Wood Buffalo raises Willow Lake Métis Nation flag for the 1st time

·2 min read
The Willow Lake Métis Nation flag is flying alongside the national, provincial and municipal flags. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC - image credit)
The Willow Lake Métis Nation flag is flying alongside the national, provincial and municipal flags. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC - image credit)

Philip Paulson brings a Willow Lake Métis Nation flag with him to fly when he goes camping, but there has never been one flying alongside the national, provincial and municipal flags in his community until this week.

On Wednesday, leaders from the Willow Lake Métis Nation raised their flag for the first time in Anzac, Alta.

Previously, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo's flag policy did not include Indigenous flags, but council voted to change that in July.

"It's very important. They're putting in the legwork now [so] that the Métis nation here will survive another 150 years," said Paulson, 62.

He said the only place you would see the Métis flag before is on people's homes or lawns.

"Now for it to be set out in the main street for everybody to see, for everybody to know that we are a Métis community is very significant."

Justin Bourque, vice president of the Willow Lake Métis Nation, said flying the flag affirms the nation's long history in the region and its continued growth.

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

"It's just that affirmation and confirmation that we, as an Indigenous nation of people, have been here through the test of time," said Bourque.

"It's a symbol for our community to belong. It's just the confirmation though that we've always been here," said Bourque.

He hopes this will be the start of recognition for Indigenous communities across Canada.

"We do land acknowledgements and we say the words, but this is actually showing those words," said Bourque. It's the visual signal that it is Treaty 8.

He said he does feel torn between happiness and anger over the flag raising, because "we're 2021 and we're now only just doing this, but on the other side I'm happy that it's 2021 and we're doing this."

Wood Buffalo Coun. Jane Stroud said that "council and a municipality prioritized this to ensure that we include all the residents in our region."

Stroud said the flag policy "needed to be changed."

On the same day of the flag raising, Bourque handed out the nation's first identification card, which he said is a step toward the community's self-governance.

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

He gave the first card to the eldest member of the nation: his 89-year-old grandmother Clara Elmira Bourque.

Bourque said it was "probably the most proudest moment of my career."

The nation, which has about 65 members, is now handing out the first batch of cards.

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