President's Message - February 19, 2020

February 19, 2020

I trust you all had a good Louis Riel Day celebration. I hope you tried to take some time, especially in this, the 150th Anniversary of the Provisional Government and Manitoba's entry into Confederation, to reflect on our great leader's sacrifices for the Metis Citizens he so dearly cared about. I can say with confidence, Riel would be so proud of his Nation these days, especially when we look at some very recent developments for our Elders and our Youth.

I want to start with our older population, and our surviving Metis Veterans from World War II. This month, I had the honour of meeting three more brave soldiers as part of the Canada-Métis Nation Métis Veterans Recognition Payment Agreement. The $30-million legacy fund was created to finally honour the country's Metis War Heroes. I was delighted to deliver to each Veteran a cheque for $20,000.

Let me tell you a bit more about these courageous Metis Veterans.

In British Columbia, I met with Raymond Carriere and Ernest "Ted" Letendre. Carriere was 19 when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy at its Chippawa division in Winnipeg, signing up for the Second World War. Letendre was also 19 when he joined "The Loyal Eddies" from Edmonton and was then sent overseas.

Carriere served with Capt. Horatio Nelson Lay, a nephew of Prime Minister Mackenzie King's, who steered the escort carrier HMS Nabob, which was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Barents Sea after only three months at war.

The torpedo hit the ship's library, which Carriere had only just left. No one remaining in the library made it out alive.

Letendre, a stretcher bearer, was part of the invasion of Sicily a week shy of his 21st birthday in 1943, and then on the Italian mainland, he and another stretcher bearer were trapped for three days behind enemy lines along with the wounded man they had been sent to retrieve.

I then travelled to Saskatchewan where I met with Metis Veteran Samuel McKay and his family members. McKay joined the army at age 19 and was eventually given an honourable discharge for health reasons. He did much of his basic training at the Shilo Military Base in Manitoba.

What all three of these men share, besides their Metis Heritage, is being brave enough as kids to volunteer during World War II and be willing to go overseas. They were ready and willing to defend people they did not know and this, on behalf of a country that later didn't treat them right after they served.

While it will never erase the painful memories, I truly believe that the settlement we've achieved today will at least give these veterans some sense of fairness.

And while it's been difficult to determine how many Metis veterans there are, mark my words, I will do everything I possibly can to find them and properly acknowledge their service and sacrifice.

As we give reverence to our past, I am also very excited to look to the future.

This month, we handed out the first bursary cheques to some deserving Metis Students as we continue to unveil our new Post-Secondary Education Support Program.
Each student will receive $5,000 per year for the remainder of their academic careers.

This is a multimillion-dollar initiative used to support Metis students in all years of their post-secondary education.

We have before us an incredible opportunity. Thanks to the Reconciliation efforts of the Government of Canada, we are now in position to develop Metis-specific programming and funding from kindergarten all the way into the college and university years.

We have negotiated a 10-year commitment with the Trudeau Government that is framed by the recognition of rights, respect, and self-determination.

It has not always been like this. As many of you know, it was and still can be difficult for Metis students to navigate traditional education systems and school environments. Our students have faced systemic racism and bullying, and often a marked lack of cultural awareness and relevant courses.

With that in mind, Canada and the Metis Nation have agreed to work together to both financially support Métis post-secondary students and to develop strategies to improve outcomes for our younger Metis Students.

It's fitting that we are making these presentations to both our Veterans and students on the 150th anniversary of the year the Metis Nation joined the Federation of Canada. The Metis Nation has now fully partnered with Canada, governs and sustains itself, and has proven time and time again that we will take care of our Citizens in all stages of their lives.

As we continue to make great strides and achievements, we will also be looking to continue to create new opportunities and to build capacity so we can confidently face and handle the challenges we have before us.

These are exciting times for the Metis. Let us remain vigilant. Let us not allow petty differences and short-sighted gains to cloud our judgement as we work to finally secure the lasting place in Canada that was promised to us and our children so very long ago.

In closing, I offer prayers for those who are shut in, sick, or grieving. May you find strength, peace, and comfort in your relationships with family, friends, and community. As we look forward to the warmer days of spring, may your hearts also be warmed and renewed.

Meeqwetch,

 


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