Thelma Chalifoux Learning Garden
Dr. Thelma J. Chalifoux (born Feb 18, 1929, in Calgary Alberta) is a former Canadian politician and teacher. She was also the first female Metis to receive the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, now the Indspire Awards. The Honourable Senator Dr. Thelma J. Chalifoux was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on November 26, 1997. She became the first indigenous person appointed to the Senate of Canada and served until February 8, 2004, when she retired at the age of 75 and returned to Alberta. A history maker and trailblazer, prior to her appointment, she worked as a teacher and community organizer and was very active in both local and national Metis communities. In Slave Lake, she started the Native Friendship Centre in the 1970s and she ran the first safe house for victims of domestic violence. Upon her retirement from the Senate, she founded the Michif Cultural and Resources Centre (now the Michif Cultural Connections) in St. Albert, an organization devoted to preserve, protect and promote the rich Metis culture in Northern Alberta.
As the Matriarch of a large extended family of more than 70 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren, she was a great example of grace under pressure, an individual who had the courage to keep going no matter what challenges she faced. She uplifted spirits—changed hearts and minds for the better and left this world a far better place than when she found it. Dr. Chalifoux is to be celebrated and honoured for her tireless advocacy for social justice and women’s rights, especially for indigenous people. She had a strong spirit, a forceful voice, a passionate commitment to education and an infectious sense of humour. Throughout her life, she exemplified the deep qualities and characteristics of humanness and services to others that will be a guiding inspiration for the students of Four Winds School.