(ANNews) – The Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards (BBMA) marks its 20th anniversary this year, and with the program’s massive success, there are many reasons to celebrate. In two decades, more than $9 million has been disbursed to over 1,500 Métis Albertans studying at post-secondary institutions across Alberta. The initial investment of $13 million in the BBMA endowment fund has grown to $20.5 million. While the fund is growing, the demand by students applying for support has also increased. This year is a record year for applications received, with more than 400 students requesting funding for the 2021–22 academic year.
When Dr. Herb Belcourt, his cousin, Orval Belcourt, and friend, Georges R. Brosseau, Q.C., first established the endowment fund at the Edmonton Community Foundation to support Métis education, people told them they would fail. They were undeterred. Together, they had already succeeded at tackling another big issue in their community when they had partnered in 1971 to form Canative Housing Corporation, a non-profit organization with the mission to provide affordable housing for Métis people in Alberta.
They were builders of homes and communities—education was another foundational piece in creating better futures for Métis people.
For the past twenty years, the Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards have provided financial assistance through the endowment to help Métis Albertans realize self-sufficiency through post-secondary education and skills development.
This perpetual legacy fund has created opportunities, broken barriers, and grown a sense of pride in Métis culture. Over time, the BBMA annual celebration has become a must-attend Métis gathering, acknowledging award recipients, and fostering a sense of belonging, community support, and pride. The event has been integral to the ongoing success of BBMA, recognizing award recipients’ accomplishments through the Sash Ceremony, symbolizing a connection to the Métis community, past, present, and future.
The BBMA celebration, encompassing Métis culture and history, is a community event celebrating the achievement of Métis students. Longstanding Métis traditions and culture are embodied in those who lived in the 1600s through to today. The hope is that the Métis graduates accessing BBMA support will take the community to new heights in the future. For this milestone anniversary, a webcast aired on September 18, 2021.
Since its inception, the BBMA endowment has received contributions from individuals and corporate donors alike. That includes Syncrude, a company that first became involved over ten years ago, donating funds earmarked to support students from the Wood Buffalo Region. This year, in celebration of the milestone anniversary, Syncrude donated another $200,000 to the BBMA fund.
Syncrude’s Vice President of Government & Public Affairs, Kara Flynn said, “It is great to see such success being created with these students, and Syncrude is proud to be a contributor to this fund that is making a difference in people’s lives and communities.”
Previously BBMA funded students like Naomi (Rau) Withers inspire others to give a hand up, not a handout. She has donated to the BBMA endowment, creating a fund to help Métis students to follow in her footsteps. Other BBMA donors include Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Shell, and the A.T. Brosseau Family.
The BBMA is one of Canada’s largest non-governmental sources of post-secondary funding for Métis students. Georges Brosseau Q.C. and Orval Belcourt, the founders, are proud of the Métis students and continue to be involved in the awards, guiding the program and reviewing award applications. Herb Belcourt did the same until he passed away in 2017, a day before his 86th birthday. “When we created the BBMA in 2001, we had an endless date in mind,” says Orval Belcourt.
Over the past 20 years, the awards have had an incredible impact on the Métis community in Alberta. The BBMA has been life-changing for student recipients, helping them begin careers, support families, and give back to their communities. Past award recipients are now advancing in their careers and becoming key decision-makers within corporations and the Métis Nation.
“In this new age of virtual and technical communication, education is vital, and I am so pleased to see our Métis people placing a higher priority on learning,” says Theresa Majeran, BBMA coordinator.
The BBMA Founders and selection panel are looking forward to charting new paths and creating possibilities for Métis people. “It is through our collective abilities and efforts that Métis people will continue to achieve success and grow to meet new challenges in our ever-changing world,” says Georges Brosseau. “Education is how you measure the wealth of a country, and that is the way you develop optimism and hope in our Métis people.”
To apply for an award, visit www.bbma.ca. The deadline each year is March 31.
Questions about these awards, the BBMA celebration or the application process can be directed to Communications Coordinator, Theresa Majeran at 780-977-5515 or by email to [email protected].