Community Canvas

Poet Laureate

We are creating a poetry book with Sarah Siembida, the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Smart Waterloo Region.

About the project

The Poet Laureate of Smart Waterloo Region is inspired by the Poet Laureate of Ontario Act (In Memory of Gord Downie). This act honours the late poet and lead singer of popular Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, Gord Downie, who passed away in October 2017. Gord Downie asked all Canadians to look at the state of Indigenous-settler relations in this country and to do something to change them for the better. Smart Waterloo Region is collaborating with the Sarah Siembida, to facilitate conversation about creating positive change within the community. We are achieving this through poetry that opens doorways to thoughtful conversation about the relationships between settlers and marginalized groups. We have named Sarah Siembida as the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Smart Waterloo Region. This project is apart of Community Canvas, which is a way that Smart Waterloo Region is bringing art to the Region.

The innovation process

The innovation team at Smart Waterloo Region Innovation Lab (SWIRL) and Sarah Siembida started this process by having a a necessary but uncomfortable conversation about how we can find a way to bridge the gap between colonial systems and community. As a team, we brainstormed way to achieve this and decided that a universal language that everyone can understand is storytelling. Sarah is an mixed-indigenous poet whose words have the power to illicit system change. Next, we looked for a way to bring Sarah's poetry to the Waterloo Region. We started to create a book, a website, and illustrations that will communicate a future where Waterloo Region has built a metaphorical bridge for people to walk over and leave their bias behind.

The results

We are publishing a poetry book called Memoirs Of An Indian: A Guide To Surviving Colonialism! The book is meant to inspire youth to become cycle breakers. Our goal is for Memoirs Of An Indian: A Guide To Surviving Colonialism to become readily available and used as a resource for innovation. We also created merchandise that will serve as a revenue stream that supports our continued efforts to bring poetry to Waterloo Region. You can check out some of the merchandise in these images :) 

Our partners

Key takeaways

Smart Waterloo Region is taking Indigenous reconciliation and is committing to change. We are looking forward to the launch of Sarah's book, Memoirs Of An Indian: A Guide To Surviving Colonialism!


We learned that when we give youth the opportunity to lead systems change, the method they use to achieve is uniquely effective.

If we could time-travel and start this project again...

  • We would have had a Poet Laureate earlier
  • Use more local artists that are part of marginalized groups/ethnicities for the illustrations
  • Included some of the poetry the murals that are by Community Canvas
  • Have educational sessions to bring more awareness around culture

Thanks to...

Thank you to creator, and ancestors for existence. Sarah's family and friends, the whole team at Smart Waterloo Region, and SOAHAC. As well as all the educators who inspired Sarah to pursure their dream of writting. We appreciate all of your hard work <3

Now what?

Sarah's book, Memoirs Of An Indian: A Guide To Surviving Colonialism is going to launch in June 2023, and we are looking to expand into all libraries and book stores! The book will be 1st book in a series of poetry novels that will destigmatize conversation about cultural injustices and double standards in Canada.

Latest works

Data Playground
A chat bot that can speak to users like a human and help them find services.
Data Playground
A translation tool that supports voice, file and keyboard input with 27 commonly used language types around the Waterloo Region.