A message on the passing of Phillip Elanik from TRC Chair, Justice Murray Sinclair


The great Metis leader Louis Riel once said: "My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back."

Phillip was such an artist. When he danced you could sense the pride that he felt in what he was doing, and how much he was immersed in it. You could see the feeling of pride and sense the self-respect that his people felt at what he did. He was not dancing for himself. He was dancing for them. In bringing out the spirit of the dance, he brought out the spirit in all who watched. He was truly an amazing and gifted artist. 

But he was more than a performer. He was a man of courage. When the story of his personal bravery in saving his family was told, all of us felt courageous. We all wanted to be able to do what he did - to dance like him and to be brave like him.

We could see that he was a man of love. When he spoke of his love of family and his love of God, we all felt love for our families and our belief in God was strengthened.

His loss is both a tragedy and a gift. It is tragic that he overcame so much only to be taken so young. It is tragic that his children will not have his guiding hand on their shoulders as they grow up. It is tragic that we can never see him dance again. 

But the gift is in this: We may never see the likes of him, but the fact that he walked, and danced, among us, gives us hope that others will be inspired by him to step forward as he did. In our shyness to get up and dance, we can close our eyes and recall the vision of him and know how to dance for he danced so perfectly.

When we feel afraid, we can recall his story and know what we can accomplish by doing what is right, regardless of personal danger. 

And as his children grow, they will always be able to say, with great pride, "I am the child of Phillip Ellanik." For I suspect he is destined to become a legend among his people. 

On behalf of Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson, and all of the staff at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I send our condolences to his family and friends.