President's Corner:

Jim Sinclair

Biography as submitted by the Sinclair Family

Jim Sinclair was born on June 3 , 1933 in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, of Indian parents denied their status under the Indian Act. Treated by the Canadian government as part of a group of Aboriginal people with no rights, he lived in a squatter community with no running water or other services on a road allowance – a bush covered 66-foot wide strip of public land, reserved by the Crown for road building purposes. He was educated at various schools that accepted “road allowance” students. Some schools provided hot lunch programs for students, but excluded the road allowance people, who went hungry because their parents were squatters who did not pay taxes. Jim’s first political involvements were in the Lestock / Punnichy district of Saskatchewan, where there had been an active Métis organization for several years. He became active in the Red Power Movement.

Jim became a field worker for the Métis Society in 1964, and worked throughout Saskatchewan organizing local groups. In 1967, he was elected to the board of the newly formed Métis Society of Saskatchewan. In 1971, he was elected President of the Métis Society, and held that position for the next 18 years. Under Jim’s leadership, the Métis Society worked diligently to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal people, and sought to have their rights formally recognized. The Métis Society eventually became known as the Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan (AMNSIS), and became one of the most powerful and effective voices for its members in the country. It was also the first Aboriginal organization to implement a province-wide democratic one person, one vote election process. Jim worked extensively to organize people at the community level, to get them to sober up, take responsibility for their lives, and to lead others in the struggle for their rights. He learned to become an expert at using the media, at using confrontation politics to force government to deal with peoples’ immediate needs and rights. He focused on issues of importance such as housing, institutional racism, Aboriginal land rights, hunting, fishing and trapping rights, and education. He was part of the team who helped to establish a major network of alcohol treatment centers, along with the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Métis Studies and Applied Research, a well respected institution of post-secondary education in Saskatchewan.

In 1971, Mr. Sinclair organized 20,000 Aboriginal people at Batoche, Saskatchewan to rally for the rights of the Métis, and began discussion with federal and provincial governments regarding Constitutional rights. Jim helped to establish the Native Council of Canada, which included Métis and Non-Status Indians, serving as its first interim president, where he continued to struggle for welfare services, social programs and adequate housing. Over the years, Jim continued to pursue avenues to entrench the rights of Métis and Non-Status Indians in Canada’s Constitution. During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Jim continued to lobby governments for inclusion of Métis People in Canada’s Constitution, leading numerous delegations to the United Nations at Geneva and the British and European Parliament to speak on Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. He also opened discussions with the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the Church’s role in the plight of Aboriginal people, and met then with the Queen of England. In addition, Jim pressed the Federal Government to amend the Indian Act so that those people, primarily Indian women who had been denied status, could regain it.

In 1982, the Government of Canada invited Inuit, Métis and Indian People to discuss the definition of rights and open the door for inclusion in the Canadian Constitution. The Métis took legal action against the Prime Minister when they were not invited, resulting in the Métis attaining equal representation and a voice at the Constitutional table. The Métis National Council was formed to represent the Métis at the table. For the first time since the death of Riel, Métis people had venues to meet the highest level of politicians in Canada. In 1987, during the last of four conferences on the Constitution, Jim took a strong and much publicized stand with the Provinces, particularly the Premiers of Saskatchewan and British Columbia, who opposed the rights of Métis people to a land base and self-government. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, Jim continued in the struggle for the rights of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. He had four private audiences with Pope John Paul. His relationship with the Pope facilitated his attendance in Fort Simpson, North West Territories, where the Pope openly supported Canada’s Aboriginal People and their treaty rights. From 1994 to 1996, Mr. Sinclair led the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, formerly the Native Council of Canada. In 1996, was elected President of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples of Saskatchewan, a position that he continues to hold today.

He currently resides in Green Water Provincial Park in Saskatchewan, and is an avid golfer. Jim is proud of his association with his colleagues, who died struggling for the rights of Aboriginal People of Canada. He vows to continue their struggle until every Aboriginal person in Canada feels that they are truly part of Canada.

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