Prince Albert welcomes Rebecca Strong home

During welcoming ceremonies for Rebecca Strong, Monday, May 20 in Prince Albert, she was wrapped in a Star Blanket by Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) chiefs. Photo by Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Daily Herald

With 750 seats filled to capacity at the Prince Albert  Exhibition Centre, Prince Albert gave an enthusiastic welcome home to Canada’s Got Talent winner Rebecca Strong, who was born in Stony Rapids and grew up in Prince Albert.

Strong won the third season top prize of $1 million, on Tuesday, May 14 in Niagara Falls, Ont.

She returned home to Prince Albert to a tumultuous welcome on Monday, May 20, for a reception attended by Mayor Greg Dionne, and chiefs representing the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC), to give people the opportunity to show Strong how proud they are of her.

“Honestly, I’m just so thankful for everyone for coming together like this. I just can’t believe it. Honestly, the fact that all these chairs were filled is just crazy to me and thank you,” Strong said of the gathering.

Rebecca’s mother, Joan Strong, called for a moment of silence for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, because without change, “even my daughter won’t be safe.”

She thanked the PAGC elders for their guidance over the years. She began working for PAGC when Rebecca was one hour old.

Rebecca’s father, Glen Strong, talked about treating children with patience and in following their dreams, tell them, to “go for it.”

In his remarks, Mayor Greg  Dionne, told people to keep an ear open for new of an event, just in the early planning stages, that will involve Strong and her family.

“I am going to ask you to come back in about six weeks to two months. We’re working on a legacy project. You’re just not getting away being number one in Canada. We’re also going to show you, you’re Number One in our hearts, because you put us on the map,” he said, adding that the event “will be a Legacy event.”

Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte, talked about Canada, the governments and reconciliation.

He said Rebecca has shown “the importance of working together. I thank her for that.”

Hardlotte also said that Indigenous youth have a role model and someone to look up to in Strong, which is important with many who are struggling.

Canada’s Got Talent winner Rebecca Strong (right) poses for a selfie with a fan during a welcome home celebration held in her honour at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre on Monday, May 20. —
Photo by Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Daily Herald

Strong’s win reflects the hard work, particularly in working together that the community of Prince Albert has put into youth over the years.

“It’s a big day for all of us,” FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt said. “I really want to acknowledge our young champion here. Our children need heros, you know that? And, you are a hero to all of our kids. You inspired not only First Nations children, but even non-First Nations. Choir members are here from Prince Albert. But you fill our young people with hopes and dreams, so that they too, if you can stand on that stage. That lets our young people know, they can stand on that stage too.”

Pratt also spoke on behalf of Chief Bobby Cameron, who was unable to attend the event but sent a message.

“Just make sure you let her know we want her in Saskatoon Oct. 29 to come and sing for all of our leadership. We’ll honour her again, so put that date on your calendar,” Pratt said.

Others who shared their messages of pride and hope throughout the gathering included: PAGC Vice Chief Joe Tsannie Hatchett Lake Denesuline First Nation; , Vice Chief Christopher Jobb, member of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN); Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB); Chief Joyce McLeod, Montreal Lake Cree Nation (MLCN); Anita Parenteau, acting chair, PAGC Women’s Commission; and Alana Ross, MLA for Prince Albert Northcote.

Chief Coreen Sayazie of the Black Lake Denesuline First Nation, spoke about the pride and excitement in the community when Strong won the Canada’s Got Talent. 

She said children were making cards for her. Everyone was proud and excited. She also paid tribute to Strong’s parents, who always had music in the home.

Sayezie talked of her first visit to the family’s home and seeing the music room. She spoke of how Joan and Glen Strong encouraged their daughters to be themselves, discover and enjoy music.

Strong, spoke, saying she’s a singer, not so much of a conversationalist, but she thanked the people who came and for the votes that got her to the top.

She was honoured by being wrapped in a Star Blanket by the PAGC Chiefs.

She sang three songs, Creep, by Radio Head; Stone Cold, which she sang for her Canada’s Got Talent audition; and, for her Dad, Never Enough, by Greatest Showman on Earth.

Throughout the afternoon the music scene in Prince Albert was mentioned several times, Voices of the North and Northern Spirits, which, Strong said, were part of her life growing up in the city.

“Prince Albert has so much talent; it’s crazy,” Strong said in a media scrum following the event. “Like my Dad said, ‘Prince Albert is the Nashville of Canada. I’ve had a lot of gigs here and I hope they bring Northern Spirits back, I really do.”