A dedicated advocate for Métis rights in the Kootenays was recently awarded the Order of the Sash for his 20+ years of service, which is the highest honour a citizen can receive from Metis Nation British Columbia (Nation).
“The Order of the Sash is bestowed on people that have given outstanding contributions to their community and to their nation, for the dedication they show and the leadership they show,” Nation President Clara Morin Dal Col told the Times.
“And we felt that this is Mark’s time to get the Order of the Sash,” she said. “He’s dedicated 20 years to the Métis Nation and it’s so well deserved – we couldn’t have given it to a better person.”
The Times contacted Morin Dal Col after she was elected to a second four-year term as president in the Nation’s election held last week.
“It’s such an honour, first of all, to be re-elected and have my work mean a lot to the people and where we are taking the Nation,” she said.
“As a Nation, we have made big strides ahead these past four years, and this is something we want to continue.”
Morin Dal Col, who came out well ahead of two other candidates, says the Nation will be focusing on several critical issues including housing demand and education, in particular early learning and childcare centres.
Because each region is different, Morin Dal Col says elected leaders will be looking to each community for insight on how to best meet their needs.
“In the Kootenays, is it going to be family housing, senior housing multiple-family housing,” she explained. “And another thing we have to look at, even for our childcare centres, is making sure our elder committees get up and going. We have to have our seniors more involved in our Nation, by bringing them together as a committee,” Morin Dal Col said.
“I want to see this come to fruition in this next four years – sooner rather than later in all our areas, in all our regions, across the province.”
Another goal she has is for Métis Nation British Columbia to starting holding its own annual gathering.
“Yes, we have Batoche, but not everyone can go there,” Morin Dal Col said, referring to Back to Batoche, the national historic site in Batoche, Sask., that hosts a yearly celebration of Métis culture.
“What we have to do is have our own gathering for our own people here in British Columbia … we have to really seriously look at what we are doing here for our people within our own province.”
She also touched on the subject of COVID-19, and how the ongoing pandemic has thrown a tailspin into the Nation’s plans as well as how the viral threat has so greatly affected Métis elders.
Morin Dal Col also sits as the Nation’s national health minister and for many months, she has been part of the COVID-related calls with other national health ministers.
“What we are seeing is the mental wellness impact on our people because they are being shut in,” she shared.
“People living alone, especially seniors, who were used to going to have coffee with friends to socialize, that’s not there anymore,” Morin Dal Col said.
“We are seeing that come to the forefront, so we are looking for funding from the federal government for mental wellness to help our people.”
The social and economic impacts of COVID-19, no matter when (or if) a treatment breakthrough happens, are going to be long-term and the reality of this weighs heavy on Morin Dal Col’s mind.
But, she chooses to focus on moving forward, looking at the positive side of things, and what can be done right now to help her Nation.
“I am really excited being president once again because I knew what was coming up and what we were working on,” she said.
“And there are some great things, (including) negotiations with the provincial government, and how we are moving forward on those. So there are a lot of good things happening, for sure.”