| Extraordinary Métis Leader
After 1885 many Saskatchewan Métis people dispersed into parts of Alberta. Mission settlements such as
Lac St. Anne and St. Albert attracted many Métis families as a place to rebuild their lives. This created a
significant increase in Alberta's Métis population. Many Métis arriving in northern Alberta struggled to find a
land base to call home. The Métis of the NWT were becoming minorities in the NWT after 1885. This led to
further alienation of many Métis from the emerging political, social and economic system. During this period
of future uncertainty for many Métis people, strong leaders were born.
James Brady, Métis.
Born March 11, 1908.
One of the founding members of the
Métis Association of Alberta
Jim Brady was born in 1908 at Lake St. Vincent near St. Paul des Métis, Alberta. His father, Jim Brady Sr.
was a dominion land agent, postmaster and wealthy store-keeper of Scottish ancestry. His Métis mother,
Philomena Archange was one of the first Métis registered nurses in the area. Brady grew up in St. Paul des
Métis which was the largest Métis community in Alberta. He was partially raised by his maternal grandfather,
Lawrence Garneau, who was involved with Louis Riel and the Métis in the resistances of 1870 and 1885. His
grandfather taught him about the roots of the historic Métis struggles in the northwest. St. Paul des Métis
consisted of many dispossessed Métis with militant ideologies which were to have a tremendous influence
on Brady's life. Members of the Brady family were strong advocates of Métis identity and social equality. As
a young man, Brady was tutored by various politicians, radicals and union supporters. During the 1920s he
worked as a labourer and became knowledgeable about the politics of work, as well as that of the prairies.
During these years Jim Brady adopted Marxist philosophies.
In the early 1930's, Felix Callihoo, Peter Tomkins, Jim Brady, Joe Dion, and Malcolm Norris, joined together
to work for the Métis cause. These men are often called the "fabulous five" for their strong commitment
toward politically organizing the Métis in Alberta. Together they helped form the Métis Association of Alberta
by actively travelling to Alberta Métis communities to raise political awareness. The priority of the Métis
association was to petition the government and raise awareness about Métis issues. In 1933, the Alberta
Métis Association had 1,200 members in 41 locals.
In the early 1930s, these Alberta Métis leaders with the support of local Members of the Legislative
Assembly and Members of Parliament, Church officials and medical doctors urged the provincial
government to study the conditions of the Métis. In 1934, due to the intense lobbying of leaders like Jim
Brady, the Halfbreed Commission, also known as the Ewing Commission, was appointed to begin hearing
and consultations with the Métis.
Jim Brady was viewed by his comrades as the political strategist during the commission hearings. As a
result, the Métis Betterment Act was passed by the Alberta government in 1938 which provided Alberta
Métis with land tracts and social welfare programs.
When war broke out, Brady was refused entrance into the Canadian army because of his communist
affiliations. He continued his political struggles until he was finally accepted into the army in 1943. Brady's
war experience affected his outlook on life and made him even more aware of the oppression of Métis
people in Western Canada. Brady kept a detailed journal of his war experiences. After the war, Brady
moved to northern Saskatchewan.
He lived in a log cabin lined with scholarly books and worked as a prospector in LaRonge, Saskatchewan.
Brady also worked for the Department of Natural Resources and helped to introduce cooperatives in the
Reunited with Norris, they worked together to organize the Northern Saskatchewan Métis Association. Brady
was a key organizer of the La Ronge local of the Métis Association. In 1965 the purpose of the Métis
Association of Saskatchewan was, "to organize people of Indian ancestry in the Province of Saskatchewan
in order to secure recognition for and realization of our hopes and aspirations towards a better way of life
consistent with the opportunities available within Canadian Society." Jim Brady felt very passionate about
Métis enjoying the same rights as other Canadian citizens. Art Davis conducted an interview with Jim Brady
in 1960 for the Saskatchewan Archives Board. Brady had this to say about the future of the Métis people:
"...they are and have been the victims of colonialism as well as any Asian or African, but they must be freed
from all of the pernicious influences that this system of colonialism has forced upon them in British North
America. They must be freed of the disabilities which colonialism has imposed upon them, or the vestiges of
colonialism still impose upon them. Consequently, what we would refer to vaguely as the national liberation
of the Indian people and the Métis people in Canada, cannot be completed until Canada as a whole and the
western world as a whole free themselves of that vicious system which has imposed these conditions on a
conquered people. You see the problem was you were dealing simply with the problems of a conquered
nation and a defeated people. You see our struggle for national liberation, or a future destiny of our own,
that struggle was fought out on the banks of the Saskatchewan River more than two generations ago."
Brady was a very great thinker with amazing insights into the history of Métis oppression. In 1967, while on a
prospecting expedition with a Cree friend, Brady and his partner disappeared. An extensive RCMP search
ensued, but they were never found. Many northeners believe that the two men were murdered for political
reasons. Jim Brady was an extraordinary leader and his ability to organize Métis people will be remembered
well into the future. Some Métis families still remember how influential Brady's feelings of pride and
dedication to make positive change, opened their minds to a different future.
For more information about Jim Brady please check out the site listed by the following link: