By Tera Beaulieu, Christine Skura, and Ginny Gonneau, MNO Infinite Reach Facilitators

MNO Infinite Reach gathering and celebrationInfinite Reach Facilitators (left to right) Tera Beaulieu, Christine Skura and Ginny Gonneau.

The Infinite Reach Métis Student Solidarity Network is a Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) program that is comprised of incoming and upper year postsecondary students who have the common goal of working together to enrich and enhance the postsecondary education experience of Métis students. Members form a community of Métis learners within their college or university and support each other in their academic pursuits. Infinite Reach facilitators are upper year students who can offer assistance to incoming students by helping them adjust to university life. Infinite Reach facilitators also work to create and maintain a sense of community among Métis students. Throughout the year facilitators host cultural and informative events to connect students to the local MNO community councils and other programs, services and events of the MNO. Tera Beaulieu (doctoral student in Counselling Psychology) at the University of Toronto, Christine Skura (nursing student at Ryerson University), and Ginny Gonneau (massage therapy student at Sutherland-Chan School) acted as three of the facilitators for the inaugural year of the Infinite Reach Network.

As facilitators of the Infinite Reach Network at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, we felt that it was important to work collaboratively over the course of the year to host various events for our Métis students, faculty and staff within our universities. Our intention with co-hosting events was to broaden and strengthen our network across the two universities, because many of our students often discuss feeling isolated as Métis students within educational institutions. The events we hosted included a teaching circle on Métis culture and history facilitated by Elder Joe Paquette, a lecture on Métis identity delivered by Métis author and playwright Maria Campbell, and a sharing circle on Métis role models with Senator Jerry St. Germain. As a result of the Infinite Reach Network, many students, faculty and staff were able to find a welcoming space in which to discuss Métis culture and issues, as well as establish friendships and working relationships with one another. The success of our events within the universities led us to believe that there might be many more Métis people throughout the City of Toronto who would be interested in networking and celebrating our rich culture and traditions. We therefore decided that for our final end of year celebration, we would partner with the MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council to reach out to the Métis community of Toronto at large to join in an evening of socializing and festivities.

On April 26th, 2012, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, at the University of Toronto, the Infinite Reach Network and the Toronto and York Region Métis Council hosted a Métis social and feast. The first part of the evening included dance instruction in Métis jigging, provided by Infinite Reach facilitator and jig instructor Ginny Gonneau. Elder Joe Paquette offered an opening prayer and teachings, and opening remarks were made by Tera Beaulieu and Robert Bird (President of the MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council). Individuals in attendance contributed food items to what turned out to be an amazing potluck feast! We were also fortunate to be joined by Alyssa and Danton Delbaere-Sawchuk of the Métis Fiddler Quartet who played some pieces from their newly released album, while Ginny Gonneau and others jigged along to their performance. As you looked around the room, you could see individuals from all four directions, from both the academy and community, joining in laughter, dancing and celebration. We felt the evening was a great success, and hope to continue with these social activities in the future. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work in our capacity as Infinite Reach Network facilitators for the MNO and look forward to continuing to enrich our thriving Métis communities.