Family honours the legacy of Metis leader
- NC Raine | April 17, 2023
Fourteen individuals have been recognized for their humanitarian work with a Jim Brady Memorial Award.
The new award was created in honour of the Metis leader who educated and mobilized Metis communities on the rights of individuals living on Crown lands. He also helped establish Metis groups in Saskatchewan and Alberta that sought political and cultural protection.
“I was watching people at the grassroots level who were doing extraordinary things, not for glory or recognition or to better themselves personally, but for the betterment of human kind,” said awards spokesperson John Brady McDonald.
The inaugural award recognizes the unsung heroes who are selflessly working to fight for human rights, keep culture alive and make the lives of those around them better.
McDonald, an author, artist and activist, credits his grandfather for inspiring him to also commit his life to the betterment of others.
“He set a high benchmark for what we can do to help other people,” he said. “Humbly working to help those around you – that’s what we want to recognize with this medal.”
McDonald knew he wanted to do something to honour his grandfather’s legacy, but it wasn’t until Tristen Durocher embarked on his headline-making activism, that the idea for the awards crystallized.
“The fact that (Durocher) was getting that amount of hate and vitriol, yet he was willing to put himself on the line,” he said. “It wasn’t for political office or economic gain. It was because people were dying and he wanted to help.”
So with the approval from Anne Dorion (Jim Brady’s daughter), the awards were created.
He describes his grandfather as someone who could have lived a comfortable life as a prominent Metis leader, but instead lived in a one-room shack in La Ronge.
“He would give his last dollar to help a stranger and would sleep outside so someone in need could have his bed for a night,” said McDonald.
Humility is the basis of the award right down to the presentation and medal itself. The copper Jim Brady Memorial medal was based on the Victoria Cross, a simple bronze cross, which is the highest honour in the British Armed Forces.
The recipients don’t receive any extravagant fanfare – just the medal in a pouch, a certification and a letter of recognition – rather than presenting the award at a big event.
One of the awards was even presented in a local Tim Horton’s.
“As Indigenous people, we’re humble,” said McDonald. “We don’t toot our own horns. But it is part of our culture to honour our warriors, our veterans, our matriarchs.”
The plan is for the Jim Brady Awards to live on in perpetuity, but organically and without quotas.
If one year calls for 15 awards, or none, so be it, he said.
Durocher was one of 14 selected to receive the inaugural award.
Other recipients made public include Christi Belcourt, Andrea Menard, David Garneau, Leah Dorion, Donny Parenteau and Maria Campbell. As well as two posthumous awards, to Bernice Sayese and Victor Thunderchild.