20 Years of Métis Excellence in Education

The Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards create a stepping stone for a lifetime of success

Twenty years ago, Herb Belcourt, Orval Belcourt and Georges Brosseau knew they had found the right community partner to make a lasting difference for Métis students in Alberta.

In 2001, they established an endowment with Edmonton Community Foundation to create the Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards (BBMA). The initial endowment was $13 million. Today the fund has grown to $20.5 million and supports Alberta Métis students pursuing post-secondary education.

A key part of this growth has been continued individual and corporate contributions, including donations from Alberta Health Services, Scotiabank, TELUS, Métis Family Services, Syncrude and many others.

In 2010, Syncrude donated to the endowment fund to support students from the Wood Buffalo Region. This year, in celebration of the BBMAs’ 20th anniversary, Syncrude is donating an additional $200,000.

“It’s a program that we’re really proud to be associated with,” says Will Gibson, Syncrude spokesperson. “We really think that it’s worthwhile, given our focus on working with Indigenous and Métis communities and focusing on trying to hire Indigenous and Métis people.”

This support from the community has allowed the BBMAs’ impact to grow. In 2002, 32 students received a BBMA, and in 2020, the number had grown more than five times to 161 recipients. The BBMA Panel hopes to eventually provide full scholarships to all eligible applicants.

There is much to celebrate as the BBMAs mark their 20th anniversary. In two decades, more than $9 million has been provided through over 2,000 awards to more than 1,400 Métis Albertans studying at post-secondary institutions. In 2021, more than 400 students applied for funding.

The BBMAs are now one of the largest sources of non-governmental funding for Métis students in Canada. Orval and Georges are still involved, as was Herb, until his death in 2017.

Orval and Georges sit on the BBMA Panel, where they guide the program and review award applications. Applicants are evaluated on numerous criteria, including likelihood of improved opportunities through education, financial need, connection to their Métis community and personal circumstances.

“When we created the BBMAs, we had an endless date in mind,” explains Orval. “Today, our principal investment is over $20 million and our student awards average is increasing. 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.”

The founders are also part of the annual BBMA Sash Ceremony. At the ceremony, students receive their sash from Métis Elders. As they are welcomed into the BBMA family, they are also connected to sponsors, their Métis community and fellow students. This demonstrates that the community is there to support them on their educational journey. Due to COVID-19, a virtual event will be held on September 18, 2021.

Over the past 20 years, the awards have had a significant impact on the Métis community in Alberta. The BBMAs have set up students for success in their careers and in their lives. Recipients are advancing in their careers, becoming key decision- makers and giving back to their communities.

“Knowledge is a fire of education,” Georges Brosseau says. “We would like all members of the Métis family to be able to light their candles against that fire, so all can have a brighter future.”