President's Message - December 16, 2020

December 16, 2020

It is hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. The year 2020 has truly been unprecedented, filled with twists and turns, ups and downs.

We have had uncharacteristically warm weather so far this year, but the lack of snowfall in the south and warm weather is not the only way that Christmas is looking different in 2020. This year we are being told to not gather and stay home to help flatten the curve as COVID-19's second wave has hit Canada with full force. We support these measures and are encouraging all Métis Citizens, and all Manitobans, to remain home through this Christmas season.

It will be difficult for many, but it is necessary that we all do our part to keep ourselves and those we interact with safe. Though Christmas will certainly look different this year, it is important to remember that no one can steal this joyous occasion from us and that "different" does not always mean "bad". Instead of our customary gatherings, traditions, and events, this year we will all have to be creative and rethink the way we celebrate Christmas.

We need to remain connected to one another, though we may be physically apart. For some, this may mean calling your relatives on Christmas Eve instead of going for a dinner, or it may mean setting up a video call with your loved ones while opening presents on Christmas morning.

For nearly 20 years the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) has supported the Christmas Cheer Board's efforts with cash donations and additional volunteers. This year, we increased our donation to $50,000 to support providing vouchers to local families in need. All children deserve to open presents on Christmas.

I would also like to thank our Regional Administrators, the MMF's COVID response team, and Metis Child and Family Services for delivering hampers and spreading the Christmas joy to our Métis families and Elders. All children deserve to open presents on Christmas.

This is another example of how we cannot allow the pandemic to take away our Christmas spirit. I encourage all who are able to consider donating money to local causes that will support those in need this Christmas season. Due to the pandemic, not only are their access to resources low, but their demands will be higher than ever. We can all do our part to make sure Christmas can be celebrated across the province.

In recent years the MMF has been making incredible strides forward for the political, economic, social, and legal interest of the Manitoba Métis Community. This past year we witnessed a number of historic steps forward for our Nation.

This year was the 150th anniversary of Manitoba, the province which, led by the Métis Nation, joined Canada in Confederation. The year 2020 was a year for celebration, remembering, and learning about where we came from so that we can know where we are going.

One hundred fifty years ago, the Métis, led by Louis Riel, negotiated Manitoba's entry into Confederation. We are the only Indigenous people who created a province and we should be proud of this accomplishment. At that time, Riel and his negotiating team risked so much to ensure that Canada could not enter into our Ancestral land without first negotiating with us and meeting our requirements.

Of course, we know that not all of these agreed-upon terms of Canada's entry were met in good faith. Our People were denied the promised economic head start. Fast forward to today where we are still trying to make up for this setback that Canada caused our Nation. It is with our Forefathers in mind that we continue forward, fighting to keep our Nation woven together and defending our Identity from those who fraudulently claim to be Métis and who abuse the inherent rights that our Nation so rightly deserves.

As I noted earlier, it is important that we remember this history as we continue to move the Métis Nation's agenda forward. This year, we returned home and purchased the building at the corner of Portage and Main, previously occupied by the Bank of Montreal. This temple-like structure is the final reminder of what was formerly "Bankers' Row". We are working toward putting the long-awaited Métis Nation Heritage Centre in this historic building.

The Métis Nation Heritage Centre will house a one-of-a-kind way of connecting with our culture and heritage in a modern and contemporary way. We look forward to giving our Métis Nation Citizens a place they can proudly visit to learn about their history.

Of course, none of these accomplishments would be possible without our Métis Veterans and spouses who gave so much for us to enjoy the freedoms we do today. Late last year, Prime Minister Trudeau's government issued a formal apology to our World War II veterans who returned home and were denied services by Canada. Before COVID, I travelled across Canada issuing cheques and meeting with these Veterans. Though these meetings had to end once COVID struck our country, I look forward to continuing to issue these cheques and meeting face to face with these inspirational individuals that paid the ultimate sacrifice for what we can be grateful for today.

Finally, I would like to thank all of our Citizens for making 2020 a historic year. Our MMF Citizens stayed engaged and up to date with all of your Métis Government's accomplishments this year - which is proven by the record number of visits to our website this past year. And I would especially like to thank all our Métis Citizens who remain engaged with their culture and those who are making that extra effort to learn about their roots.

Though we were unable to celebrate this landmark year in spectacular fashion as planned, we are looking forward to coming together to give this occasion the celebration it deserves, and we at your Métis Government look forward to what 2021 has in store for us all as Manitobans and Canadians.

I will continue to keep those affected by COVID and all those who lost loved ones throughout the holiday season in my prayers and thoughts. Remember, take time to appreciate your loved ones. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Thank you to our Cabinet for their hard work and continued drive to help all of our Citizens. Some examples include the successful housing projects for seniors that are being planned and built throughout our province, with another seven years of building, or our successful First Time Home Purchase Program that has assisted over 500 families with buying new homes. We have never seen such progress in the history of our Nation. Additionally, we have also assisted over 400 home repairs during the first phase of the program.

We have also started construction and renovations on several properties that will be future homes of childcare centres, with many more planned in the coming years. This year we also awarded a $5,000 bursary to all eligible Métis post-secondary students to help hundreds of students increase their level of education and achieve their dreams. We are also assisting nearly 1,000 students attending colleges and universities with $1,500 each for support during the code red restrictions facing our province.

There is so much more to be thankful for. I thank our Local and Regional leadership and definitely all the staff that made it happen. And I would also like to especially thank you, the Citizens of our Nation, who believe in your Métis Nation and your Métis Government.

From your Métis Government, we would like to wish all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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