Maya Cousineau Mollen named Senior Advisor for First Peoples Relations

Maya Cousineau Mollen

Maya Cousineau Mollen

Credit: Amélie Philibert, Université de Montréal

In 5 seconds

Maya Cousineau Mollen is the new Senior Advisor for First Peoples Relations. She will help UdeM carry out its new action plan.

Maya Cousineau Mollen has been the new Senior Advisor for Relations with First Peoples in the Office of the Vice-Rector, Strategic Planning and Communication since mid-May. She is working closely with Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, Associate Vice-Rector, First Peoples Relations, on several projects, including execution of the Place aux Premiers Peuples 2024-2029 action plan.

“I plan to start by meeting with the faculty chairs to see how we can work together to improve their relations with Indigenous peoples,” said Cousineau Mollen. “I prefer face-to-face meetings because the human contact is important, especially when we’re talking about Indigenous issues.”

Born in Ekuanitshit (Mingan) to an Innu mother who had suffered terribly in residential schools, Cousineau Mollen was raised by non-Indigenous parents. “My adoptive parents never legally adopted me because I would have lost my status,” she related. “That was the rule back then, to promote assimilation. They always encouraged me to stay connected to my community, develop my potential and get involved in social issues.”

Creating links

With a foot in both worlds, Cousineau Mollen has spent her life building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. As a student of Indigenous native studies, political science and history at Université Laval, she set up the Indigenous Students’ Association. Then, in 2001, she co-founded the Youth Council, which became the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Youth Network.

“At the time, as Indigenous people, we felt we had to justify our existence,” she recalled. “Now things are changing in institutions and also in society. It’s very encouraging.”

In recent years, she has also worked at organizations that are not directly connected to the Indigenous community in order to build relationships. For example, she worked for EVOQ Architecture, a firm specializing in heritage conservation and First Nations and Inuit architecture, and for the Commission de la construction du Québec on the La Romaine project.

Cousineau Mollen is also a writer and poet, winner of the Governor General’s Award for French-language poetry in 2022. Until recently, she was an advisor on relations with Indigenous peoples at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

She has decided to work at a university because it is “a knowledge-based institution where people can develop their potential and shine.”

Cousineau Mollen attaches great importance to the trend towards greater inclusion of Indigenous communities that she sees at UdeM: “We live together, so we have to listen to each other, work together and respect each other in order to share this space,” she said. “The action plan is ambitious, and implementing it will be challenging, but I’m taking it one day at a time, bringing my optimism and curiosity to the job. I’m working for the good of our communities.”