President's Message - August 4, 2021

August 4, 2021

On July 21, I travelled to Edmonton to meet with the Alberta Métis Federation (AMF) and sign a memorandum of understanding, creating a framework that allows for the pursuit of shared goals, including the protection of the historic Métis Nation identity, exercising of section 35 rights outlined in the Constitution Act of 1982 and pursuing legal, cultural, economic, and business opportunities where there are common interests.

This memorandum of understanding is an important document, one that shows a new pathway forward for the many Métis Nation Citizens who have been abandoned by provincial bodies who say they represent their rights and interests, but instead consider themselves clubs. Partnering with the AMF strengthens our joint ability to protect our identity, while recognizing the independence of the AMF's member communities and their right to self-determination.

Today our Nation stands at a crossroad. On one side, there are patriots - Riel's people - who stand ready to defend the Métis Nation, which was born in the Red River and extends into the West. People who believe that respecting our culture and our ways, like listening to the Assembly and the will of Citizens, is of profound importance to how we operate as a Nation. The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and the AMF share this belief and will work together to defend our democracy, our culture, and our practices. We believe this memorandum is only the beginning of a new path forward for those of us who trace our ancestry back to the Red River Métis.

On the other side, there are those who would support the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), who could be referred to as "Powley's people," as they challenge the democratically agreed upon national definition of Métis, by introducing what they call "historic communities" in Ontario. The identified communities in Ontario do not have connections with the Métis Nation that evolved from the Red River Settlement. By their own report, only 22 per cent of the MNO's citizenship are ancestrally connected to Métis communities in Western Canada.

What MNO is accepting in their definition is a combination of three different groups: The "historic communities," the Powley people, and the 22 per cent who can trace their heritage back to the Red River Métis.

The leaders of the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan, the Métis Nation of Alberta, and the Métis Nation British Columbia have thrown their support behind the MNO, in spite of the obvious evidence and risks to our identity, as well as the lack of consultation or support from Citizens.

In their most recent attempts to further their agenda, the MNO brought the Métis National Council (MNC) to a corporate court in Eastern Canada to rule on Métis governance issues. In their arguments, the MNO said that the MNC is just a corporation, with no ability to operate as a government. It also argued that the General Assembly, a traditional and core institution of the Métis Nation and the MNC, does not have authority over its own governance. We know that no one but the Red River Métis can decide who we are and our identity. These eastern people of mixed heritage are not us and they must pursue their rights separately. We will not let their numbers overwhelm us and distort our Nation's identity.

If these membership-based clubs succeed in their bid to change who can be part of our Nation, the MNC will no longer be capable of exclusively representing Citizens who trace their ancestry to the Red River Métis. Instead, it will become a pan-Indigenous organization that would include people with no historic connection to our Nation.

Unlike the other provinces within our Homeland, the MMF has asked for, and received, a clear mandate from its Citizens to protect our national identity and prevent the so-called "historic communities" from diluting our culture and legacy. That mandate includes leaving the MNC if it proves necessary to protect our definition of Métis identity.

Thanks to the agreement we signed with Canada at Upper Fort Garry on July 6, 2021, leaving the MNC will not take away our ability to protect and represent the rights of the Red River Métis. The agreement cements recognition of the MMF as the democratically elected representative for the Métis who trace their ancestry back to the Red River, no matter where they live in the world.

I will say this: we will do what we must and what we have always done in Manitoba. We will be the iron wall that protects our identity and nationhood from the threat of invasion from the East. We will turn our focus to becoming the national voice for those who derive their rights from the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis, ensuring their interests are properly represented. It is no less than what Louis Riel would have expected of us.

As Louis Riel said on January 28, 1870, on the ninth day of the Convention of 40:

"We must seek to preserve the existence of our own people. We must not by our own act allow ourselves to be swamped. If the day comes when that is done, it must be by no act of ours."

We will never give up our rights or our place in Confederation. It is ours. We earned it. We bled for it and we died for it. This is a country we helped build and a province we built as a people, and we will defend it with everything we've got.

Until we can be together again, I encourage everyone to stay safe and follow the public health guidelines. 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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