BONNYVILLE - It was a cool and rainy day on Sept. 2 as Town of Bonnyville council raised the Métis flag in front of its townhall, but the atmosphere was bright, and messages delivered carried hope and celebration.
Offering his own thoughts and remarks at the beginning of the event, elder Francis Dumais spoke about the importance of friendship. He also opened the event with a prayer.
Town of Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski spoke to those gathered, and noted the flag raising was “something that was a long time coming.”
“These are lands that the Métis and our Treaty Six neighbours occupied, and we need to recognize the amazing contributions, culture, and heritage that everybody brings,” said the mayor. “We’re all the same people and, basically, we need to recognize each other as all being one people.”
Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, offered her appreciation to the municipality for its commitment to reconciliation with the Métis and First Nations People in the region.
“This flag raising ceremony symbolizes the Town of Bonnyville’s commitment to the recognition of the Métis and First Nations People in this area and for all that they have and for all they will continue to contribute to this town and surrounding communities," said Poitras.
She added, "I believe that events like this are the perfect pathway to continue with conversations on reconciliation, to continuing that journey when it was not all about us, when it was also about all of us. We were not separated by race, colour, status, or gender."
She described a story about past business people in the Bonnyville region who would go out in winter storms to ensure all people in the region - including First Nations and those living on Métis settlements - had necessities.
"A lot of work is being done on truth and reconciliation, but there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. I believe by working together, listening to each other’s stories, creating a bond, creating a partnership built on trust, then and only then can we truly reach our goals of equality and unity," said Poitras.
Duane Zaraska, President of MNA Region 2, also addressed the crowd on Thursday morning.
"What a fabulous day it is here," said Zaraska. He explained that the infinity design on the flag represents a couple things - it represents the coming together of the two peoples, fur traders and First Nations people. And it also represents how the Métis culture will continue on forever.
The Métis flag will also hang in council chambers, along with the Canadian flag, the province of Alberta flag, Town of Bonnyville flag, and the flag of Treaty Six.