It’s difficult for Dalila Boukhaloua to choose just one key lesson that Elder Dan Ross has taught her during their working relationship here at CSC. He has, afterall, had a significant impact on her both personally and professionally over the course of the past nine years they have known each other. But if she has to choose just one, she chooses this:
We all have a past, but we can’t let our past define us. Change is achieved through baby steps done one day at a time.
Dalila could go on and on about the man she calls the grandfather she never had. His kindness, his gentleness, his spirit, his warmth. All of it has made him an important mentor in Dalila’s life and career, and an integral part of the CSC family. Elder Dan has been working with offenders in the Ontario Region for 13 years now, making him the longest serving Elder in the region.
He and Dalila met at the Ottawa Parole Office when Dalila was asked to work with an exclusively Aboriginal caseload. Her passion for working with Aboriginal offenders made her a perfect fit, but she still felt she needed some guidance in this new role. Enter, Elder Dan.
“The first time I met him I can remember that he was impeccably dressed. He was wearing this beautiful, colorful moose-hide vest that was decorated with wild turkey spurs. I was drawn to him. His spirit and his energy were so captivating. Personality-wise we really meshed well, and my view of the Aboriginal experience in Canada fit well with him.”
From then on Elder Dan and Dalila worked with the offenders on her caseload. They would do home visits, as well as reach out to local Aboriginal organizations in search of services for their offenders. All the while Dalila was learning a great deal from the man who, she says, has an infinite passion for the work he does.
“He has such a wealth of experience, both professionally and personally. I got to learn about Canada through him, and I continued to fall in love with the Aboriginal culture through him.”
Elder Dan’s approach to the offenders he works with is something that Dalila is particularly fond of. She speaks anecdotally about some of the men he has worked with, and the impacts they say he has had on them. Elder Dan is someone they can trust, someone who genuinely cares about them, and someone who will keep them accountable. This, says Dalila, is a testament to the work he does.
“Dan believes in a one-on-one approach with offenders. All of the offenders I have seen him work with really do see him as a grandfather, a mentor, and someone who will help them. He has a real passion for what he does and they can feel that. He has been integral to many of their journeys toward rehabilitation and reintegration.”
Dalila and Elder Dan worked together at the Ottawa Parole Office for two years. When Dalila moved to Collins Bay Institution in Kingston as a Parole Officer, she asked Dan to come and work with the offenders there. Elder Dan commuted each week between Ottawa and Kingston, never missing a beat. Despite the fact that he could have retired years ago, he hasn’t. This, says Dalila, is not surprising.
“It speaks to his commitment. He continues to work because he loves what he does and wants to help his people. To see him at this age continuing to be so passionate about life in general and about his people, his culture, and helping others is such a gift to all of us.
“Working with Dan has been a highlight of my career. I want him to be recognized for the work he does. His dedication, commitment, and passion is amazing. And I think that if everyone had a chance to sit down with him for even five minutes they would be inspired as well.”
Today Dalila remains a Parole Officer but currently works in the Community Operations and Sentence Management Division at NHQ on an acting assignment. She and Elder Dan remain in regular contact.