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Senator Thelma Chalifoux.

Windspeaker: What one quality do you most value in a friend?

Senator Thelma Chalifoux: There are many values in your friend that are special. George Bernard Shaw said that if you can count your true friends on one hand, then you can die a rich person. When my friend can accept me as I am with all my faults, my good points and my human failings, then I am truly blessed.

W: What is it that really makes you mad?

T. C: When I was young I was a very protective tiger about my children. When people were abused, I fought for them. That made me angry. When I saw people giving up, that made me angry.

W: When are you at your happiest?

T.C.: When my friends and I gathered to laugh, to cry--then our spirits soared. I was happiest when my babies were born and when my children and I shared the songs, the dancing, the music and the bannock and stew.

W: What one word best describes you when you are at your worst?

T.C.: Ugly.

W: What one person do you most admire and why?

T.C.: Madge McCree. She overcame a violent marriage. She never gave up on her sisters, brothers and her children. She was never afraid to say she was sorry. We laughed, we cried, we sang, hugged and talked together about life, love, children and all things important in our single mom's lives. Our spirituality kept us both sane. We prayed together and our faith made us strong.

W: What is the most difficult thing you've ever had to do?

T.C.: I had to watch my daughter die with cancer. I had to bury her and then I had to be strong for her babies.

W: What is your greatest accomplishment?

T.C.: I gave my children the best values that I had been taught. I showed them that faith in our Creator is the most powerful force and now they are teaching these values to their children, and their grandchildren.

W: What one goal remains out of reach?

T.C.: I have a goal to reach every day. Every tomorrow's goals is always out of reach. As long as we have a goal to reach, our destiny is fulfilled.

W: If you couldn't do what you're doing today, what would you be doing?

T.C.: The Creator always gives us a road to follow. I have always tried to take that road. So far, I don't know what else I would be doing.

W: What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?

T.C.: We must always have faith that the Lord takes care of us as long as our faith is strong.

W: Did you take it?

T.C.: Yes!

W: How do you hope to be remembered?

T.C.: Through the lives of my children and all the lives of the people that I have touched.

Senator Thelma Chalifoux was the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the Senate of Canada, serving between 1997 to 2004.

She currently helps preserve and foster Metis culture and identity at the Michif Institute "A Metis Living Museum" in St. Albert, Alberta.

Because she was born in Calgary in 1929 during a violent blizzard, Chalifoux's father, Paul Villeneuve, foretold she would be strong and independent. He taught her that the Metis have always worked to support each other and true to his teaching, she has continually served others in various capacities.

After leaving an abusive marriage in the 1950's, she managed to raise seven children on her own and attend school while working, studying sociology at the Lethbridge Community College and construction estimating at the Southern Institute of Technology.

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Since the late 1960's Chalifoux has worked to establish facilities such as friendship centres, and Cree language programs. She has worked in numerous social agencies, helping to provide people with such amenities including housing, education, healing from addiction, and safety from abuse.

She was the first full-time Metis woman staff announcer on northern Alberta's CKYL. Radio in Peace River, and was also the first Metis woman to serve on the University of Alberta Senate.

She was awarded a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for public service in 1994.
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Title Annotation:[Windspeaker confidential]
Publication:Windspeaker
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:709
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