By Abby Richards
Mike Perry is somewhat of a celebrity here at the Institute for Change Leaders. He first got involved with ICL about a year and a half ago, when he found out that both he and our founder Olivia Chow attended the Public Leadership Program at Harvard University. Being a resident of Kawartha Lakes, Mike mentioned how devastating COVID had been on the senior population, and Olivia offered our training model as an option for making change. The two began working together, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Mike has taught numerous courses here at ICL, but he admits working with Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) has been his favourite. A father of two young children, Mike understands the importance of ECE’s and the adversities they face in the fight for better pay and social value. Mike is incredibly passionate about social justice and has worked to make an impact on issues such as ending poverty, increasing diversity and inclusion and working against human trafficking. He also understands the intricate intersectionality between social and economic issues and, since the pandemic began, has led efforts to envision a new economic system that works better for everyone and the planet.
Until recently, Mike was the Executive Director of the City of Kawartha Lakes Family Health Team, but now works as the lead of laws and constitution at the Métis Nation of Ontario in the self-government office. While Mike’s job and family keep his schedule jam-packed, he still finds time to pursue some pretty rockin’ hobbies, including scuba diving, doing volunteer work, and, amazingly, hosting his very own live funk radio show every Saturday night on community radio (100.9 CANOE FM at 11pm, for those of you interested in tuning in).
While Mike may broadcast every Saturday night, he’s still finding out more about himself every day. Mike tells the incredible story of how, just last year, he discovered that he is Métis. Having been interested in Indigenous and Québec culture his whole life, Mike explains that discovering his Métis (Anishinaabe-Menominee/French fur trader) roots made perfect sense to him. Mike is really enjoying discovering more about his own culture and identity.
When asked what gives him hope for the future, Mike states immediately that it’s young people. Being both a father and an educator at Trent University has given Mike a unique insight to the goals and aspirations of today’s youth; he is constantly impressed by their passion, their forward-thinking, and their refusal to accept injustice. “I think young people are going to be the ones to decode the Matrix,” Mike declares proudly – referencing the iconic Keanu Reeves film – and we wholeheartedly agree. We know that Mike is one of the brave souls who won’t face this world of inequity lying down – he’s going to do something about it.