Louis Riel Day celebrations in Toronto

TYRMC2 LRD 2015
Members of the MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council. From
left: Women’s Representative Lindsay DuPré, Youth Representative
Christine Skura, President Tera Beaulieu, Senator Constance
Simmonds, Councillor Virginia Barter, Chair Todd Ross, Councillor
Justin Kogler, Secretary-Treasurer Marilyn Hew.

Click here to read about Louis Riel Day celebrations across the province.

Click here to read about the Louis Riel Day event at Queen's Park.

The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Toronto and York Region Métis Council (TYRMC) celebrated Louis Riel Day this year at two fantastic events!

On Saturday, November 14, the MNO TYRMC hosted its second annual Louis Riel Day Celebration, preceded by the council’s monthly business meeting, in the Nexus Lounge at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The venue offered breathtaking views of the CN Tower, downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario. Council President Tera Beaulieu, Chair Todd Ross, Secretary-Treasurer Marilyn Hew, Senator Constance Simmonds, Women’s Representative Lindsay DuPré, Youth Representative Christine Skura and Councillors Justin Kogler and Virginia Barter were all in attendance.

Upon arrival, MNO citizens and Métis community members met and mingled. Senator Constance Simmonds opened the gathering by providing a prayer and welcoming remarks, followed by President Beaulieu sharing words of welcome. Everyone was then invited to join in on a potluck feast which included Three Sisters Soup and bannock and a variety of other delicious items.

As everyone was enjoying their lunch, Beaulieu provided an update on the activities of the MNO TYRMC since April 2015. Highlights shared included the MNO TYRMC’s participation in the Pan AM and Parapan AM Games, participation in National Aboriginal Day events, attendance at the Sisters in Spirit Vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Region 8 Consultation Committee activities, participation in Remembrance Day events, and the MNO TYRMC Youth Committee’s success in obtaining a grant to host cultural knowledge exchanges for Métis youth and knowledge keepers in Toronto and surrounding areas over the course of the next year. Beaulieu also provided a preview of some of the upcoming events that MNO citizens may wish to participate in, including a consultation with the Toronto Ravine Strategy on December 8, 2015, and follow up meetings with the Ministry of Transportation to discuss a new 400-series highway in York Region. The MNO TYRMC website contains further details on these meetings.

Beaulieu also reflected on the significance of the community coming together to mark Louis Riel Day and expressed the council’s delight in having so many MNO citizens and community members present to celebrate the history and culture of the Métis Nation. Beaulieu ended her remarks by personally thanking and acknowledging all of the council members in attendance, commenting on the hard work, dedication, and commitment they demonstrate for their community.

Several special presentations were delivered by Senator Dr. Alis Kennedy on behalf of the MNO Veterans’ Council. Senator Kennedy presented a certificate of appreciation to Beaulieu and to MNO TYRMC Youth Representative Christine Skura for their contributions to the MNO Veterans’ Council book, Fighting For Canada Before There Was A Canada: Ontario Métis Veterans Pass the Torch. Beaulieu had submitted the biography of MNO Veterans’ Council President Joe Paquette, while Skura had written Senator Kennedy’s biography. Senator Kennedy also presented each of them with a copy of the book.

Following these presentations, Senator Kennedy presented MNO TYRMC Chair, Todd Ross, and MNO Citizen Réjean Michel, CD, with their Louis Riel medals and certificates for their service in the Canadian Armed Forces. Senator Kennedy also discussed the MNO Veterans’ Council’s planned pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge for Métis youth and veterans. A table was set up for those who wished to purchase the MNO Veterans’ Council books or donate to the pilgrimage.

The Louis Riel Day keynote address was given by Jesse Thistle, an MNO citizen and scholar. Thistle spoke about his research at York University, specifically his paper on the History of the Métis in Toronto. He pointed to the early intermixing of the settlers and Indigenous people combined with Toronto’s connections to the fur trade through overland and river transport and portage routes as Toronto’s being part of the Proto Métis community. As the English defeated the French in Toronto, Thistle pointed to the rise of racism towards “half-breeds” as a factor in the lack of known history of Métis people in Toronto.

A fiddling and jigging performance by MNO citizens Alicia Blore and Simone Blais followed. Blore and Blais had everyone up and on their feet dancing and laughing, with some joining in on the spoons! A special and surprise guest at the event, Senator Olivine Tiedema, was in attendance and also shared a special song with everyone at the gathering, singing into a microphone for everyone to hear. Also in attendance was Sabrina Roy, an MNO staff member who facilitated a dot art activity, and MNO Infinite Reach Facilitators Elise St. Germain and Renee Monchalin from the University of Toronto.

Various informational booths and vendors were also on display, including tables from Centennial College and Ryerson University. Self-identified Métis artisan Suzanne Lavallée sold jewelry and other Aboriginal goods and the MNO TYRMC had a table set up to offer Métis-specific merchandise, including sashes, firebags, spoons, pins, and holiday gifts!

Beaulieu offered closing remarks to the gathering, thanking everyone for joining the MNO TYRMC for the afternoon and celebrating Louis Riel Day. Senator Simmonds offered a final closing prayer, and wishes for safe travels home were shared by all.

On November 16, the MNO TYRMC hosted a Louis Riel Day celebration in collaboration with the City of Toronto. This year, approximately 60 individuals joined in on the celebration, including MNO TYRMC Councillors, members of the Provisional Council of the MNO (PCMNO), Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer, Toronto City Councillors Joe Cressy and Mike Layton, and several media sources.

Mae Maracle, consultant with the City of Toronto Aboriginal Affairs Committee, MCed the event. Senator Constance Simmonds provided an opening prayer and words of welcome. Councillor Mike Layton spoke on behalf of the City of Toronto, reflecting on the significance of Louis Riel in Canadian history and to the Métis Nation. Councillor Layton also presented a proclamation to Beaulieu, declaring November 16 as Louis Riel Day in Toronto.

Following Councillor Layton, Beaulieu reflected on the importance of community and the integral connection between leadership as a Métis individual and listening to one’s community. Beaulieu also highlighted the work of the MNO TYRMC Youth Committee, sharing that the Métis Nation is healthy and strong, as demonstrated by the proud Métis youth that are stepping forward as leaders in communities across Ontario. PCMNO Chair France Picotte offered words of greeting on behalf of the PCMNO and reflected on the incredible strength of the Métis Nation and its communities.

The final speaker was the MNO TYRMC Women’s Representative and Youth Committee member Lindsay DuPré, who shared words of inspiration regarding the immeasurable strength and spirit of Métis youth across the nation. DuPré also presented Minister Zimmer and Councillor Layton each with a pair of hand-painted spoons, which DuPré painted herself.

Following the speeches, those in attendance observed the Métis flag being raised outside of City Hall and enjoyed the musical talents of Alicia Blore on the fiddle, accompanied by Simone Blais, Joanna Burt and Elise St. Germain, who led the group in jigging.

The MNO TYRMC provided wooden spoons for those in attendance to play along with the fiddling. Highlights from the celebration included Minister Zimmer playing the spoons, after receiving expert instruction from PCMNO Councillor Ernie Gatien, and Councillor Cressy joining in on the jigging and demonstrating his own fancy steps to Simone Blais!

The MNO TYRMC would like to thank all of those who joined the Council and the City of Toronto in celebrating Louis Riel Day in Toronto!

Published on: November 25, 2015

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