Biography of Michèle Audette
A turbulent journey
Michèle Audette was born in Wabush, Labrador, in a community where violence, sexual assault, racism and discrimination were part of everyday life. Born to an Innu mother and a Quebecois father, Michèle embodies two different cultures that did not coexist well when she was growing up. She was rejected by certain members of her community who did not perceive her as a “true” Innu. Because of this, Michèle had a difficult struggle developing an identity, which had significant repercussions in her life.
Even though she is now recognized as an Indigenous leader, early on in life Michèle Audette experienced deep emotional distress. As a teenager, she was overwhelmed by dark thoughts and twice tried to commit suicide. Fortunately with care and therapy, Michèle managed to chase her demons away for many years and gave birth to her first two boys in a serene and peaceful state.
Between 1994 and 2004, Michèle Audette was involved with the Quebec Native Women association (QNW) and with the Native Friendship Center of Montreal. In 1998, at the age of 27, she became president of the QNW, a milestone event that propelled her towards the most exciting experiences of her life, but also the darkest ones, such as harassment in the workplace, separation and exhaustion.
During these tumultuous years, Michèle Audette gave birth to twins after a difficult pregnancy, causing her old demons to reappear. Fear and vulnerability began interfering with and invading her life; the fear that her two daughters would grow up in a toxic environment and suffer the same horrors she experienced in her own childhood. Michèle plunged into a deep depression after the birth of her last child, as her daily worries and life’s uncertainties began to accumulate. In August 2013, she lost control of her life and once again tried to kill herself.
The path to recovery
Then, Michèle Audette began her long path to recovery. She managed to let go, put her pride aside and finally accept the help she needed in order to heal. Thanks to the support of her parents, her children and her mentors, Michèle managed to step out of the darkness that she inhabited for so long. She realized for the first time that her wounds and suffering had had a much greater impact on her life than she initially thought. Since 2013, Michèle Audette no longer walks in shame; she has forgiven herself and is grateful to be alive every day. Feeling hopeful, she now sees life more positively and believes in the future.
Although the suffering inflicted by her community has greatly affected her life, Michèle Audette’s desire to fight and her thirst for social justice have always been present. Through the love of her parents she became aware at a very young age that the achievement of her dreams should not be held up by her tortuous path and the obstacles encountered. As she says so well: “The objectives are the same, it is the strategies to achieve them that differ.”
Advocating for indigenous women
Passionate, tireless, determined and extremely sensitive, Michèle Audette dares to be part of those who want to change things for the common good. Throughout her career, she has had the privilege of meeting many inspiring women who have believed in her, supported her and introduced her to the feminist movement.
For Michèle Audette, the advancement of women in society is realized with every little victory. The sum of these small victories is translated into greater progress for women across the country. It is through unity and mutual support that we have the power to make women’s voices stronger.
Among her accomplishments, Michèle Audette continues to fight, as her own mother did, against the “Federal Indian Act” clause stipulating that an indigenous woman who marries a non-indigenous person may be expelled from her community. She is also working on the issue of “matrimonial real property” division in indigenous communities. She is involved in the establishment of an indigenous shelter network in Quebec and the development of the first government policy and action plan on domestic violence for Indigenous women.
Michèle Audette is a unifier. She is constantly undertaking inclusive approaches to create a more just society, including the Amun march. This 500-kilometer march between Quebec City and Ottawa aimed to convince the government to correct discriminatory elements of the “Federal Indian Act” against Indigenous women. It mobilized hundreds of women, raised public awareness and led the Government of Canada to make the necessary amendments to restore justice for thousands of women and children.
In recent decades, nearly 1,000 Indigenous women in Canada have been murdered or have disappeared. Michèle Audette is the person behind the creation of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in order to solve these murders and disappearances, as well as to address the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Defending the most vulnerable
Michèle Audette uses her voice to defend the most vulnerable members of society. Passionate, resilient and dedicated, she manages day after day to build bridges between people. Her ease and ability to explain indigenous issues, raises awareness and mobilizes people to find solutions that bring about concrete change.
Michèle Audette plans to write a book showcasing people from all walks of life who deserve to be known. It will be a dialogue between Quebecers and Indigenous people about their past memories, their current realities and possible solutions to bring about positive and constructive change for all. A book that will surely inspire the partnership and progress of nations towards a common goal: peace and social justice.