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Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.

Muriel Stanley Venne is small in stature but big in heart: Paradis

This week she became the first Indigenous woman to have a building named for her

Murial Stanley Venne is a long time aboriginal rights advocate.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Murial Stanley Venne is a long time aboriginal rights advocate.

Once you meet Muriel Stanley Venne, you don’t forget her: she’s equally well known for speaking her mind as she is for her signature cowboy hat.

This week the longtime activist and Metis leader earned one more accolade: she’s the first Indigenous woman in the province to have a building named after her.

The Muriel Stanley Venne Provincial Centre, located at 142 Street and 123 Avenue, is currently undergoing renovations to become a multipurpose government building.

Premier Rachel Notley made the announcement Wednesday to mark Women’s History Month.

I hope we are going to see many more women show up on buildings and parks. Representation matters, and speaking at a press conference this week Stanley Venne summed up precisely why.

“In the past, I didn’t feel welcomed in my community, my province or my country. That has changed today,” she said, adding that she hoped the building would be a reminder for young women and girls across the country to raise their voices and demand respect.

Often in Edmonton when it comes to slap a name on a building, we venerate the achievements of men over women. For too long in Alberta, If you were a woman, and not a member of the Famous Five, you were nobody.

It’s a nice change to see buildings named after women, particularly Indigenous women whose brave stories often go untold.

I can’t think of a better choice that Stanley Venne. She’s a member of the Order of Canada and a recipient for the Queens Jubilee Medal.

She’s received a national Aboriginal achievement award, and a YWCA lifetime achievement award.

Compare that to the building off of 113 Street named after the all-but-unknown former head of the Department of Agriculture, J.G O’Donoghue. One of his biggest claims to fame was directing the ministry to use trapping, poison and shooting to eradicate rabies back in the 1950s, which led to the widespread mass slaughter of carnivores.

In comparison, Stanley Venne devoted her life to helping Indigenous women. She got her start as an activist back in 1973 when Premier Peter Lougheed appointed her to the first Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Fast forward to this year, and she hasn’t slowed down. She was pivotal in pushing for justice for Cindy Gladue—an Indigenous woman found dead in a bathtub from traumatic injuries.

On June 30, 2017 the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the verdict in the court case that acquitted Bradley Barton for Gladue’s death. Barton had argued the injuries were caused by consensual sex.

Stanley Venne, and her Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, helped make that happen.

A building isn’t even close to the recognition that this extraordinary Albertan deserves, but it’s one small step for her, and one giant leap for the recognition of Indigenous women in the province.

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