Life in the north, focus on family keeps former minister grounded
Joan Beatty’s lifelong SASKATOON work for the betterment of Indigenous people has always been grounded in family, community and love of the land.
Nine years after a controversial and unsuccessful bid for the federal seat in the Desnethe—Missinippi—Churchill River riding, Beatty spends her days at her family’s Twin Bay fishing resort near Deschambeault Lake and at her cabin at their even more remote trap line at Big Sandy Lake.
“I want to be lost in the bush,” she said with a laugh. Even when her work required living in Regina, she always managed to get home and “get grounded again.”
Beatty’s parents, Oscar and Bella Beatty, were leaders in the community. Her father was one of the founding members of the Ossey Fishers Cooperative.
Beatty worked in employment programs, helping to find jobs for Indigenous people. She also worked with the precursor to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians.
There, she learned from leaders like David Ahenakew and Sol and Carole Sanderson, as they designed “Indian control of Indian education” policies for the FSI. Those led to creation of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre and the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, which became First Nations University of Canada.
She wrote for SaskNative Communications and hosted programs in Cree at CBC’s La Ronge radio station. She was the first Indigenous television reporter with CBC in Regina, where she worked for 15 years. She served a term on the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation council.
In 2003, Beatty was elected MLA for Cumberland and was appointed by then premier Lorne Calvert as minister of Youth, Culture and Recreation.
She was re-elected in 2007, when the Saskatchewan Party swept to power. Just two months later, she resigned when federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion appointed her the candidate for Desnethe— Missinippi—Churchill River.
She lost the 2008 byelection to Conservative Rob Clarke.
Soon after, Beatty moved home to care for her ailing father until he died five years later. She then cared for her mother until her death two years ago.
Beatty works with family running the resort, trapping and helping with the fishery.