Murray Sinclair joins Citizens Hall of Fame
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Murray Sinclair has blazed another trail by becoming the first Anishinaabe person inducted in the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Citizens Hall of Fame.
A bronze bust of the former Senator was unveiled Wednesday and will join the row of prominent Manitobans near the Diversity Gardens in Assiniboine Park Friday.
“I’m very proud,” Sarah Fontaine-Sinclair, Sinclair’s granddaughter, said before the statue’s unveiling.
“He’s created so many opportunities for young Indigenous people to go into law or into the Senate, and it just shows us how powerful we can be,” Fontaine-Sinclair said. “He’s paved the way for us to have our voices heard.”
Sinclair, Manitoba’s first Indigenous judge, became the 48th Manitoban to be recognized during the program’s 36 year span.
Diane Roussin, project director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project, an organization helping North End youth, has walked past the busts several times.
“It did occur to me that there were a lot of significant Indigenous leaders that could be in the Hall of Fame that weren’t,” Roussin said.
Sinclair stood out to her as one of Canada’s main trailblazers.
“It didn’t make sense that he wasn’t already in there, so I decided to put his application forward,” she said. “If not him, who?”
Condensing his list of achievements for the Hall of Fame’s selection committee last year was a task, Roussin said.
Obviously, Sinclair’s role as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — which issued the 94 Calls to Action — needed inclusion. His resume includes a Senate appointment beginning in 2016 and work on Senate committees regarding Indigenous people, fisheries and oceans, and constitutional issues, among others.
He’s currently chancellor of Queen’s University.
“His accomplishments are, in my mind, rippling out like water,” Roussin said. “Those ripples are going to keep going for seven generations forward.”
The Calls to Action are road maps to reconciliation, actionable steps that people can take, Roussin said. It’s made working with allies easier, she added.
The Hall of Fame induction — and bust creation — came as a surprise to Sinclair last year. He had to look up what the program was.
“This is either a real act of love, or it’s a real act of vengeance,” he joked to a crowd at the bust’s unveiling Wednesday.
Still, Indigenous representation in such spaces is important, he later told a Free Press reporter.
“The city has to see itself as a city that includes Indigenous people in prominent ways, not just as kind of a problem in part of the city,” Sinclair said.
His focus includes changing the way non-Indigenous Canadians view their relationships with the Indigenous, he said.
“We need young people to be able to see the validity of the presence of Indigenous people,” he said. “This (induction) helps to contribute to that.”
Gaining personal respect and recognition has not been the goal, Sinclair told the crowd. His grandmother reminded him — before he entered university — that he needed to use his education to help others.
“There were things that needed to be done in order to do justice in this world,” Sinclair said. “That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
Leadership means loving people even when they don’t love you and remembering your responsibility to do good for them, he said.
Once Sinclair’s bust is installed Friday, passersby will be able to scan a QR code and learn about his life.
“When people see it… we want them to recognize (and) look at his accomplishments and… sacrifices,” said Akash Bedi, president of the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board.
Sinclair’s bust joins the likes of Terry Fox and Leo Mol, among others. Madeleine Vrignon began creating the roughly 20-inch-tall sculpture last winter.
“I feel incredibly proud to have received the honour,” said Vrignon, who’s made at least 10 works, including Leo Mol’s.
She based Sinclair’s likeness off photographs and made adjustments via family consultation, including what to do with his hair length.
The Hall of Fame recognizes citizens who’ve contributed to Winnipeg’s quality of life. Realtor Harry DeLeeuw and then-mayor Bill Norrie founded the program in 1986.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.