MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council holds successful AGM

Submitted by Tera Beaulieu, MNO TYRMC President

TYRMCMembers of the MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council at their
Annual General Meeting: (left to right) Councillor Jesse Thistle, Councillor
Virginia Barter, Chair Todd Ross, President Tera Beaulieu,
Secretary/Treasurer Marilyn Hew, Youth Representative Christine
Skura and Women’s Representative Kelly Campagnola
The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Toronto and York Region Métis Council (TYRMC) held its second Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday, April 11, 2015. The AGM, which was preceded by the council’s monthly business meeting was held in the Nexus Lounge at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education--which offers breathtaking views of the CN Tower, downtown Toronto, and Lake Ontario. Council President Tera Beaulieu, Chair Todd Ross, Secretary/Treasurer Marilyn Hew, Women’s Representative Kelly Campagnola, Youth Representative Christine Skura, Councillors Justin Kogler, Jesse Thistle, and Virginia Barter, and PCMNO Region 8 Councillor Anita Tucker, were all in attendance.

Upon arrival, MNO citizens and Métis community members met and mingled and were invited to join in on a feast of chicken, wild rice, three sisters vegetables, bannock, and salad, as well as a rich assortment of desserts.

After the AGM was officially called to order by Council Chair Todd Ross, Senator Joseph Poitras lead everyone in an opening prayer. President Beaulieu then welcomed those in attendance. In her opening remarks, President Beaulieu acknowledged the traditional territory of the Mississauga’s of the New Credit First Nation and offered gratitude to them and the other Indigenous peoples who have historically taken care of the land within the Toronto and York Region boundary. President Beaulieu also reflected on the growing number of citizens in Toronto & York Region and expressed the Council’s delight in having so many citizens and community members attend to learn more about the successes of the past year as well as the Council’s goals for the coming year.

Shifting gears, President Beaulieu kicked off the Executive Council Reports with her report on the Region 8 Consultation Committee, highlighting the key achievements of the MNO TYRMC over the past year. These achievements included hosting the MNO Canoe Expedition in June 2014; being successfully awarded an Ontario Arts Council Grant which allowed the MNO TYRMC to host a Digital Storytelling Workshop with collaborator Jennifer Lafontaine, Métis artist and MNO citizen; organizing a Voyageur Canoe Paddle excursion on Lake Ontario for the community in October 2014; hosting the first annual MNO TYRMC Louis Riel Day Potluck in November 2014; participating in the Toronto Strawberry Ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in February 2015; and writing and publishing several articles detailing the Council’s work.

President Beaulieu ended her report by personally thanking the Council members and presenting each of them with a gift in recognition and honour of all of the hard work, dedication, and commitment they have demonstrated for their community.

After President Beaulieu’s report, Marilyn Hew presented the Secretary/Treasurer report, in which the financials for MNO TYRMC were presented along with an overview and explanation of monies received through the New Relationship Fund.

Once the Executive Council Reports were completed, President Beaulieu provided an overview of the Council’s Strategic Planning Session held in July of 2014. The discussions at this session resulted in a set of workgroups as well as an internal review of past committees and a realignment with a new committee structure that reflects the strategic directions identified for the 2014-2015 year. The Councillors collectively identified seven areas of focus including cultural initiatives, health resources, youth engagement, communications, education, sustainability, and building relationships. Seven internal committees, each with a Committee Lead, have now been established within the MNO TYRMC to effectively focus on these new directives.

President Beaulieu’s introduction set up a clear segue for the Committee Leads to then present the specific objectives and tasks of each new committee. President Beaulieu started this segment off by providing an update on the Communications Committee in Councillor and Communications Lead Justin Kogler’s absence. Key Communications Committee achievements included the development of a new website (www.torontoyorkmetis.com), Twitter handle (@TOYorkMetis), and Facebook Page, with an overarching goal of strengthening the MNO TYRMC’s digital community presence.

Chair Todd Ross then provided an update on the Health Resources Committee, which included completing a health resource list for the MNO TYRMC website, identifying gaps in services/knowledge in the Toronto & York Region, and developing an educational presentation on the health needs of Métis people in the future.

The Cultural Initiatives Committee Lead, Councillor Virginia Barter, discussed the various culture and skill-based workshops the MNO TYRMC hopes to host over the next year, such as a regular jigging circle, as well as beading, finger-weaving, and drum-making workshops.

