J'Net Ayayawyaksheelth and Rachel Décoste join the NFB. | Photos by Jonni Super Photography and Moshe Zusman / HeadshotDC

NFB appoints Rachel Décoste and J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth

New positions created as part of Board's strategy to foster inclusive filmmaking

5 mins read

Two new hires at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) will help the Board deliver on the promises of its organizational strategy. The NFB announced today the appointment of Rachel Décoste in the newly created position of Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. This hire follows last week’s announcement of J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth in the new position of Director, Indigenous Relations and Community Engagement. Décoste will begin her new role on September 27, while Ayayqwayaksheelth started work in the Toronto office as of September 20.

Décoste will oversee the execution of the NFB’s objectives for diversity and inclusion, which comprises diversifying the talent pool of NFB creators to ensure that underrepresented groups are more adequately reflected, overseeing subject matter, evaluating and updating the Board’s anti-racism policy, and working to ensure inclusive practices across the organization. Décose and Ayayqwayaksheelth will work together to implement the NFB’s Indigenous Action Plan. Similarly, Ayayqwayaksheelth, a two-spirit member of the Ahousaht community from the Nuu-chah-nulth homelands on Vancouver Island, will oversee organizational change on Indigenous matters, ensure that Indigenous creators have the tools and practices to create their stories authentically, and work with non-Indigenous staff and creators at the Board to improve awareness and facilitate the execution of the IAP’s goals. She will work in collaboration with the NFB’s Indigenous advisory committee.

Décoste brings unique experience to the NFB having worked on the successful 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns for Barack Obama. Prior to her appointment with the NFB, Décoste provided leadership on equity and inclusion as a writer, educator, speaker, policy expert, and community activist in Ottawa. Ayayqwayaksheelth comes the NFB following a seven-year role as the Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator with the Royal Ontario Museum Learning Department. She also served as Developer & Manager for Centennial College’s Indigenous Curriculum and the Partnership Facilitator with the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts.

“NFB founder John Grierson wanted the NFB to be ‘the eyes of Canada.’ In the more than 80 years since, that lens has widened as Canada has evolved into a diverse multicultural nation,” said Décoste in a statement from the NFB. “With this role comes the opportunity to strengthen the NFB’s commitment to operationalize equity, diversity, and inclusion. It’s an honour to be an agent of change at the NFB, and I look forward to beginning the important work of ensuring that the perspectives and stories of all Canadians are reflected in all that we do.”

“For an outspoken Indigenous arts leader like myself, this opportunity represents a turning of the page in authentic Indigenous storytelling in Canadian filmmaking,” added Ayayqwayaksheelth. ”We are overdue to have these difficult conversations. By introducing this senior-level position, it signals that the NFB is ready and willing to do the work of remembering and acknowledging ongoing Indigenous excellence and innovation. I am honoured to be taking up this important role.”

These appointments lead two goals in the NFB’s recent strategic plan to guide transformational change across all levels of the organization. The Board has been a leader in the Canadian film sector for achieving and exceeding gender parity, as well as inviting space for Indigenous staff and creators in the organization. “At the NFB we’re committed to an organizational transformation that will have a profound impact on who we are and how we work, and the way we connect with all Canadians,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson, in a statement.

Both Décoste and Ayayqwayaksheelth will serve as part of the NFB’s Executive Committee and report directly to the Commissioner.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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