Sharon Blady, former Manitoba Minister of Health, educator specializing in Indigenous and feminist issues, social justice and mental health advocate, and survivor of cancer and domestic abuse, who believes the purpose of her journey is to use the challenges, and opportunities, she has been presented in life, to benefit of others.
Sharon uses the confluence of these experiences to reflect on how each has made her stronger, more empathetic, and how each of us can harness our experiences to grow personally, to assist and empower others, and to build a better and more compassionate world.
Sharon was teaching in feminist and Indigenous studies programs when she was recruited by Manitoba Premier Gary Doer to run for public office in 2007. That year would be a turning point for her in many ways. Not only did she begin a new path serving her neighbourhood, but her victory also resulted in her experiencing domestic violence.
Amidst all of this, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Viewing everything in life as opportunity, rather than an obstacle, these circumstances became the fuel for writing two pieces of first-in-Canada legislation and working on government projects related to domestic violence prevention and survivor support. It also brought her to a place where she reframed what it meant to live with a mood disorder.
Sharon’s anxiety-related mood disorder has become a source of strength, a Superpower, to be harnessed and directed for personal, familial and organizational growth. With this belief, as Minister of Healthy Living, and later, as Minister of Health, she worked with mental health experts and advocates to improve supports for those with lived experience, and most importantly to end stigma. She continues this work to help others Embrace their Superpowers, and to create healthy treatment, family, community, and working environments for all.
Sharon’s experience as an academic and educator includes being hired to teach in Aboriginal Child Welfare Initiative to train Indigenous social workers. She also developed unique content for non-Indigenous social work and nursing students to provide culturally informed and appropriate care. She would take this experience into elected life as a member of the Aboriginal Issues in Cabinet Committee, working on issues ranging from education, self-determination, and Metis economic development, even bringing artist Jamie Black’s REDress Project on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women to the Manitoba Legislature. Sharon believes that her experience in the classroom, and around the Cabinet table, provide her with unique insight into how as Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, can work together to build a stronger, more compassionate, and more understanding future.
A vibrant speaker who loves interacting with audiences the same way she interacted with her students, Sharon brings the ability to speak to groups that range from small workshops, to large keynote audiences and looks forward to sharing her experiences and perspectives to help others embrace their strengths for personal growth and problem-solving within organizations.