Celebrating Community Ties:
MNO Women’s Leadership Gathering 2021
Early on Sunday, March 21, 2021, Métis women from across the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) logged on to participate in the virtual Métis Women’s Leadership Gathering: Celebrating Community Ties.
(Update: The gathering was open to MNO Community Council Women’s Representatives and a chosen plus one from their communities.)
Hosted by the MNO Women’s Council (MNOWC), over 60 women participated in the online gathering, engaging in cultural and leadership-oriented workshops, listening to a variety of presentations, and most importantly, connecting with one another in a safe, socially distanced way.
“It’s been a little over a year since we all [had a chance to] gather and it’s been far too long,” shared MNOWC President Suzanne Jackson. “I’m so glad that we can meet on this platform and learn from each other and share in one another’s energy and spirit. We have so much planned and I’m thrilled to see so many people attending this virtual Women’s Leadership Gathering!”
“There are many different ways to be a leader, whether it’s a leader in your family, a leader in your community, in your educational institutions, your workplace or your nation,” shared MNO President Froh in her opening remarks. “There’s many different ways to lead, but when I think of leadership, I look towards the positive. I focus on how we can work together to accomplish amazing things, and always coming from a place of respect.”
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett echoed those sentiments and emphasized the importance of collaboration in making true progress, particularly in fully restoring the role of women as leaders within communities.
“Your input today will be invaluable, which is the reasons why days like today are so important,” commented Minister Bennett. “[Today] you’ll examine what leadership is, and how it may be done in an inclusive way that honours people with expertise and lived experience — which is necessary in order to move forward with the very best policies and practices.”
From the Opening Prayer led by Elder Peal Gabona, to the reading of the Four Agreements by Kelly Camacho and video greetings from Senator Yvonne Boyer, many Métis women leaders contributed to the dialogues and conversations taking place Sunday.
Key note speaker and Le Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak (LFMO) President Melanie Omeniho and Lisa Pigeau presented on Gender Based Analysis (GBA), and, significantly, actions to address and respond to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
“We should all be able to live in a place where we don’t have to worry about our young women or 2SLGBT being exposed to the level of violence they’ve had to experience,” said President Omeniho.
The afternoon sessions began with a presentation on inclusivity and the MNO Two-Spirit Working Group led by Benny Michaud; and later Métis Veterans Lisa Tessier, June Smart, Sharlene Lance, and Shelly Claus discussed the role of Métis veterans within the community. MNO staff and leadership spoke of new supports related to Covid-19 and mental health; and facilitator Joan Riggs led a discussion on strategic planning.
The Gathering agenda also ensured participants had fun, cultural activities woven throughout the day. MNOWC President Suzanne Jackson led a workshop on apron embroidery, speaking to its symbolism and historical significance in Métis culture; and Berni Picco taught attendees how to create their own Kokum dolls.
The virtual experience proved to be a great success, and attendees came away from the event with an enhanced sense of inclusivity, community and sisterhood. Women appreciated having a safe space to share and gain traditional knowledge, promote a sense of wellbeing, and benefit from a network of strong Métis women leaders.
“We wanted the community to feel like a community, especially during these challenging times,” shared Breena Johnson, MNO Project Coordinator. “Even if Citizens are self-isolating or in quarantine, we want them to feel included.”
The MNO extends its gratitude and appreciation to all who organized and participated in this year’s Women’s Leadership Gathering for their hard work and valued insight.