First Contact takes six Canadians, all with stereotypical opinions about Indigenous People, on a unique 28-day exploration of Indigenous Canada. It is a journey that will turn their lives upside down, challenging their perceptions and confronting their prejudices about a world they never imagined they would see. This exploration of the true Indigenous experience in Canada will change the participants’ lives forever.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Ashley’s life has been a truly transformative journey. The daughter of a Canadian Mounted Police Officer father and a Portuguese immigrant mother, she was a shy little girl. This was largely due to abuse she suffered from a family member, which went on for several years. One of the side affects of this abuse was a fear of reading in front of others, which culminated in her failing third grade as her teacher believed she wasn’t able to read.
A tomboy who didn’t care about appearances, Ashley continued to be picked on heavily throughout high school. Her outlet became sports, and she joined every team the school had to offer. Despite this, the bullying continued, with her classmates at the Catholic school labeling her gay, even before she had personally come to terms with her sexuality.
On entering Algonquin College for the Police Foundations program, Ashley found her rhythm, excelling in her classes, meeting her first girlfriend, and being chosen for the starting lineup of the college soccer team. After college, she met her goal of entering the police force. After working with the RCMP for eight years, Ashley did some soul-searching and realized the job was not making her happy. She quit, and found her passion as a personal trainer, forming her own business focused on helping clients with athletic performance. After a year and a half of building her business solo, she and a business partner and mentor, Mike, bought three fitness centre franchises.
Having been through many challenges and hard times, Ashley is an empathetic person who is interested in learning about other people before passing judgment. However she is a direct, outspoken person and believes every Canadian has a right to their own opinion and the right to express it.
Family man Ross has his roots firmly planted in Alberta, but has explored the world as well, first as a young child living in New Zealand with his family, and later in the Navy. Growing up in small town Alberta he loved to do all the classic Canadian activities: hockey, dirt-biking and camping with his family. A class clown, Ross got by in school but didn’t put as much time into his studies as he did into hockey.
After school, Ross spent thirteen years in the Navy, followed by studies in accounting, working in a bank and eventually working for the government. He raised his family in Edmonton, and now has three nearly adult children, of 20, 18, and 16. One of his greatest passions is travel, exploring all over Canada and around the world with his family. His mother was originally from New Zealand, so that is a regular stop on his adventures.
Ross is blunt, outspoken and opinionated. He believes specialty groups lobbying for their own needs are the biggest problem that Canada faces. While he feels all Canadians have a right to be who they are and have their own beliefs, they also shouldn’t flaunt their differences into everyone else’s face. Ross holds his beliefs strongly, believing that hard work and classic Canadian values are the key to success, and expecting anyone who has the opportunity to live in Canada to feel the same.
Country-born and bred, Jamie-Sue loves big trucks and small-town Canada but she defies any stereotypes that go along with country life with her open-mindedness and compassionate nature. Growing up on a farm in Chatham, running down the dirt road to her grandparents’ farm next door, she formed a love for nature, particularly animals, that continues to this day, evidenced by the four rescue pets she cares for.
A balance of the left and right sides of her brain, Jamie-Sue excelled in both accounting and art while in school. Post-high school she partied her way through college until it was time for reality to set in. After a nudge from her mother she went to work at a car manufacturing plant, a job she’s now been with for thirteen years. One of the advantages of the role has been the opportunities it has given her to travel, including moving to Mississippi for seven months for a job, exposing her to a whole new world of music and food.
Outside of her work life one of Jamie-Sue’s hobbies is painting, which she’s had an interest in since childhood. She traces this back to her father, a talented wood-worker. Travel is another passion, although many destinations remain on her bucket list. A huge Seattle Sea Hawks fan, one of her dreams is to travel to Seattle to see her favourite team play.
One of Jamie-Sue’s defining characteristics is her empathy. Optimistic by nature, she loves that Canada is geared towards helping others; be it equal pay or the programs that encourage women to enter trades, she loves that there is opportunity for growth for all. She feels, however, that the country could do much more to help its most marginalized communities, like those suffering from addiction or mental health issues. She believes we are only as good as the way we treat those most in need.
Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, Dallas fits the mold of a friendly, open east-coaster. Outgoing and athletic from childhood, he spent his time playing sports and hanging out at the community centre with the same group of kids he is still friends with to this day. Part of a close-knit family, Dallas’ parents pushed him to be someone who cared about others and did his best to help them however he could. He looks to his mom especially as a role model, having worked hard to support them as a single mother after her split with his dad. She always made sure he was able to participate in the activities his friends were doing, despite a limited income.
In high school his main interest was in sports, joining basketball, lacrosse, football and hockey. He feels the discipline he learned on these teams played a big role in his future success, as they kept him out of trouble and focused on good habits rather than bad. After graduating high school with honours, he knew he didn’t want to be cooped up in a classroom again, and that his strengths were as a more hands-on type of person. He picked up and moved to Alberta and began his welding apprenticeship, learning the trade over the course of three years. By 22 years old he had achieved his goal of becoming a journeyman welder.
On a whim one day, Dallas decided to audition for Big Brother Canada’s fourth season. Chosen to be on the show, he made a big impression on the audience for wearing his heart on his sleeve, getting fired up, and taking on every challenge with his signature enthusiasm. He was so memorable that he was one of eight former houseguests asked to return for the following season, which pitted these returning competitors against new ones.
Dallas has explored some of Canada through road trips between Edmonton, where he still works as a welder, and Saint John, where he spends the summers lobster fishing. Travelling the world is at the top of his bucket list, and he is looking forward to beginning by seeing more of his own country.
Avonlea spent her earliest years moving from town to town throughout the British Columbia, before settling in Pemberton when she was ten. The constant shuffle meant that she learned quickly to adapt to new social settings, turning on the charm to make friends in each new school. After the loss of her stepmother at twelve, Avonlea had to quickly step into the mom role for her younger brother, which didn’t leave much time for being a typical, happy-go-lucky kid.
Having grown up quickly, it felt natural to her to move in with her now-husband when she was just seventeen years old. After testing several career paths she found the right one for her; event management, which was a great fit for her perfectionist nature. Now a mom of two young boys, Avonlea looks after them full time, while her husband works in construction. They love to do the simple things as a family: camping and spending time outdoors.
All of this work and looking after others hasn’t left much time for travel, and one of Avonlea’s dreams would be to live overseas for a stretch of time. One of her hopes for her children is that they get a chance to learn about other cultures from their schoolmates, as she feels it’s important that they learn that there are many ways to live. She believes all Canadians should have the right to live how they choose as long as they don’t negatively impact others.
Avonlea has spent her life caring for others, from her brother to her own young sons, and her big-heart and compassion are her defining qualities. Open to learning and change, she is curious and excited to explore Canada.
Donald has spent his whole life based in Alberta. He grew up in a close-knit community, and still has several of the same friends he went to school with as a child. After high school he studied business at the University of Alberta, and ventured into sales afterwards. That path didn’t stick forever; his career has been varied, with turns in teaching, entrepreneurship and truck driving.
His passions include flying airplanes, a hobby he shared with his father and brother. He eventually got his commercial pilots license and taught flying for several years until a physical limitation forced him to stop. Another hobby-turned-job was scuba diving, for which he was certified, and taught at the University of Alberta for thirty years.
He and his wife didn’t have children, and enjoy travelling the world together, minus the flying in uncomfortable planes. His life has had many twists and turns, and now he takes pleasure in exploring further afield, and getting a chance to visit the places around the world he’s seen on TV and the movies.
Donald is proud to consider himself honest, with a strong work ethic and integrity. In his childhood he has been told he was a bit of a bully, but hasn’t been in a fistfight since he was 9 years old, and is now more likely to stop a fight than start one. He does consider himself vocal, and not afraid to speak his mind. An opinionated conservative, he considers the freedom to live in a safe, clean place without war and suffering the best thing about Canada. He feels that Canada’s worst problem is the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his focus on diversity.