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‘Surreal’: northeastern Ontario artist Christi Belcourt receives postage stamp, Order of Canada

Visual artist Christi Belcourt says the final days of June, 2024 were “surreal” after she was invested into the Order of Canada, became the first Métis artist to have her work displayed at Rideau Hall – the official residence of the Governor General of Canada – and was honoured by Canada Post with a postage stamp bearing her image, 

Belcourt, who has lived along the coast of Lake Huron for the past 25 years, also recently received the Order of Gabriel DuMont given out by the Gabriel DuMont Institute to those who have served or continue to serve the Métis of Canada with distinction. It is among the Métis Nation’s highest civilian honours.

“That was very touching and overwhelming because that came from my community,” Belcourt said.

“And then this week, of course, with my face on the stamp — I tried to negotiate to get just my art on a stamp. I’m the kind of person that likes to be behind the camera, not in front of it.”

Belcourt said the stamp’s unveiling ceremony, which was attended by family members and old friends, was “a very touching moment.”

No stranger to acclaim

Belcourt is no stranger to acclaim.

Her beadwork-inspired art hangs in the National Gallery of Canada.

She’s been an Ontario Arts Council Indigenous Arts Award Laureate, and she’s received a Governor General’s Innovation Award and two honorary doctorates from Algoma University and Wilfred Laurier University.

The painting on display at Rideau Hall is called “Honouring My Spirit Helpers” and is on loan from Toronto’s Seventh Generation Midwives, Belcourt explained. 

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“It looks like a symphony of flowers emerging out of one pile of rocks, which, for people who do know, it will look like sweat lodge rocks, which is a sacred ceremony that we do,” she said.

“Joy” by Christi Belcourt. (Illustration by Christi Belcourt/Colouring by Alyssa Trick)

“There’s roots that go deep into this pile of ground. And then this pile of ground is surrounded by a level of water that has plants and fish and two muskrats, which talks about our creation story about Muskrat and how Muskrat brought the earth up when the world was flooded.”

The piece is around 10 feet wide, she added.

It’s being hung in the Rideau Hall ballroom.

“It matches the wall perfectly, which was really surprising,” Belcourt said.

Love for her country

Asked how she felt about receiving the Order of Canada from a country she often takes to task, Belcourt said she loves the country and wants to see it do better.

“I love every single tree. I love every single body of water. I love every river to the depths of my soul. I have nothing but compassion for every single person,” she said. 

“We need to raise the ODSP. We need to do all sorts of things to make this a better place. And I won’t stop speaking about that.”

She urged people to consider how global demand for electric vehicles and other electronics may be complicating the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was the world’s largest cobalt miner in 2022, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.

“I believe that there are technologies that are out there that can help the world,” she said. “But I also believe that we can’t … commit human rights abuses on our way to do it.”

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