President's Message - August 04, 2022

August 4, 2022

There are moments in time where we, as Louis Riel's "little Métis Nation," have the opportunity to reflect on our past, including the many successes we've achieved over recent decades. It is a fact that we are no longer Canada's forgotten people, thanks to the dedication of many of our Elders and knowledge keepers, who have dedicated their lives to keeping the flame of our Nation's patriotism alive, never giving up on the day that we would find our rightful place in Canada's confederation.

While it's a cultural cornerstone that our Elders and seniors are treated with deep respect and cared for by all, particularly our Nation's Youth, the respect is given not just because they are older. The respect is due to them because they have earned it by their life's work, ensuring that Youth have something to inherit - a cultural legacy, a storytelling tradition, and a deep-seated sense of who they are.

The traditional ways we show our respect to our Elders were on full display during our journey to Maskwacis to hear the Holy Father's apology in our Homeland. Over 100 Elders, survivors, and knowledge keepers from across all regions embarked on a cross-prairie bus trip, and they were fully supported by Youth and staff from the moment the trip started to the moment we arrived back home.

There is something special about the relationships that form when our community travels together. There is sharing and humour, music and games, along with moments of connection that strengthen our ties. Those who are privileged enough to travel with the Elders take away new wisdom, new relationships, and a new sense of where they fit in this world.

Along with the formal events of the encounter with Pope Francis, there were other, more impromptu moments that contributed to affirming our community's closeness. There was a spontaneous night of music and jigging in our Red Deer hotel, led by the Elders and our very talented musical Citizens, and fully enjoyed by the Youth. I had many members of the delegation approach me and tell me how much joy the event brought them, and many Elders were already talking about how to plan for another event like it back home.

Even the staff of the facility who were serving Elders at our musical night told members of our staff and Youth that they could never have pictured seeing a spontaneous event like that, with so much talent on display and so much joy across generations. It made me so proud of our Nation and our community to know that wherever we went, we left a lasting impression.

Another spontaneous moment was attending mass on the Sunday prior to our encounter with His Holiness. I know the delegation was deeply grateful for the warm welcome we received from the parishioners of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Red Deer, led by Father Miraek Kostarzewski. The church building was designed by an Indigenous architect named Douglas Cardinal, and its beauty, curving walls, and peaceful design were a comforting backdrop for our Elders as we participated in the important ceremony. We were also blessed to have the support of Father Nepolian, who accompanied our delegation, to bring comfort, offer prayers, or take the lead in reciting the rosary.

When we met with His Holiness in Rome in April, we knew that it might be difficult for him to make a trip to Winnipeg to visit Louis Riel's gravesite and pay tribute to the deep faith that had our great leader carry a cross into battle, instead of a gun. We also told Pope Francis at that time, that if he could not come to us, we would come to him.

I was so proud of the significant presence of our delegation in Alberta, and deeply appreciative of the opportunity to gather with so many other members of the Indigenous community during this historic event. I know you would have been equally proud to see the way your Red River Métis delegation represented our Nation at Maskwacis.

We were a significant presence in the inner circle, proudly wearing our MMF sashes, standing united, helping each other and wiping away each other's tears as we listened to His Holiness deliver his impactful apology.

Many members of our delegation were touched when Pope Francis acknowledged Winnipeg in his remarks at Maskwacis, which told us that he still kept us in his heart, in spite of his health challenges.

I personally carried a statue of Louis Riel to this encounter with His Holiness, so that our great leader might still have a symbolic role during this historic apology, and so that the statue might be blessed by the Holy Father.

I also know that many Red River Métis Citizens felt as our delegation did, that the Pope's decision to travel to our Homeland to deliver this apology, in spite of his health challenges, was an important step toward healing. Minister Andrew Carrier, a day school survivor and the MMF's Minister for Residential and Day School survivors, told his truths to Pope Francis in Rome, and was also part of the delegation to Maskwacis. I have watched over the last months as he has made great strides in his own healing journey, and I know that the Holy Father's demonstration of penitence was important to him, as it was for all the survivors who journeyed with us.

While there are many who will need more time and healing before they accept this apology, it is clear that many of our Red River Métis Citizens have embraced the Holy Father's sincere words and heartfelt messages. I know that those who were at the event will carry their experiences back to their communities and share the feelings that the encounter left in their hearts.

I was also honoured to be able to attend an event with His Holiness in Quebec City, at the Governor General's residence at the Citadelle of Quebec on Wednesday, July 27, accompanied by Minister Carrier. There, we were able to hear the words of His Holiness and participate in this part of his journey to our country, which was followed by his last event in Canada, in Iqaluit.

This was truly a historic moment in our Nation's history, and it is one that will long be remembered. But it is just the beginning.

Because of the deep respect we hold for our Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and survivors, your Métis Government will always pay close attention to their concerns, including their worries over the shrinking presence of the Catholic Church in our communities. It is our duty and our privilege to hear their guidance, and our obligation to find ways to put their words and wishes into action. That is why we remain committed to supporting their wish to strengthen the relationship with the Catholic Church. We will continue to walk side by side with the Church, as we always have in our Nation's past. I look forward to continuing dialogue with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as we move forward on our journey of hope from reconciliation to renewal. We will also need to work together to keep the hope and the religious beliefs we carry alive in our families and in our communities.

Until we can be together again, I offer my prayers to all our Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.

Meeqwetch,

 


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