Born in St. Jean Sur Richelieu, Quebec |
Prior to moving to Toronto a little over a decade ago, Emile resided in Whitesand First Nation, located a few hours north of Thunder Bay. After living there for a number of years, he felt the need to start anew and begin a journey of self-reflection and re-discovery as a First Nation gay single parent. Toronto presented a safe and welcoming opportunity.
“Growing up with a military father and a mother who survived the residential school system, there never felt like a safe or right time to ‘Come Out’. But in Toronto I feel safe, comfortable in my own skin and content that I live in a city that values and respects Gay Rights and views individuals such as I as equal.”
Emile emphasizes how Toronto is known as the largest First Nation in Canada, with a population of approximately 80,000 First Nation individuals. Living here has allowed Emile to rediscover who he is, and establish his role in the community as both an Aboriginal person and a gay male.
“Toronto has opened opportunities for me in ways I was not permitted to explore before, due to the close-mindedness that existed elsewhere.”
Prior to coming out, due to fear and pressure to conform, he lived two lives that were polar opposites of one another whereas in Toronto he says he walks “a path that is honest, clear and confident.” Emile emphasizes how important it is that he continues to serve the aboriginal community as a Health & Cultural Educator, working with both the Aboriginal Service Providers and Community Grass Roots members.
Toronto as Home
Emile was taught at an early age the importance of respecting Mother Earth and he constantly strives to reconnect himself with the natural environment. Being by Lake Ontario at Ashbridges Bay reminds him that nature is never far from this concrete jungle that he calls home.
“Here I feel the most grounded, and yet vulnerable given the vastness of the water.”
Connection with the Past
Emile explains how there is an incredible symbolism around water within traditional Ojibway teachings. Water is the essence of life, and is what surrounds a child inside a mother’s womb. Given the way humanity has polluted water, our existence is compromised.
“Mainstream society does not view this element in the highest regard, but First Nations people do. Water is a ceremony within itself.”
Emile emphasizes how we all must view water in a different light, otherwise humanity’s very existence could end.