Buffalo Narrows mourns loss of leader

A funeral was held for Philip Chartier, Aug. 31 in Buffalo Narrows. For decades Chartier had been a vocal proponent of Métis rights and identity. (Photo submitted)

By Ben Ingram

A funeral was held last Wednesday for Philip Chartier, an activist and Métis rights advocate whose work has spanned several decades in the Saskatchewan north.

The Buffalo Narrows president of Métis Nation Saskatchewan lost his battle with cancer over the weekend prior to his Aug. 31 funeral. Community members said it will be difficult to replace a man who spent his life fighting for the rights of the Métis people while fostering a sense of national pride and identity.

“Buffalo Narrows will really change as a result of his passing,” said Buckley Belanger, the MLA for Athabasca who often worked alongside Chartier. “He was always there as the Métis conscience of the local community.”

While Chartier was often aggressive in his methods, described by some as a nationalist, he remained consistent throughout his life in pursuing the betterment of his people.

Well known for the controversial placement of signage designating Buffalo Narrows as a Métis community, Chartier also worked to promote hunting and fishing rights, land claims, self-governance and the protection of constitutional rights.

While he may have stepped on a few toes along the way, the community found they could always count on Chartier to be at the front of any battle affecting them.

Leaders like Robert Doucette, president of Métis Nation Saskatchewan, echoed the void left by Chartier’s passing.

“You could always count on him to express his opinion and to stand firm in his convictions and beliefs,” Doucette was quoted as saying in an MNS press release, “Thank you Philip Chartier for your leadership and your tireless efforts to advance Métis citizens.”

A lifelong friend of Chartier’s, Raymond Laliberte of Buffalo Narrows credited Chartier with helping him to find his own identity as a Métis citizen.

Laliberte said his friend’s work was focused not just on the rights of his people, but of all residents in the North. He added that as an activist, Chartier sought to create ties between the Metis and the community in order to foster the growth of positive cooperation.

“ He was my teacher, he was my mentor, he was my leader,” Laliberte said. “He always advocated for those (who) didn’t have representation, he would always be the one that we depended on to represent the Métis perspective.”

Chartier’s passing leaves behind his wife and five children.

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