Dahlia Belinsky: connecting with Canada’s aboriginal communities
Sociology student Dahlia Belinsky spent last summer reaching out to First Nations across the country on behalf of the Government of Canada’s Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
“I ran the social media, meaning Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, but mostly Twitter and Facebook,” she says. Her days were spent researching news and events relevant to her audience and then crafting posts about them. “We had campaigns directed toward reserves across Canada,” she says.
Belinsky is also enrolled in Concordia’s Minor in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality. While she doesn’t have a native background, she has a particular interest in minorities, and in social justice and human rights for the LGBTQ community. This made the job a good fit for her.
“Two spirit [identity] is something that I happen to study a lot, and that’s the main connection I had and one I brought up,” she says. “I did my best to mention it during my time there and promote different two-spirit events happening throughout Canada.”
Another project that Belinsky took on was the promotion of powwows happening across the country. “Outsiders are invited in, you can learn so much about Aboriginal culture, and it's a fun event. You're dancing, you're enjoying food,” says Belinsky.
Then, with the 2015 elections looming, the federal government enforced a blackout at the beginning of August. “All the stories I wanted to talk about were pegged,” Belinsky remembers. “I couldn't post any social media past that date, because we had to be non-biased, which was unfortunate.”
The Co-op position represented an incredible learning opportunity for Belinsky. “When I got the job I was so excited because it dealt directly with social media,” she says. “You can reach a huge audience but still have those very small interpersonal interactions.”
It also made her realize that, next time, she wants to be on the ground.
“Overall, I'd prefer to work on a more community-based level — actually going in and learning what [Aboriginal people] have to say. I liked the communication aspect of the job, but it'd be nice to see a more micro level. How people can mobilize themselves, not so much how we can help them,” says Belinsky.