ST. ALBERT: One of St. Albert’s most prominent Métis leaders received a national honour this week in the form of a commemorative stamp.
There was fiddling and jigging aplenty at St. Albert’s Juneau House June 13 as Canada Post unveiled a new stamp featuring former senator Thelma Chalifoux before a crowd of about 70 people. The stamp was one of three unveiled that month as part of Canada Post’s ongoing Indigenous Leaders series.
Chalifoux, who died in 2017, was the first Indigenous and first Métis woman appointed to Canada’s Senate and a lifelong crusader for Indigenous rights. While she lived in Edmonton, Chalifoux was well known in St. Albert as a relentless advocate for Métis culture and history and as co-founder of what is now Michif Cultural Connections.
Canada Post picked Chalifoux as one of its stamp subjects this year at the suggestion of the Métis National Council, said Canada Post president Doug Ettinger.
“As the first Indigenous woman appointed to the Senate of Canada, (Chalifoux) was an absolute trailblazer and a powerful force for social justice,” Ettinger said.
Born in Calgary in 1929, Chalifoux left an abusive relationship and had to fight to regain custody of her children after losing them to the Sixties Scoop. The first Indigenous woman on commercial radio and co-founder of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, Chalifoux fought for Métis housing and land rights with the Alberta Métis Association. She served in the Senate from 1997 to 2004, during which she helped create provincial programs for Indigenous housing, education, and social assistance. Retiring in 2004, Chalifoux opened the Michif Cultural Institute (now Michif Cultural Connections) and the Meadowview Centre for Women’s Health and Wellness in St. Albert.
In an emotional address, Robert Coulter, one of Chalifoux’s sons, described his mother as a gifted listener and skilled problem solver who dedicated her life to helping others.
“Thelma Chalifoux was my North Star,” he said, adding that his mother emphasized the importance of having a guiding light or goal in one’s life.
“She knew instinctively what our dreams were that spoke to our souls and how to motivate and inspire us.”
Sharon Morin, one of Chalifoux’s daughters, said her mother would have been “tickled pink” at the prospect of being on a stamp.
“The first thing I’m going to say is Thelma has put her ‘stamp’ on Canada,” she joked.
Family and community were the two most important things in Chalifoux’s life, Morin said. Staff at Michif Cultural Connections continue Chalifoux’s work to promote Métis culture and history, and the five generations of her descendants here today would now know of her legacy.
The stamp itself features a picture of Chalifoux taken while she was seated at the kitchen table in Juneau House, Morin said. The stamp’s background is part of a painting by Métis artist Christi Belcourt and pays homage to Chalifoux’s love of flowers.
Canada Post officials said the Chalifoux stamps will be available at post offices nationwide as of June 21. The stamps will be sold in packs of six, will not expire, and will be valid for any mail sent in Canada. Some 100,000 packs will be printed, with a retail price of $5.52 per pack.
Also recognized with stamps this year as part of the Indigenous Leaders series are former Northwest Territories premier Nellie Cournoyea and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee George Manuel. Visit bit.ly/3PsMO7p for details.