President's Message - April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

As you may have heard, the federal government tabled its budget. Built by the federal Department of Finance and usually released early in the year, the budget is a blueprint for how the Canadian government sets the annual economic agenda for Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated more than once since he was first elected in 2015 that there is no more important relationship for his government than the one between Canada and its Indigenous peoples.

I have spent decades advocating for recognition of the importance of this relationship, so it's been tremendous to see it take shape as we grow our nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship with Canada. What that means is that we work with the Government of Canada to tell them what supports are needed for our Citizens. Those recommendations are made based on the feedback we hear from Citizens, from leadership in the regions and from the grassroots leaders in the locals, as well as from our Elders, Youth, and our shared knowledge within the Cabinet of the Manitoba Metis Federation.

This process has allowed us to provide support for post-secondary education and the home buyer's and home repair programs, just to name a few. We've also been able to support our Citizens through the challenges of COVID-19 through our hamper program for Elders and families and financial support for entrepreneurs and students who can't work or work fewer hours because of COVID-19 closures.

In the recent budget tabled by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, $18 billion was allocated to Indigenous communities to help close the social and economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

This is great news for the Métis people, as we continue to be recognized by a Canadian government and take our rightful place in Canada's Confederation as one of the three Indigenous peoples. The Métis people are taxpaying citizens of Canada, so it makes sense that our tax dollars would benefit our Nation.

In this budget, we are actually seeing our tax dollars earmarked to go to work for our Nation and our Citizens. Our Métis Nation was referenced nearly 30 times in the budget document overall and featured in a dedicated section (page 270) called Supporting Métis Nation Priorities.

Some of the priorities noted in the Supporting Métis Nation Priorities section include:

  • Access to the $4.3-billion distinctions-based Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund;

  • $2.5 billion over five years to build on the existing distinctions-based approach to Indigenous Early Learning and Childcare - this gives us a chance to catch up to First Nations programming, which has been in place for many years;

  • $598 million over three years to support a distinctions-based mental wellness strategy; and

  • $64 million to help Indigenous entrepreneurs, including Indigenous women, access capital and business supports to start and grow their businesses.

It will take some time to understand what will be provided to the Métis Nation, First Nations, and Inuit peoples separately, and what will be available for us in Manitoba specifically. But there can be no doubt that this is an encouraging budget. I will continue to advocate for our Métis Nation and ensure the allocations for our province are fair and appropriate.

It will allow us to keep working on some of the priorities we've already established, like broadband for our rural and remote villages, investing to end the ongoing cycle of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, reclaiming our Michif language, supporting entrepreneurs, and mental health, along with jobs in the economy for Youth starting their careers.

While there is no direct support in this budget for a distinctions-based healthcare strategy for Métis Nation, your Métis Government will continue to invest in healthcare for our Citizens, by hiring doctors and nurses and finding innovative ways to deliver health programming to our Citizens across Manitoba. We will also continue to work with the federal Liberal government on distinctions-based healthcare legislation for our people.

There is much more to come as we dig deeper into this federal budget, but I'm excited about what we'll be able to do for our Nation in the coming years. We are truly beginning to see the head start we were promised in the 1800s when we created the province of Manitoba. I look forward to sharing more information with you all and hearing about what you need from your Métis Government.

Until we can be together again, I encourage everyone to stay safe at home, and take the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to you, as I did with my recent first dose of AstraZeneca. If you're concerned or have questions, you should definitely talk to your doctor before you get it.

Our Métis Nation has done so well protecting and looking after each other, our Elders, and vulnerable Citizens. But with the COVID-19 variant cases growing quickly, we need to keep up the hard work of staying safe.

I offer my prayers to all our Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.


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