Jaret Cardinal got interested in basketball, and it’s changing lives

As a kid, Imperial’s Indigenous relations lead in Cold Lake, Jaret Cardinal, played hockey. So when he started coaching a boys’ basketball team last summer, you had to know something big was afoot.

Since August 2018, Jaret has been volunteering with the Saddle Lake First Nations intermediate boys’ basketball team as assistant coach. In fact, the team – including his 16-year-old son Adam, the youngest player on the team – was undefeated during the Alberta Indigenous Games last summer. They hope to compete in Halifax, the host city for the North America Games, in 2020.

But for Jaret it’s much more than basketball. “We want the boys to become role models for the community,” Cardinal says. “That’s reflected in the team name: Living Treaty. It signifies that these young guys are tomorrow’s leaders.”

He’s quick to point out that the overall intent of Living Treaty is not his idea: “It came from head coach Norma Large. I believe in the goals and the intent, and I embraced what we were trying to do.”

Players are selected not only for their ability on the court, but also for their leadership potential. “We strive for them to be ambassadors of the treaty, to have them learn, ask questions, and take interest in their community. That’s what hooked me in.”


Last year was a good testing ground for the team, and also for Jaret, who comes from a long line of Indigenous rights advocates.

His father, Harold Cardinal, was instrumental in successfully challenging the 1969 federal government’s white paper that proposed termination of Indigenous rights in Canada. He also participated in constitutional talks in the ‘80s. Jaret’s grandfather, Frank Cardinal, was the last hereditary chief of the Sucker Creek First Nation. In the early 1950s he established an organization to fight for treaty rights.

Following in those footsteps, Jaret himself spent three years as the chief of the Sucker Creek First Nation.

His role at Imperial ties to his life experience and heritage: “I’ve been given the role to help Imperial create and enhance relationships with the 12 Indigenous communities surrounding our Cold Lake operation.”

Learn more about Imperial’s commitment to Indigenous engagement.

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