President's Message - February 16, 2023

February 15, 2023

"When the Government of Canada presented itself at our doors it found us at peace. It found that the Métis people of the North-West could not only live well without it . . . but that it had a government of its own, free, peaceful, well-functioning, contributing to the work of civilization . . . It was a government with an organized constitution, whose jurisdiction was all the more legitimate and worthy of respect, because it was exercised over a country that belonged to it."

- Louis Riel, Memoirs

In 1870, our Ancestors were an undeniably self-governed people, who invested in and abided by our own laws.

Together, our Ancestors worked in collaboration and stood together to ensure our people and our territory - the historic Northwest - would be preserved and protected. We stood our ground when Canada attempted to take our Homeland without consultation and consent. Our dedication to our people and our lands resulted in the new province of Manitoba.

Now, all these years later, we can reflect back on the results of Canada's failure to respect our ways in the Northwest. Borders were established without respect for the territories of the First Nations and the Red River Métis. With these borders Canada proceeded to divide our families and to take ownership of our lands, without any concern for the impact on us. This same attitude is clearly still in effect today, with governments and bureaucrats trying to scare our people away from our traditional harvesting practices.

Even though our Homeland never belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company, it still sold the Northwest to Canada for £300,000. Following that transaction, Canada sent military from Ontario (then known as Upper Canada) to "quell the uprising".

But, we were never an uprising. We were a people and a Nation, with a shared purpose to protect the land we belonged to and keep our families safe from the hatred and racism that poured into our Homeland from the east.

Before he was killed for his defense of our rights, Louis Riel already knew that the treaty that was The Manitoba Act was not being honoured by Canada:

"The Government had not properly fulfilled its obligations in the treaty with the Manitoba Métis. The Government neither protected them nor gave them justice".

- Louis Riel, Memoirs

In fact, the complete disregard for the Métis is precisely what was hoped for by John A. Macdonald, then Prime Minister of Canada. He wrote that the Métis "[...] will be altogether swamped by the influx of strangers who will go in with the idea of becoming industrious and peaceable settlers."

And still, we did not give up. The political and legal battles we have undertaken over the years clearly showed that what was done to us was wrong and justice was needed. They show that the federal and provincial governments failed to uphold our rights. Our prosperity was stolen. The future promised to our children was stolen, as was the territory where our Nation was born.

It took three decades to see justice prevail in May of 2013, when the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the country's failure to live up to its end of the treaty. Canada stole the prosperity that we once owned. Canada forced us into the working poor in the country we helped create. This is the same condition where many of our families - far too many - remain today.

In 2016, the Daniels decision should have ensured that we were protected and made clear that the federal government had a fiduciary responsibility to the Red River Métis. No longer could any government be in denial. No government could pretend that it did not know this responsibility existed. But I am still fighting for that recognition and inclusion.

Still, these victories represented change - change for the betterment of our Nation. Now, we are in a new era for the Red River Métis, due in large part to the 2021 signing of our Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement with Canada. This important document upholds our right to self-government, which we never gave up.

In spite of the many hardships we've faced, we never gave up on our vision for our Homeland - the whole of the Northwest. Our rights were denied in 1870, but today, we are growing stronger and asserting ourselves. We are opening the provincial borders and have removed the boundaries that were placed upon us by provincial governments that locked us from our Northwest homeland and limited our rights and freedoms . We are embracing our Citizens beyond borders and welcoming Red River Métis home.

We are, as we have always been, a self-governed people. The MMF is the National Government of the Red River Métis. Under my leadership, we will strongly defend and protect our people, no matter where our Citizens live in the world.

Through it all, we never gave up. Your words and direction are my guiding light. Our Cabinet have continued to fight for what's right and what's just, so the next generation can have a better future. We are working toward gaining jurisdiction for our kids in care, new healthcare legislation, and economic transfers to create opportunities. This time of change also includes our Red River
Métis Self-Government Treaty, this is the second chapter of a story that began with the Manitoba Act, our peoples' first treaty in 1870.

As we grow and gain strength, many things will change for our Nation. These things must change, in order for us to restore what was taken from us, and for us to find our rightful place in Canada's confederation.

I know many great historic leaders and Métis Champions of the past smile down on us with pride, seeing that we never gave up on our dreams. It's only fitting that we have renewed our negotiations with Canada to renew promises of 1870.

Until we meet again, 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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