The Women’s Leadership Award was established by the Women’s Initiative in 2017 as part of our vision to create a city full of opportunities for women’s voices, intelligence, wisdom and leadership to shine. The award is given to someone who exemplifies the qualities of service, vision, and commitment to improving the realities of many. This year, we are celebrating Muriel Stanley Venne, the president and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW). Muriel is an advocate for Aboriginal women and works to bring justice to the Aboriginal community. We are so proud to honour a woman who has spent her life working tirelessly in the service of others.
Muriel currently chairs the Aboriginal Commission on Human Rights and Justice. She was instrumental in producing two resources that inform Aboriginal people of their humans rights: “The Right Path – Alberta” and “It takes Courage”. She keeps busy in her role as president of IAAW; under Muriel’s leadership, IAAW has spread from its headquarters in Edmonton to include more than a dozen chapters and provides services such as leadership training and support for Aboriginal women leaving correctional facilities. Through IAAW’s partnership with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, Muriel has been involved in shedding light on the injustice of the legal system. Muriel is also one of the Presiding Officials representing the Queen at Citizenship Ceremonies in Edmonton and is part of a project that aims to highlight Indigenous people when welcoming new Canadians in order to bring an appreciation of the sacred agreements with the Crown and the difficulties created by colonization.
In 1995, Muriel and IAAW vice president Marggo Pariseau created the Esquao Awards to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of Aboriginal women. Since its inception, the Esquao Awards have grown to be the largest recognition event of Aboriginal women in Canada. The Esquao Awards are unique in that women’s achievements are not judged against one another; leaders who serve their communities in a variety of capacities have the opportunity to be recognized for their diverse contributions.
Muriel has received many honours throughout her career. In 1998, on the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Alberta Human Rights commission on which she served, she received the Alberta Human Rights Award. For her work in bringing justice to the Aboriginal community, she received the Queen’s Medals in 2002 and 2012 and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 2004. In 2005, she received the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal. She received a Distinguished Citizen Honorary Bachelor of Arts Degree from Grant MacEwan University in 2010. The “Muriel Stanley Venne Provincial Centre” was proclaimed on October 25, 2017, making Muriel the first Métis woman to have a government building named after her.
In 2007, Muriel’s work at the United Nations was recognized by Canadian Ambassador McNee, who described her as a “Human Rights Defender pertaining to Aboriginal women, children and families”. We couldn’t agree more; Muriel’s unflagging fight for justice and determination to lift Aboriginal communities up is awe-inspiring, to say the least. It is humbling to know such an extraordinary woman.
Thank you, Muriel, for serving as a guide and role model, for living the value of service, and for your unwavering commitment to your community and to justice. We are honoured to celebrate you!