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Melanie MacKinnon [BN/96]

Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women: Melanie MacKinnon

Healthcare innovator whose leadership has helped save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic

October 25, 2021 — 

Melanie MacKinnon [BN/96] has been named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada for 2021.

She is the Executive Director of Ongomiizwin Health Services and Head of the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

“When I learned I was going to be one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, the paradox of pride and humility was experienced. This award is an honouring of the matriarchal leadership and the ancestors I’m blessed to come from. They were my first teachers of what generative and authentic power, responsibility and service looks like,” said MacKinnon. 

She is a Cree nurse and healthcare executive leader, and a proud member of Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids, Manitoba) with paternal roots in Pimicikamak Cree Nation and Wabowden, Manitoba.

As an accomplished visionary leader working in highly collaborative ways, MacKinnon is grounded in First Nations teachings and values.

She has served as a co-lead of the Manitoba First Nation Pandemic Response and Coordination Team, on behalf of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. MacKinnon brought together complex healthcare service organizations, having them set aside jurisdictional issues to work together. Under her leadership, the Rapid Response Team could be deployed within 24 hours to First Nations communities experiencing outbreaks to swiftly assist.

She also contributed to a streamlined and prioritized vaccine rollout, a key program saving lives. Throughout the course of the pandemic, her leadership has solidified her as a role model for current and future health professionals and administrators, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

MacKinnon has received widespread recognition for her dedicated service to Indigenous communities, including being a co-recipient of the 2021 Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Campbell Outreach Award, UM’s premier award in recognition of outstanding outreach activities by a member of the university.

She also was a Co-Game Star 2021 National Hockey League Healthcare Heroes Award (Winnipeg Jets) and received the 2021 Circle of Excellence Award, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (Manitoba Region), Indigenous Services Canada.

Over the course of her 25-year career, MacKinnon has served in several roles within the health sector. As a senior healthcare administrator and advocate, her work has informed regional and national policy shifts as well as generating new program mandates that seek to improve and protect the health and well-being of the communities she serves.

With her peers, community, and health leaders, she continues to advocate for the right of equitable access to quality health and social programs and services for Indigenous peoples in Manitoba, Canada, and around the world. Her mission to create space for Indigenous knowledge and rights into mainstream structures continues to be guided by her family, colleagues, mentors, and Elders, of whom she remains grateful.

“Now I’m a matriarch and I hope to instill the same pride, humility and responsibility to the next generation that will continue to do good work for our communities and all nations,” said MacKinnon.

This year, seven UM community members have been named to the WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.


Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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