A new memorial foundation wants to support Indigenous women and girls interested in playing sports in Atlantic Canada.
“I never had the opportunity to meet my late grandmother,” Francis said.
She was killed in 1978 in an altercation between two families, Francis said. Just two days before she died, she promised her son, Francis’s father, that she would attend his softball game.
“My dad and her had a conversation, she found it really challenging to go to his different sports games because of the racism and cruelty that was always directed towards him,” Francis said.
“They would have conversations always of, ‘Was it worth it for him to do it?’ and he would always say yes.”
That’s the story Francis’s father just recently shared with him, and it’s what inspired him to create the fund, he told the Global News morning show on Friday.
It was officially launched on Wednesday at the Windhorse Farm outside of Bridgewater.
“It was really special,” Francis said, adding that family and friends attended the event along with other community members.
“We honoured and celebrated my grandmother. It was very much a day of healing, very much a day of learning and certainly a day of legacy.”
The story of his grandmother resonated with the work he does, Francis said. He works with the provincial government, but is passionate about sports and especially advancing Indigenous youth in sports.
He recently coached the Team Atlantic girls’ hockey team for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship.
That experience “had a really profound impact on me,” Francis said.
“Just seeing the potential they have, and the reality that they are our future, they are our changemakers…. Being passionate about that and finding myself in a position where I can support that, and being able to use the story of my grandmother … it’s really important and special to me.”
The first donation was already made to the Genevieve Francis Memorial Fund on the day of its launch. The National Hockey League (NHL) contributed $5,000.
Funding will help communities and Indigenous-led organizations, working in the space of Indigenous sports and recreation, create programming exclusive to Indigenous women and girls.
“It helps address the systemic changes needed in our systems,” Francis said.
Donations can be made on the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation website.
— with files from Global’s Eilish Bonang.