MNO Chair France Picotte Speaks at 5th Annual Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Conference

Ottawa, ON – October, 2009 — Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Chair, France Picotte, shared some inspirational words with the audience at the 5th Annual Ontario Aboriginal Women in Leadership Forum in Ottawa recently.

A panel discussion about women and their rise to power in industry today was the featured event. The panellists included Emma Creese, manager of staffing and recruitment for Scotiabank; Holly Cooper, an account executive for Aboriginal Business Consulting firm Donna Cona; and Mary Jane Loustel, the national Aboriginal program executive for IBM; Mary Simon, President of the National Inuit organization, Tapiriit Kanatami; Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, assistant professor in Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto; and MNO Chair, France Picotte.

The daylong forum encouraged women to use business networking and education to help advance themselves to positions of power.

Fluent in English, French and the traditional Métis language, Michif, France Picotte spoke of her transition from Timmins Métis Community Council President to the first MNO Vice-Chair and eventually Chair.

She pointed out that her position as Chair of the MNO has little to do with her professional background as a medical laboratory technician. “It was a learning experience. It was a time when I thought to myself: I have to do what I need to do, what I want to do and what needs to be done.”

Picotte ran for the provincial Chair position in 2008, taking over from Gary Lipinski, who was elected President of the MNO. She says: “It’s still a man’s world. If you really want to move ahead, you have to be part of the man’s world and you have to be there as an equal. Nobody is going to give you that. You’ve got to take it.”

She jokes about her height, and it’s true, France Picotte’s personality is noticeably bigger than she is. “I don’t know why I am who I am. It probably comes from my mother and my grandmothers. Both my grandmothers were very strong ladies and my mother also.”

A powerful and independent woman in her own right, Picotte advised that success lies in “having confidence in who you are, confidence in your ability and not being stopped at not knowing something. You have to ask, you have to know and you have to move forward.”

The conference also recognized young women who are active in their Aboriginal communities by presenting them with financial assistance for post-secondary education. The two recipients of the Scotiabank Women Leaders Scholarship Award, Shayna Willis and Sophie Lavigne, each received a bursary of $1000. Ms Willis is currently a Mohawk College student, studying to become a registered practical nurse and eventually a midwife. A University of Ottawa student, Ms. Lavigne, will use the bursary toward her final year of studies in human kinetics.

Following the award presentations, attendees were separated into groups to discuss what their respective businesses had to offer and how they could benefit from networking with each other. MNO Executive Senator, Reta Gordon, was also on hand to offer opening and closing prayers.

Women in Leadership (WIL) is an inspirational program, created to encourage collaboration amongst women with excellent leadership skills and a desire to make positive change. WIL has been sponsoring women’s forums across Canada since 2001.

Rebekah Wilson