Clem Paul remembered as Métis advocate and hero

Clem Hand is pictured in a photograph provided by his daughter, Charlene
Clem Hand is pictured in a photograph provided by his daughter, Charlene.

Friends and family remember the late Clem Paul – the inaugural president of the North Slave Métis Alliance, a father, and a Medal of Bravery recipient – as a man who wore many hats.

According to Paul’s sister and brother-in-law, Kathy Paul-Drover and Rick Drover, their late brother always put his family first, even in his final days of life. 

“Up to his dying breath, he was enjoying family,” Drover told Cabin Radio.  

Paul passed away at home on July 30, aged 64, after suffering from cancer. 

Drover recalls his late brother-in-law as “one of those guys that if you ever wanted anyone in your corner, that would be the one to have.”

Paul was, he said, “a problem-solver, fearless, and genuine.”

Trevor Teed can best speak to Paul’s fearlessness. Paul saved Teed from “certain death” three decades ago. 

On November 11, 1990, Paul saw a snowmobile carrying two of his friends fall through the ice on Harding Lake. He used a gun case as a paddle to reach the sinking machine and bring the hypothermic Teed safely to shore. 

The other man who fell into the lake that day, Billy Balsillie, sank below the surface before Paul could reach the site. Balsillie could not be saved. 

“He risked his life to save us,” recalled Teed. 

Despite being awarded the Medal of Bravery in 1991 for his heroic act, Teed said Paul never viewed the rescue as a success.

“He always considered the entire effort a failure because Billy passed away. Even though he saved one life, he felt he had failed.”

Teed’s daughter, Jessie Teed, thanked Paul in an emotional Facebook post after she learned of his struggle with cancer. 

She wrote, “there hasn’t been a day in nearly 31 [years] where I haven’t been thankful for your actions that day in 1990. Thank you for providing me with a lifetime with my Dad that otherwise would have never happened. 

“Let it be known that I hold you in a special place in my heart and you will always hold that place as it is purely reserved for truly The Best of Heroes.”

A lifelong advocate

Paul-Drover said her brother was “humble” and not one to brag about his accomplishments.

Paul was the inaugural president of the North Slave Métis Alliance, formed in 1996 to represent and advocate for the rights of the Métis people in the North Slave region. 

“He grew the North Slave Métis Alliance in a few short years to a $3-million operation and he was the first to get an impact benefit agreement with the diamond mines,” Paul-Drover said.

“That was a huge accomplishment because it was very rare that the Indigenous people were compensated for anything that happened on the land, prior to that. He started it all.”

Paul held the position until 2002. 

Prior to leading the North Slave Métis Alliance, Paul – a professional welder and tank builder — opened his own shop, Paul Bros Welding, with his brother in 1978. 

In his final years, Paul remarried, worked as the president of the Mountain Island Métis, and ran a bed and breakfast. 

Clement David Joseph Paul was born in Yellowknife on November 12, 1956. He is survived by his wife, children, siblings, and grandchildren. 

A funeral service honouring Paul’s life will be held on August 5 at the Yellowknife River-Wiilideh site from 1:30pm. A procession to Lakeview Cemetery begins at 2:45pm, with a feeding of the fire ceremony and reception from 4pm.

Ollie Williams contributed reporting.