Growing up as the youngest of 8 children to an Indigenous mother and Black father, Denise at an early age, developed a passion for serving her community and social activism. Attending George Brown College for the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counselling and Advocacy Program, Denise was immediately recruited for frontline work as a supervisor for a women’s shelter in her home town of Barrie ON. Following her passion to help people living in poverty and facing homelessness, she found herself in roles where she assisted community members keep their housing, access resources for food security and assisted women fleeing violence.
After the birth of her child, she moved to Manitoulin Island where she began work within the local media and stayed within her roots of community work. Through her employment at a local youth centre at one of Canada’s largest Unceded First Nation communities, she began to develop and recognize the need for education and prevention around HIV and drug use. In April of 2009 she began working at the Ontario Aboriginal HIV AIDS Strategy as the first Indigenous Injection Drug Use Outreach Coordinator in Ontario. She developed the program from the ground up.
Now in her 8th year of service, Denise has extensive knowledge around Peer Based programming, HIV/HCV education and prevention, Harm Reduction philosophies and practices, Overdose Training and prevention, advocacy for people who use substances, settler colonial violence as well as the effects of Colonialism on African Diasporic and mixed Indigenous bodies and anti-black racism. She continues to fight against stigma and discrimination on behalf of those who are affected by or at risk of HIV Transmission as well as people who use substances. Denise is a citizen of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and has kept a passion for learning her native language, reclaiming her inherent traditions and continues her passion to fight for and raise awareness of the rights of Indigenous people across Turtle island.