Kathy Mallett, O.M.
Kathy Mallett is a proud Ojibwa and Cree woman born and raised in Winnipeg. She has been involved in the Winnipeg Indigenous community since the mid-1970s. Mallett is a mother of two grown daughters, a son-in-law and four grandchildren and a grandson who died in infancy. When Mallett worked in Thompson in the late 1970s, she became involved with a group of Indigenous women who were concerned about First Nation women losing their treaty status upon marrying a non-First Nation person. This important issue led Mallett to become involved with other Indigenous women who began to organize themselves to lobby the federal government and their own community to change this law. Mallett did not want her own daughter to experience this kind of discrimination if and when she decided to marry.
During the 1980s, Mallett along with other Indigenous women developed a family support service organization to help inner city women and their children. Housing and childcare were important needs which resulted in the building of a family 42-unit housing co-op including a day care centre for children. Finally, Mallett worked for 10 years with an Indigenous women’s organization which helped women gain work skills. As well, she helped with studies on violence against Indigenous women in Winnipeg and needs for Indigenous women leaving prison and returning to their communities.
The next decade, Mallett volunteered with Winnipeg Indigenous organizations around the political needs of urban Indigenous peoples. She also became involved with others on the development the old CPR train station. Mallett was one of the first elected school trustees of Indigenous ancestry to the Winnipeg School Division #1 in a hundred years of its history.
In the late 1990s Mallett, along with criminal defense lawyer Fagie Fainman, began a pilot diversion program in Winnipeg. An Elders council was formed along with the board of directors to guide the program. The program involved the mainstream courts diverting Indigenous peoples to the program so they could make amends to the victim and seek both spiritual and community support.
Before retiring in 2014, Mallett was the co-director of the Community Education Development Association for five years. She was responsible for the operation of the Pathways to Education program along with other initiatives. One of the North End community initiatives was the redeveloped of the old Merchants Hotel on Selkirk Avenue resulting in its new purpose of becoming an educational hub and student housing.
In 2020, Mallett retired from the Merchants Corner board after serving 10 years.
She first received recognition for her volunteer work by members of her community in 1985 when she was given the YWCA Woman of the Year award. In 1993, she received the Faculty of Social Work Anniversary Award. In the early 2000s, she received the Grassroots Women Award and the Manitoba Human Rights Commitment award. In the mid-2000s, she received the Order of Manitoba and Keeping the Fires Burning award. Lastly, she received the Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues recognition in 2015.