On a day of honours that a kid from Duck Bay never even dreamed of seeing, David Chartrand couldn't resist giving Premier Greg Selinger a history lesson.
"I reminded Premier Selinger that he's not the 21st premier, he's the 22nd -- the first was Louis Riel," chortled Chartrand moments after he and 12 other Manitobans were invested in the Order of Manitoba Monday afternoon.
He received the honour on Louis Riel's birthday, pointed out Chartrand, who's been president of the Manitoba Métis Federation since 1996.
"You can't ask for a better day to celebrate land claims," said Chartrand, a tireless advocate for recognition of Métis treaty rights, land claims and hunting rights.
Back in Duck Bay, "I started when I was 18 in the local movement. I'm 53 now," said Chartrand, "I think God's been on my side -- I do a lot of praying."
Another Métis recipient of the Order of Manitoba, country singer Ray St. Germain, brought a touch of humour to the austere and dignified ceremony presided over by Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee. When the read-out description of St. Germain's life included the tidbit that he's been known as Winnipeg's Elvis since he was 16, St. Germain performed an ever-so-discreet swivel of the hips.
The incredible diversity of the recipients was repeated over and over again during Monday's ceremony, from AIDS researcher Dr. Allan Ronald to Steinbach author Miriam Toews, to teacher Eleanor Woitowicz, whose gardening project in Wabowden has brought healthy produce grown in local greenhouses across northern Manitoba and took her to the United Nations to speak on sustainable development.
Sisler High School principal George Heshka marvelled at the year he's had, which included an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg and a Queen's Jubilee Medal. And, to top it off, "Of all things, Ace Burpee nominated me as number 7 on his list of most fascinating Manitobans," said Heshka.
"I was an inner-city kid -- Higgins Avenue was my address," said the 79-year-old Heshka, principal of Manitoba's largest school for three decades and determined not to retire until he's accomplished everything that needs to be done.
Other recipients included:
- Physician Dr. Francis Patrick Doyle, who led the creation of extensive health-care facilities in Ste. Anne;
- Olga Fuga, who in a lifetime of public service raised awareness of the Holodomor, the Soviet-orchestrated genocide in Ukraine;
- Helen Granger Young, a renowned artist whose work is displayed in Buckingham Palace, the White House and the Vatican;
- Physician Dr. Tse Li Luk, a pillar in Manitoba's Chinese-Canadian community and an accomplished photographer;
- Diane Redsky of Shoal Lake First Nation, a champion of improving the lives of women, children and aboriginal people, now heading a national task force on human trafficking;
- Richardson Financial Group CEO Sandy Riley, an Olympic sailor, philanthropist and chair of the 1999 Pan Am games.
- The Honourable Richard Scott, who retired earlier this year as Manitoba's chief justice.