President's Message - April 15, 2020

April 15, 2020

On behalf of Cabinet and all the staff of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), it is our sincerest wish that you had an enjoyable Easter weekend spending quality time with your family in your home. We trust that you all practiced physical distancing and will continue to protect yourselves and your family by staying in your homes as we take the necessary steps to both wait out and defeat this COVID-19 pandemic. While difficult, self-isolation is the key to help us beat this virus. We need to take this threat to our safety and well-being seriously.

As you may already know, we have been working on a province-wide Health Action Plan to ensure we get our services out to our Citizens. Although your Metis Government is partially closed - and we do have people working from home and behind closed doors to maintain social distancing practices - it is our responsibility as the MMF Cabinet and staff to continue to serve our Citizens. The MMF has been maintaining critical services, and I want to thank the Minister of Finance and Human Resources, Anita Campbell, and the Minister of Health & Early Learning Child Care, Frances Chartrand, for leading the charge on this action plan.

Active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba are rising, and we are now seeing evidence of community spread. This means that it is not only people who have travelled internationally who have this virus. We have not heard of any Metis Citizens who have contracted the virus, but we are preparing for when it does hit our Metis towns and villages.

Our action plan has a communications component to keep our Citizens informed. Our website at www.mmf.mb.ca is being updated daily with national, provincial, and MMF news about our fight against COVID-19.

Our website is a trusted source and we are pleased to accommodate the growth of users we are experiencing as a result of our new daily update videos. Our Information Technology department has expanded our platform to accommodate the technical increase and demands that our site is experiencing.

With that I am pleased to share that the Louis Riel Institute (LRI) is exploring new videos for families that will be posted on our website. Ideas include: Metis storytime, early years book activities, home science experiments, music and dance lessons, Michif word/phrase of the day, and puppetry. It is our hope that these videos will help with the challenges some families are facing at home.

Some people at home are experiencing stress. Many have been laid off due to the virus, and they're trying to figure out how to pay their bills or keep their businesses open. We have a plan for them. According to the Federal Government, more than one million Canadians lost their jobs in the month of March. These are heartbreaking numbers. If you've been affected by COVID-19, please don't hesitate to contact your Metis Government.

We have already committed to helping out Metis employees who have been laid off due to COVID-19, and Metis entrepreneurs who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat. We're giving families between $750 and $1,000 to help pay essential bills. The Louis Riel Capital Corporation is providing Metis entrepreneurs negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with contributions between $1,000 and $10,000 and deferring loan payments for up to six months for existing clients.

MMF continues to deliver hundreds of hampers to our Elders and other vulnerable individuals. We cherish our Elders and do not want them going outside, so we're dedicated to giving them the resources they need to stay in the safety of their homes. After hearing of the effects that COVID-19 has on the elderly community, we made this program a top priority since day one. Between 50 and 150 hampers are continuing to be being delivered each day.

As an update to the meetings with the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres, the MMF has committed to distributing up to $500,000 to support the 11 Friendship Centres across Manitoba. We commend these Centres for what they have been doing and will continue to meet with them to support their COVID-19 emergency responses.

Some people are reverting to harvesting to stock their freezers with food. We all know people at this time of year start to prepare for the spring hunt for geese and ducks. Make sure you have your Metis Harvester card with you. We have extended the expiry date of your Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) stickers until June 1, 2020. On June 1, big game tags and CTF stickers will be available. Those who still have their bear tag from 2019-20 can use this until June 1, 2020. This may change depending on the COVID-19 situation, but we will be sure to keep you up to date.

I am very proud of the Provincial Youth Advisory Committee as they are also helping each other in this time of crisis. They are working on videos and have already posted one; we all look forward to their continued initiatives. We want to make sure that students don't get left behind. The MMF has committed to giving nearly $1.7 million to Metis students, many of whom are at home because schools have shut down.

LRI is also in discussions with post-secondary institutions to create a plan with the unexpended education dollars as a result of COVID-19. The MMF has your back.

At the beginning of this month, the MMF hosted the first-ever edition of The Beat Goes On, a livestream featuring Metis music for everyone to enjoy from their living rooms. We received a lot of positive feedback from viewers and have decided to make this an ongoing program, expanding to two days a week. Please visit our website at www.mmf.mb.ca or the MMF Facebook page on Thursdays at 7 pm and Saturdays at 2 pm. If you are unable to watch the livestream, the videos will be online for you to view at your convenience. This is a way for you and your loved ones to connect and celebrate Metis culture in a responsible way during these times of social distancing.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those families that are suffering the loss of loved ones now, but especially during COVID-19. We know this makes the grieving process that much harder with physical distancing and the hardships now faced with limited direct family supports.

My heart is with everyone in isolation in their homes. Though we must stay six feet apart, we will all stand together. The Metis Nation is strong when united and we will emerge from this stronger than before.

 


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