President's Message - February 17, 2021

February 17, 2021

The Métis Nation know that one of the most cherished teachings of our culture is the importance of democracy. From our ancestors, who elected Captains of the Hunt in the early buffalo hunting expeditions, to the creation of Manitoba as a province in 1870, we have practiced democracy for over two centuries. The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) has always worked to ensure that our actions are democratic and represent the will of the people.

That is why I, and so many others, have been deeply troubled by what is happening with Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC). It is discouraging to see a coup taking place against MNBC's President, Clara Morin Dal Col, who was just re-elected four months ago, by a large margin.

The behaviour of Ms. Lissa Smith and their Board of Directors does not reflect the Métis Nation's traditions or values. The MMF condemns the actions of the individuals staging this coup and does not recognize Ms. Smith as the MNBC President.

The root of this problem goes beyond the importance of democracy to something even more fundamental to the Métis people - our identity. It is becoming very clear that what's happening at MNBC is an attempt to silence President Morin Dal Col and her principled stand on preserving the Métis Nation's identity.

On the other side of the story are Ms. Smith and the Board of Directors. They don't seem to realize the implications of ousting a president who ran on a campaign to protect Métis Nation identity and was supported by Métis Nation citizens of B.C.

How can these individuals say they want Métis Nation Ontario (MNO) back to the national table, with full rights? They know the MNO will bring with them people who are trying to steal our identity - people of mixed heritage, who are not our Citizens or our kin, with no connection to the Métis Nation.

To be clear, this distorts the very definition of what it is to be Métis. It creates an issue of race out of a matter of culture. In our landmark Supreme Court Case it says plainly that the Métis Nation is a distinct Community. We know there is no blood quantum involved in defining who is Métis. It is not on the concept of race that Métis Nation stands - what unites us is our heritage, our culture, our common purpose and our shared feeling of responsibility to right the wrongs done to our ancestors.

Our stance is not seeing these people of mixed heritage as lesser, or not equal to us. If they feel their claim is legitimate, they should pursue their own section 35 rights, because the fact is they are not us. Quite simply, we are preserving our Nation here in the West because this is where we were born. We have no other home.

Perhaps they realize how much they put at risk in their drive to take our rights - the ones we have fought hard for over two hundred years to obtain. Perhaps they're looking to align themselves with the Métis Nation due to the potential economic benefits, or as an avenue to political power. Or perhaps they are simply seeking a sense of belonging - and in doing so, appropriating our identity. Whatever their plight, they are not Métis Nation. We defend against them because we are preserving our Nation and our Homeland for ourselves and future generations.

We Métis people are a minority of the population in the Prairies. Canadians from across the country with mixed heritage may number in the millions. Given these odds, it wouldn't take long for Louis Riel's people to be overtaken and swallowed up in a larger pan-Aboriginal entity.

Take the example of one of the "new Métis communities", in a suburb just outside of the metropolis of Toronto, called Simcoe. The President of the club for this new "historic" Métis group says there are currently 4,000 members but estimates there could be up to 40,000 people who share his misconception of Métis heritage. The invasion from the East - much like the one that drove us from our homes and our lands in the 1800s - is here.

Can these people looking to claim Métis identity also claim the history of Louis Riel's people? Can they own the suffering and the persecution of the reign of terror and the ensuing violence and condemnation? Can they walk the land and know that they are in a place where the soil is stained by the blood and sacrifices of their ancestors' battles?

Everything we know, everything we stand for and believe in, the things our ancestors paid the price for, could be taken from us. This is precisely what was hoped for by John A. Macdonald when he wrote that the Metis "[...] will be altogether swamped by the influx of strangers who will go in with the idea of becoming industrious and peaceable settlers."

It is important for all Métis people, especially our youth, to understand why we are so vocal about protecting our Nation. We are on the verge of finding our place in confederation after over two hundred years of struggle for recognition. We are evolving to offer our children the rights and benefits we and their ancestors fought for. Whether it's economic advancements, programs for Elders, small business support or bursaries and scholarships for education, we have worked hard and paid the price for our Nation's growing prosperity.

Now is not time to be seeking answers for Eastern Canadians, when our people have not yet achieved equality in society. Let them determine their own history. We have a responsibility to protect our children's history and future.

The MMF will continue do everything in our power to make sure that our identity and democratic processes are defended across the Métis Nation Homeland, including giving our full support to President Clara Morin Dal Col and all those standing to protect and defend the Nation against the invasion from the East.

I thank our Local and Regional leadership and staff, who continue to stand united and ready to protect our families, our children, our communities and our Nation from whatever threats may face us.

As we stand together, we must remember the words of our founding father on the 9th day of the Convention of 40 in 1870:

"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." -Louis Riel

Thank you, the Citizens of our Nation, who believe in your Métis Nation. We will always protect our Homeland and honour and protect the legacy of Louis Riel.


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