming a hub for the generation, development, and implementation of projects that support and sustain the Indigenous community across U of T,” said Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost.

Prior to joining U of T, Simpson spent six years at Anduhyaun Inc., an Indigenous organization in Toronto that offers shelter and second stage housing to Indigenous women and children recovering from the traumas of violence and houselessness. She served on the board of Na Me Res (Native Men’s Residence) for a decade and currently for the past 16 years has sat as a volunteer community council member for Aboriginal Legal Services. She is co-chair of the Community Council at the Toronto Birth Centre, where she has volunteered for nine years.