Next up was Youth Committee Lead and Youth Representative Christine Skura. Christine reported on her work with local MNO Infinite Reach Facilitators and in encouraging other Métis youth to get involved with Council activities. Christine also shared news that the MNO TYRMC has submitted a grant application to host a Métis Youth and Senator/Elders Exchange, the outcome of which is scheduled for announcement in May 2015.

Councillor Jesse Thistle, Education Committee Lead, discussed his academic research, which focuses on the historical presence of Métis in the Toronto and surrounding areas, and how he hopes to build upon and share this information with the Toronto & York Region Métis Community.

Sustainability Committee Lead, Chair Todd Ross, highlighted some of the key initiatives the Council hopes to undertake in the next year, including meeting with corporate sponsors to acquire funding to support MNO TYRMC initiatives as well as the development and sale of Council merchandise, such as a Toronto & York Region Métis sash.

Finally, President Beaulieu, Lead for the Building Relationships Committee, reviewed the MNO TYRMC’s efforts to build stronger relationships with other Aboriginal agencies and groups in Toronto & York Region as well as ongoing efforts to engage with local politicians and MNO citizens.

Following the Committee Reports, AGM participants offered comments on the MNO TYRMC’s strategic directions and posed questions to the Committee Leads. The floor was also opened up for any citizens who wished to make motions at the AGM.

The AGM keynote address was given by Mr. Aly Alibhai, MNO Director of Lands, Resources and Consultations. Mr. Alibhai provided an overview of the consultation process and discussed the unique circumstances that the MNO TYRMC faces with respect to the consultation process in Region 8. Mr. Kenn Ross, Senior Manager of Aboriginal Relations for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games Organizing Committee, shared an update on the planning and scheduled activities for the Games and discussed the Aboriginal Pavilion that will be organized, as well as Métis representation in the Games.

A screening of the Métis Digital Stories produced during the Digital Storytelling Workshop followed, with participants Elise St. Germain, Jesse Thistle, Ralph Wolfe Thistle, and Virginia Barter sharing reflections on the process of creating their own digital stories.  MNO staff members Sabrina Roy and Jean Appel  provided information on the programs and services offered by MNO Healing and Wellness staff.

Region 8 Women’s Secretariat Representative, Pearl Gabona, and MNO staff members Shelley Gonneville, Leanne Van Bukenout, and Beth Honsberger were also in attendance to share information about MNO programs and services and to support the MNO TYRMC’s AGM. Various informational booths and vendors were also on display, including tables from the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games, University of Guelph, and MNO programs and services, as well a table set up by the MNO TYRMC to offer Métis specific merchandise, including sashes, firebags, spoons, pins, and infinity flags.

The AGM was concluded with a performance from Oshawa/Durham All My Relations Drum Circle, led by Senator Cecile Wagar and accompanied by performers : Kathy Morgan, Julie Turcotte, Laura Shurtliffe, Tedine Henry, Julia McCrea, Carman Constantinou and Cindy Doucette. As each song was sung, Senator Wagar provided a teaching on its specific meaning and invited AGM participants to join in drumming, playing the spoons, singing, and even jigging along! For the final song, all AGM participants were invited to hold hands in a circle and to honour each of our community members and the beauty and vitality of our Nation. Once the final song had been shared, President Beaulieu offered closing remarks to the circle, thanking each person for joining the MNO TYRMC for the afternoon and supporting the Council in its work and initiatives moving forward. Senator Wagar offered a final closing prayer to the circle of participants and wishes for safe travels home were shared by all.

The Toronto & York Region Annual General Meeting was attended by approximately 65 people of all ages and from across the Toronto & York Region, with some folks having traveled all the way from Simcoe! The entire afternoon was filled with great conversation, laughter, and celebration. The MNO TYRMC would like to express its sincere thanks to the MNO staff and to the MNO citizens and community members for joining in celebrating the work of its Councillors over the past year as well as providing direction and guidance for the coming year. The MNO TYRMC Councillors were inspired by the strength and vitality of the Métis community of Toronto & York Region and we greatly look forward to meeting with new citizens and connecting with old friends over the course of our work in the next year. Marsi

 

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