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Remembering Mandela, the Honorary Métis Citizen

Dec 19, 2013

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“I welcome you to Canada on behalf of the Métis National Senate, the Métis leaders and all the Métis people of Canada, as one Aboriginal people to another Aboriginal people. I have a presentation of a sash for you. The sash is given to special people as a symbol of honor, pride and respect. Along with this sash, it is my privilege and duty as the presenter of the sash to bestow upon you an honorary Métis name. So if you would allow me to put the sash around your waist…”

Those were the words spoken by the late Métis Nation-Saskatchewan Senator John B. Boucher to the visiting South African President Nelson Mandela on September 24, 1998 in Ottawa. Boucher had been chosen to represent Métis people in Canada at a meeting with Mandela.

The late South African icon and Nobel Laureate became a honourary Métis when he was presented with a Métis sash by Senator Boucher. The Métis leader from St. Louis, SK had the privilege of wrapping the sash around Mandela’s waist which he wore proudly for the rest of the day.

Later that day, Mandela addressed the Parliament of Canada and was inducted into the Order of Canada – with the Métis sash around his waist. According to the Métis National Council, the sash represents a distinctive honour that is bestowed up on special people as a symbol of honor, pride and respect.

Boucher called Mandela ‘Diamant,’ a Métis name meaning diamond. He told Mandela, that like a diamond, “You have spread a very bright light, not only over your own country, but over all of the world as well.”

On November 19, 2001, Nelson Mandela became the first living person to be made an honorary citizen of Canada. Mandela passed away this month at age 95. His struggle for justice and reconciliation holds a deep significance for many Métis peoples.

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