Influenced by his northern upbringing, Michael has always stayed connected to community, spending much of his personal time volunteering through Passages Canada as a speaker to schools, colleges, and universities. This, along with his prior experience as Cultural Program Manager of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, and trainer for the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, have garnered Michael the personal and professional recognition as a valued speaker. With family roots and heritage from James Bay, ON, Etherington is a proud representative of his background as an Omushkego-Cree. Michael attributes his speaking messages to experiences growing up both on-reserve and off-reserve.
Michael grew up in poverty and saw many social issues such as addictions, violence and suicide impact his family and community. However, his family instilled within him a strong belief to being a leader for change and the story you define for yourself . Direct lived experience allowed Michael’s capabilities to embody compassion, empathy and a strong resiliency. His strong voice and profile at institutional levels have raised his recognition as a valued speaker yet Michael remains grounded with his community.
Having developed a unique perspective by being able to see conditions in both remote communities and urban spaces, Michael is able to share insight of the barriers, misconceptions, and assumptions within communities that can perpetuate a narrative not reflective of Indigenous peoples. He recently spoke on stage as a TEDx Speaker with his sought after keynote of Moving Beyond Rhetoric, currently advises organizations in public and corporate sector from both the national and international stages. His entire life work is dedicated to improving accountability, levels of transparency and bridging pathways in raising the profile of Indigenous dialogue.
His aim in every presentation is to promote reflection on where individuals position themselves in understanding the true history of Canada, what does reconciliation mean to them from either a retributive or restorative lens, and what steps are they willing to take to raise the profile from not a deficit basis and more to relationships rooted within respect and recognition.
Michael’s late great-aunt was the oldest residential school attendee in Canada at 111 years of age – and in 2008 was one of four invited attendees to House of Commons to hear Stephen Harper’s formal apology to Canada. When asked about her legacy Michael’s great-aunt said ‘poonenamok’ – (forgiveness). Today, Michael strives everyday to honour his late great-aunt’s wishes, in every presentation he delivers.