Inspiring Success: NIEEF CIBC - Loni Vicaire

Scholarship winner hoping for eventual return to her First Nation

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Contributor

Loni VicaireLoni Vicaire yearns for a return to her home community.

But for now, Vicaire, a member of Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec, is not only honing her work skills but also continuing her education in Nova Scotia.

Loni Vicaire is juggling job and family commitments while also working towards a Master's degree from Cape Breton University.

Vicaire, 34, has been working as a policy analyst for the Nova Scotia government in its Office of Aboriginal Affairs for almost four years now. Her work focusses on Treaty Education.

Since last summer, however, Vicaire has also been working towards her Master’s of Business Administration degree, which has a focus on community economic development, through Cape Breton University.

Vicaire estimates it will take 4-5 years of part-time studies to earn her Master’s degree.

Ideally, after that she would move back to her home province.

“I would love to move home and take all the work I’m learning in school and with the skills I’m applying to my job (and get a position there),” she said.

But some further education, after earning a Master’s degree, could also be in the cards for Vicaire. Several years ago she had thought of pursuing a Law degree. Those thoughts have been rekindled recently, especially with her line of work now.

“Treaty education is something I’m really passionate about,” she said.

Vicaire had moved to Halifax in 2012 to attend St. Mary’s University. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2016.

Vicaire received some positive news earlier this year as she was informed she was one of seven recipients of the new Indigenous Scholarship Program.

The scholarships were delivered by Indspire, the national charitable organization which raises funds and delivers programs for Indigenous people in Canada.

The seven scholarships this year totaled $44,000. They ranged in amounts from $2,000 to $10,000 this year.

Vicaire was one of the two winners who received the most, $10,000 each.

“I submitted my application in August,” Vicaire said, adding she was notified she was one of the scholarship recipients in late January. “But I didn’t think I’d receive anything.”

Scholarship funds were available because of a new partnership between the CIBC and the National Indigenous Economic Education Foundation, the charitable organization of Cando, which promotes economic development in Indigenous communities through Canada.

Scholarship recipients were not told why they were selected. Like the other winners, Vicaire can only speculate why she was.
“I think it was because of what I’m doing workwise and with what I’m studying,” she said.

Vicaire began her courses towards her Master’s degree last July. She was required to attend classes at Cape Breton University, located in Sydney, a five-hour drive from her home in Halifax.

She would return home on weekends as she is also raising her own family with her partner Jacob. Vicaire has a 13-year-old son, Orios, and a daughter, Scarlett, who was turning five in late May.

Vicaire said her lucrative scholarship came in handy.

“It’s definitely going to help offset a lot of the costs,” she said.

Vicaire said her costs were adding up since she had to travel back and forth from Halifax to Sydney last summer.

“It was like a double expense, having two places,” she said, adding she rented a room when she was in Sydney.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Cape Breton University will not be offering in-class sessions this summer. But Vicaire will continue to take courses online.

“I will be missing out with face-to-face interactions and meeting new people,” she said.

But she’s also trying to think of the positives.
“I feel like working remotely will be easier on me with my family,” she said.

Vicaire added her current employer has been very supportive of her educational pursuits.

“My work has been fully supportive of me taking time off,” she said.

Vicaire also said time management is something that she has been forced to learn to handle. By all indications, she’s faring well.

“I found it to be the most challenging thing – working, trying to go to school and juggling your family,” she said.

After finishing high school Vicaire had enrolled in the Office Administration program at Ottawa’s Algonquin College.

Upon completing that program she landed a job as a receptionist working for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in Ottawa. During her couple of years working with the AFN, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was active.

“I got to hear everybody’s story,” she said. “It gave me some ambition to get more involved.”