President's Message - April 14, 2022

April 14, 2022

Like all Indigenous people in Canada, particularly those of us who experienced harm at the hands of individuals who hid their wrongdoings behind the Catholic Church, I was relieved to hear Pope Francis deliver a heartfelt apology, which included the statement: "I ask for God's forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon. Clearly, the content of the faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to the faith itself: Jesus taught us to welcome, love, serve and not judge; it is a frightening thing when, precisely in the name of the faith, counter-witness is rendered to the Gospel."

I know many Red River Métis have been waiting for this apology for many years. I hope it will help begin the healing process and unite us on this journey of reconciliation, revitalization, and renewal.

As part of our journey toward a renewed relationship with the Catholic Church, your Métis Government is hard at work preparing for our upcoming pilgrimage to Rome to meet with the Holy Father on April 21. The delegates attending this meeting on behalf of all Red River Métis have the honour of being the first Indigenous Canadians to meet with the Holy Father since he delivered his apology to us all, for the harms done by the Catholic Church.

Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is a celebration of life. There can be no more fitting time for us to deliver our message to His Holy Father about revitalizing our longstanding and historic relationship with the Catholic Church.

We have had to overcome many obstacles, including waves of COVID-19, in order for this meeting to take place. There is a saying that God works in mysterious ways, and perhaps this is why our meeting is happening so quickly after his apology and at a time of year that is linked so deeply to rebirth and renewal.

I want to share with Citizens that one of the things I will be focusing on during our meeting with His Holiness is making a strong case for him to come to the heart of our Homeland, in what is now Winnipeg, to bless the grave of our great leader, Louis Riel.

As our Citizens know, Riel was not a man of arms. Instead, he believed in the power of negotiation and discussion. When he went into battle, he did not carry a gun. He carried a crucifix.

Yet, he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to hang. Even in the face of that injustice, he forgave all those who spoke against him. He gave his fate to God and wrote about his trust that God would be his comfort and his salvation.

I know Louis Riel is in a better place now, smiling down upon us. As a leader, I have an honour and privilege that he could have never dreamed of - to share my heart with the Holy Father. I know Riel would have cherished this opportunity and I hope that we do well by him and his vision.

The presence of the Holy Father in our Homeland, and a blessing delivered at his gravesite in St. Boniface, would be powerful signs of a return to our alliance and partnership. It would show deep understanding of our intertwined history with the Catholic Church, a relationship that was fundamental to the shaping of our country.

Should this be possible, I can assure all Citizens that we will work diligently with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as our Manitoba-based Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon and Archbishop of St. Boniface Albert LeGatt, toward the goal of receiving His Holiness in our Homeland and giving this important event the respect and ceremony it is due.

With this historic meeting, we hope to expand on our dialogue with the Catholic Church and continue our journey forward together for the betterment of our people. As a People, we are asking for nothing more from the Holy Father.

I also look forward to sharing insights and experiences with you all when we return from our pilgrimage, so you can feel what our delegates are feeling - that this is a new era for our long-standing relationship with the Catholic Church, informed by reconciliation, renewal, and hope for a positive journey forward.

If we've learned anything from COVID-19, it's the benefits and value of digital participation in our events. For our upcoming pilgrimage to Rome, we will make good use of the communication tools available. Along with formal communications like press releases and letters to Citizens, I encourage you to keep listening to my weekly report on NCI for Métis Hour x2, and keep an eye on our social media for videos, pictures, and posts about our visit with His Holiness, along with our other stops at shrines, sacred sites, and historical locations.



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