Philosophical Lessons Drawn from Lawrence Wawia

(January 4, 1964 - March 20, 2016)




"Thanks Lawrence for the times you spent with us, having beer, sharing your visions and most especially for backing us up and supporting in your own way the visions that arose from our times in peace my friend."



"Question" - the one word used by Lawrence before he wanted to find something out.  One was always prepared for anything when a sentence from Lawrence started out with the word "Question"

Lawrence was very instrumental in his own way with the work started by the Inner City Aboriginal Society (ICAS).  I think one of the stories that help me understand why he explained so much to me with Aly's imput was my naivety about the whole experience of homelessness.

One day when I noticed Lawrence and Aly sleeping under a handicapped entrance to a James Bay church in the middle of winter I offered them an electronic blanket.  Lawrence in his particular fashion indicated "yeah Bruce and we'll plug it into that tree over there!"  I was so embarassed for not even think about the electricity angle.  Since then Lawrence kind of took me under his wings and became a bit of a teacher to me.  Out of that though the foundations of my own outlooks and community activity back in the day were developed. 

Aly who was married to Lawrence is my partner in producing this page on "Street Philosophy" and so this section of the page honors one who helped us birth and anchor our work together. 

Lawrence battled diabetes and eventually gave up the fight.  He lived his last days alone in a "crash" in Esquimalt.  The videos cover that story.


Note: The videos on the right try to tell the story of Lawrence Wawia.  Once Aly and I get together we will pull all these videos to make into one video


The Inner City Aboriginal Society (ICAS) was incorporated March 2005.  ICAS is neither a service provider nor a charity, it is an organizing tool where 100% of the membership and Board of Directors are or have been street involved or homeless.  ICAS does not talk about or do for the aboriginal homeless or street involved people, ICAS is the aboriginal homeless and street involved.  Aboriginal people make up 41-50% of the Victoria inner city community.

 The purpose of the society – through the direct leadership of the aboriginal street community - is to facilitate the voice of a community that is the last vestige of an aboriginal lifestyle that was free, communal and strong.  Through voicing the sober feeling of our people who are tired of being objects of charity and clients of service providers, ICAS is promoting a third strategy which is one of self reliance.  Self-reliance - in an aboriginal context – is a process of cultural recovery that promotes socio-economic security, respects cultural rights and one that promotes an inter-tribal philosophy encompassing a victim to dignity journey in each of our lives.

In adopting a very liberal definition of cultural recovery, ICAS is rejecting the boxing in of who we are and who we are defined as by the mainstream.  Cultural recovery is not just about making drums, carving or beading, it is about taking back our oral tradition, of telling stories, of fighting the good fight for justice, it is about feeding ourselves in a manner that is dignified, it is about recovering the dignity of our human existence as our created selves.  Cultural recovery is also about moving from victim to dignity of becoming the person(s) that the Creator had in mind, and it is about moving towards a position of equality with other Canadians. 

We define cultural recovery as any activity that brings out the gifts and talents of a human being.  Food First (Security) is an important aspect of cultural recovery.  Through access to healthy foods, our body health is restored, our mind and brainpower becomes clear and creative, our hearts and feelings are happy.  When we have our health in a holistic fashion, we have the tool to continue our life long battle as an aboriginal people to recover the culture that has been suppressed and oppressed by the assumptions of a western lens. 

In a series of community meetings held in the Fall of 2005, food security was talked about as important part of cultural recovery although at the time the terminology of the food security community were not used, but the topic was discussed in a fashion that the street community understood.  The work that this report describes is a follow up of those community consultation meetings held by the Inner City Aboriginal Society.

Finally, ICAS was involved with the Aboriginal Engagement Process of the Victoria Urban Development Agreement process where food security was identified as a community issue and – as an organization – followed up on that identified need.​​

For Full Food Security Report, click the following link.


A Memorial was held for Lawrence in the parking lot of his crash.


​Where the Rivers Meet (WTRM) Website




​​REV AL, HOMELESS HERO - While I think that Al would shy away from the label "hero" one can only appreciate the life-long dedication Al has shown to the most vulnerable in our society.  On a personal level, Al introduced me to the world of working with and for the homeless in Victoria, BC where I started on a Job Creation Project and I was hired as an Administrative Assistant (who often got loaded with friends in the homeless community and missed work for a week or so without getting fired - I used to wonder what it took to get fired from that job - Al certainly challenged me on the idea of employers anyways :)  

Rev Al really influenced my thinking and development in regards to attitude of those most vulnerable, prior to that, like most people, I maintained a distant but respectful relationship with the homeless in Canada, I saw a lot of it in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver as well.  Where Al and I connected was the on the fact that a majority of the people who were homeless and used the services provided at the Open Door Inner City Ministry were aboriginal and Al has a great and deep love for our people.  It was that common interest that allowed for me to learn and grow under Al's leadership in my short time at the Open Door.


During this time though I became dissatisfied with the "big business" organizational approach that separated the homeless from those who were supporting them - the "professional guidelines and relationships" I always found as uncomfortable for me and my indigenous values of community.  I also felt that multi-millions of dollars going into huge projects that provide service really did not benefit the homeless cause of the governing structure by non-homeless peoples and their values being imposed on the homeless; that is why we started the idea of the Inner City Aboriginal Society (ICAS).

ICAS was about aboriginal people who were homeless in Victoria, essentially we got together, rejected the traditional service delivery model and emphasized the brains, power and vision of those who's thinking was informed by their experiential knowledge in daily activities people go through the daily searches for food, friendship, drugs, alcohol, shelter, etc.  We worked on food security issues, we open up funding directly to proposals from people on the streets, to get funding to do what their vision was.  In a moving example, a young man by the name of Jimmy who was dealing with AIDS/HIV wanted to take a course in counseling others who were infected by this disease, we allocated funds to him, he took the course, completed it successfully, then passed away; the only comfort for us was the fact that we supported him in his dreams even though on a financial accounting level it could be seen as bad investment but we didn't care bout lost money stacked up against the fulfilled wishes of a young man just trying to help till his last days.

In the process, the idea of street philosophy became apparent; in our food security consultation led by Rose Henry and supported by myself administratively, indigenous participants drew upon what they learned growing up in their communities or foster/adoptive families about values, how the theme of collective over individualism was reinterated int he most natural way, all formed our strategy for food security, we saw many of the same things in the initiatives of individual street people; Aly's project was known as S.K.I.D. (School Kids Initiating Dialogue).

So, Aly and I want to dedicate this section of the website into  understanding the nature of street philosophy. That is our purpose.