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About Us

Our Vision

Returning to Spirit (RTS) is a non-profit charitable organization born out of a partnership and vision between an Indigenous man, a religious Sister and a talented design team to address the divisive legacy of Indian Residential Schools (history).

Our Indigenous and non-Indigenous trainers form the heart of our organization, supported by our Keepers and the Board of Directors. We design and deliver workshops that reconcile one's spirit with the perceived "other." We move individuals, families, organizations and whole communities forward through the principles of personal empowerment and community leadership. We welcome community partners to continue the process of transformation.

Our work goes beyond healing. It provides conditions for transformation and mindfulness in all relationships. All Canadians are invited to engage and help us as a nation to move forward more powerfully to hope, possibility and choice for the next generation.

RTS is a non profit with deep connections to the Indigenous and faith communities. The generous donations from churches across Canada have continued to support us complete this important work.

How it all Started

The Returning to Spirit reconciliation model is designed to restore spirit and healing, and shift the conversation between Indigenous participants and and non-Indigenous participants from one of blame and resentment to one hope and opportunity. 

It began with discussions between Chief Roy Fabian, the Chief for Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Bishop Denis Croteau of the Diocese of Yellowknife and Sister Ann Thompson ssa. How could the Church best contribute to healing the legacy of Indian Residential Schools? Chief Fabian recommended conversations with Marc Pizandawatc, an Algonquin man facilitating healing workshops among Indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories.

The seed for the reconciliation workshops was planted at one of Marc’s workshops. Participants were asked to create a project held dear but seemingly impossible. Sister Ann suggested a program to reconcile First Nations people and the Church in the wake of the divisions caused by Indian Residential Schools.

A workshop design team was formed through church funding, and members having varied experience and expertise in First Nations’ traditions and culture, spiritual practices, community development, self-awareness, personal development and empowerment principles. A “Needs and Opportunities” group included Indian Residential School survivors. An intensive ten day model creation workshop was held at Trapper’s Lake in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 2001

Critical to the design and process was the need to reconcile within one's own biases and preconceptions before being able to really listen to the other, and be open to different ways of thinking. The model finally included two separate workshops - one for Indigenous participants and one for non-Indigenous participants, followed by a Reconciliation workshop that included a communications and listening component.

The original reconciliation emphasis was between Church and First Nation people. We now use the term “Non-Indigenous” instead of “Church”.  The legacy of the Indian Residential schools affects every Canadian. Because of the massive success of the workshops, workshops have since been delivered to over 3000 participants across Western Canada and into Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Board Members


Stan Fontaine
Board Chair
Sagkeeng First Nation, MB - living in Winnipeg, MB
Margot Lavoie
Board Secretary & Vice Chair
Winnipeg, MB
Debbie Beach-Ducharme
Board Member
Winnipeg, MB
Sr. Norma MacDonald CSC
Board Member
Winnipeg, MB
Myra Charlie
Board Member
Duncan, BC
Archbishop Richard Gagnon
Board Member
Winnipeg, MB
Mary E. LeMaître
Board Member
Winnipeg, MB

Team of Leaders


Lisa Raven
Executive Director
Hollow Water First Nation, MB
Jacques Lafrance
Trainer
Lorette, MB
Dennis Chartrand
Trainer
Winnipeg, MB
Gigi Jakobs
Trainer
Nanaimo, BC
Robyn Hall
Trainer
Hollow Water First Nation, MB
Francois Paradis
Trainer
Winnipeg, MB
Richard Sampson
Trainer
Prince George, MB
Susan Campbell
Trainer
Cochrane, AB
Janine Luggi
Trainer
Prince George, BC
Terry-Lynn Luggi
Trainer
Prince George, BC
Dianne Little
Trainer
Winnipeg, MB
Cheryl Bushie
Trainer
Hollow Water First Nation, MB

Frequently Asked Questions

Returning to Spirit (RTS) is a charitable non-profit organization that leads reconciliation workshops between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons across Canada. Our mission is to create a cultural bridge, and give everyone a chance to transform the negative legacy of the Residential Schools, to one of empowerment and possibility.

If you are a Canadian or live in the territory encompassed by the geopolitical entity called Canada, the inter-generational legacy of Indian Residential Schools and the Indian Act and the divisions it created is yours. As articulated in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Report, all Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, need to play a part in reconciling the familial, societal, racial and cultural divides. This is the legacy that is ours to reconcile.

We are grateful for the generosity of our major funding agencies, including the Winnipeg Foundation, the Counselling Foundation of Canada, the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres and many spiritual, social justice and religious organizations across Canada. We are also grateful to the many host communities that partner with us in delivering the workshops, such as the City of Tofino, Gitxsan First Nation, Hollow Water First Nation, Sioux Lookout and many more.

Returning to Spirit has a rigorous Trainer Development Program (TDP) that includes both a theoretical and practical component. All of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous trainers are certified through the TDP, and many have background experience and education in social justice, communication and compassion.

No, each person needs to attend two parts to complete the Reconciliation process, the foundational 4-Day workshop (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) and the 5-day Reconciliation Workshop.

Yes! The workshops have transformed lives as the evaluations show.

Absolutely! This is not a religious program and many of our trainers are not affiliated with a religious group.

Though Returning to Spirit and the TRC have similar missions, we are not affiliated with the TRC. During the TRC Closing, however, Returning to Spirit workshops were mentioned as being powerful possibilities moving forward with the much needed reconciliations across Canada.

While we offer the workshops across Canada, most of our workshops have been delivered in Manitoba and Western provinces, in part because of our organization's headquarters in Winnipeg and also because of the greater need and demand for the workshops in areas having higher densities of Indigenous communities.

Contact our Winnipeg office, at 204-889-4579 or info@returningtospirit.org for more information. We'll send you more information and have a conversation with you.