Sébastien is a tall, strapping man with a charm and energy that are impossible to resist. A proud member of the Huron-Wendat Nation located near Québec City, he shares fascinating anecdotes with us about his adventures on multiple continents.
After experiencing changes of school and episodes of delinquency during his teens, it was turning to sport that saved his life.
“I always wanted to give back to youth by coaching sports, which I’ve been doing with children at elementary schools since 2011,” he explains.
Gifted with exceptional athletic talent, Sébastien excelled in basketball and soccer. Born in Québec City in December 1980, his first summer job took him to the Shenzhen region of China in 1999 as a member of a professional inline skating show. He performed on stage with young athletes from all over the world, including Russians, Mexicans and Cubans. He stayed in the Middle Kingdom for one year and has vivid memories of China’s highly diverse cultures and incredible public markets.
After a brief stint in sales, he left for Europe in 2002, where he once again worked as a professional inline skater, this time for three years. In 2005, he pivoted toward education, gaining admission to Coastal Academy college in South Carolina. With a scholarship in a sports-study program, he focused on learning business while honing his golf skills.
Upon his return to Québec, he was reunited with the woman who would become his wife and worked as a teacher for two years. His passion for new adventures led him to set off once more, this time to teach golf in the Canary Islands for a year.
When he returned to Canada in 2008, he entered the world of marketing and tourism development. He also completed a diploma in indigenous studies at Université Laval in 2009. After working on developing indigenous tourist destinations in Québec from 2013 to 2018, he decided to take on the challenge of galvanizing the indigenous tourism industry throughout Canada. Today, in his role as chief marketing officer for the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, he promotes tourist destinations in all regions of the country to people around the world.
He speaks with conviction about how, despite the many prejudices against them, indigenous peoples deserve credit for adapting to extremely challenging conditions in northern regions for over 10,000 years. “They have their own sovereignty and identity,” he notes. “Indigenous peoples have managed to develop and preserve their culture, arts, languages and respectful relationship with Mother Earth. Now, they’re developing a sustainable tourism industry and have their own business networks. Unfortunately, the media emphasize the dark side of life in certain communities, focusing on issues of addiction and violence. Many indigenous communities, however, have become examples of leadership and socio-economic development. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to address the wrongs resulting from assimilation policies and boarding schools as well as the shameful actions of some teachers—because the fact is that what happened in Canada was a far-reaching cultural genocide.”
Sébastien believes in the power of youth and the many opportunities available to young people today. Indigenous nations across Canada are now home to hundreds of charismatic, visionary leaders. He mentions the former Manitoba Court of Queen’s judge and senator Murray Sinclair, who teaches all Canadians about respect for indigenous values, the rights of indigenous peoples, support for youth and access to education.
There are numerous success stories in indigenous nations across the country’s provinces and territories. These include indigenous-led businesses and corporations in the fields of tourism, culture, agriculture and natural resources.
A man of action, Sébastien is proud of his achievements in the tourism sector and the development of his nation. In his role as a family chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation from 2014 to 2018, his mandate included education support for youth, leisure and housing.
“There’s no shortage of energy and desire for improvement among indigenous leaders,” he says. “Throughout the country, preserving spoken languages and culture continues to be of paramount importance. Social and economic development and maintaining the sovereignty of the nations, led by 635 chiefs across Canada, notably depend on recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights to the land where they live. What’s more, solutions for reconciliation with governmental authorities must start at the grass roots level, meaning local individuals and communities.”
He concludes with the following advice to young people: “Be proud of who you are and where you come from; don’t be too hard on yourself; take action against prejudice and racism; and lead by example.”