Friday March 8, 2013 is a day that will be forever known as a new beginning for the Métis People.
The Manitoba Métis Land Claim had languished on a shelf for a number of years before President Chartrand breathed new life into it. When he began his first term as President of the Manitoba Metis Federation in 1997, he made a commitment to revitalize our Manitoba Metis Federation Land Claim. With foresight and the support of his Métis Government, President Chartrand made it a claim of the people – Manitoba's Métis Community. It was this wisdom that breathed the necessary life into our century plus claim.
The Manitoba Métis Land Claim slowly made its way through the Queen's Bench, the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). In March 2013 the SCC acknowledged the Manitoba Metis Federation as the body that represents the Manitoba Métis in this collective claim against the Crown. In its decision this Court also accepted the MMF as the self-government of Manitoba's Métis Community.
Also on that historic day, the SCC said the federal government had not kept its word and broke a solemn promise. The Court recognized the injustice committed against the Métis, spoke the truth of our history, and vindicated our People. For decades President Chartrand fought on behalf of our Métis Government to protect our land rights in the political and legal arenas. After 143 years of our People's struggles, our Métis victory made it clear this was the time to right past wrongs.
This battle that President Chartrand vowed to win for the Métis of Manitoba took sacrifice, persistent hard work and over $5.6 million dollars. The Federal Government did its best to bankrupt the MMF. In fact when he first became President, the MMF was over $300,000 in debt on this file.
With clear vision, perseverance and strong management, not only was President Chartrand and his Cabinet able to bring the MMF back into the black, they were also able to raise the necessary funds to pay the lawyers who fought alongside President Chartrand and the Métis People as they strived to right this historic wrong. Along the way, the MMF also grew. Today it is the recognized democratic, self-governing body representing Manitoba's Métis people and employs over 700 people in 7 regions province wide.
In its 2013 decision the SCC ruled the constitutional promise made in the Manitoba Act, 1870 was not kept by Canada. Our lands were lost through the delay and inaction of the Canadian Government. The Métis children were swindled and their land stolen. As MMF lawyer, Tom Berger, once stated, the Métis children never got their head start as promised. Instead, the Métis were displaced and dispersed throughout and beyond our Homeland.
President Chartrand said at the time of the 2013 Supreme Court Decision, "I am excited to say this decision will have the biggest impact on the Métis People since the Battle of Batoche. This time we won! Our People will always stand up for what is right! We are a Nation with a history and rights that are often ignored. But no longer! Our time has come!"
After this historic win, President Chartrand secured commitments from both the Liberal and NDP parties to support the settlement of this land claim. He even secured a public commitment on video from then Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. This commitment was shown to the Métis Citizens at the 2013 Annual General Assembly.
Also during this Assembly, President Chartrand asked the Métis Citizens what should be done with any settlement from the Land Claim once it has been negotiated. He has remarked on numerous occasions that the unanimous response he received was one of the greatest moments of his life. "To see our Métis Citizens - many who were poor and could easily have said 'I want what's mine' - stand together and say 'I want whatever we win to be placed in trust for our children and their children and future generations' - I could not have felt more pride than I felt at that time" explained President Chartrand. The wisdom of our leaders and our people will ensure our Métis children will finally get the start that was promised over a century ago.
Taking this direction from his people, and seeing them stand united with their Métis Government, President Chartrand pressed on. In 2015 when the writ was dropped for the Federal Election, President Chartrand met face to face with Justin Trudeau to remind him of his commitment to the Métis. Mr. Trudeau again recommitted to settling this land claim in a letter written to President Chartrand. Immediately after winning the 2015 Federal Election, the new Prime Minister - Justin Trudeau - reached out to President Chartrand and began the process that led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday, May 27, 2016.
"The Métis and Canada are negotiating partners in Confederation. The federal government was the other partner – and they left the table," President Chartrand explained during the MOU signing ceremony. Now, with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Advancing Reconciliation (MOU) the federal government is coming back to the negotiating table.
President Chartrand has committed the MMF to pursuing the best opportunities for our people today and for future generations. As per his direction, the MMF is consulting the Métis across the province to inform our next steps, including developing a Framework Agreement with topics to be negotiated.
"Together, we will stand and protect our rights and interests in the negotiations to come," President Chartrand said. "This has been called the unfinished business of Confederation. It is now time for the partners to work together to finish this equitably and honourably."
After years of struggle, President Chartrand and our Métis Government is preparing to negotiate on our behalf the settlement of the collective claim of Manitoba's Métis Community. The MMF is undertaking sessions across the province during the Summer of 2016 to inform our Métis Citizens of our steps in developing a modern day treaty with Canada. Towards this end, we have prepared the following information that will help explain the MOU and assist in taking those next steps:
For more information please feel free to contact the Manitoba Metis Federation at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (204) 586-8474.