President's Message - February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

"During my life, I have aimed at practical results. I have writings, and after my death, I hope that my spirit brings practical results. . . if I have any influence in the new world, it is to help in that way, and even if it takes 200 years to become practical, then after my death, that will bring out practical results."

- Final statement of Louis Riel at his trial in Regina, 1885

February 19 was Louis Riel Day here in Manitoba, the heart of our Homeland. It's known as Family Day in most other provinces and jurisdictions in Canada, with the exception of some of the Atlantic provinces. It was also the first Louis Riel Day following the official acknowledgment of his role in the creation of Manitoba and as its first Premier, and your Red River Métis Government took the opportunity to start educating all Canadians about our historic leader. There were national and local television commercials about his role in the creation of Manitoba, along with many events and activities to celebrate the day, Red River Métis style.

Thinking about Riel's final statement at his trial above, you can see why our Nation followed him during his lifetime and why we still revere him today - he was a highly intelligent man who was able to picture how Canada, the Red River Métis, and Manitoba would evolve with great accuracy. He clearly understood that the battles of the Red River Métis were not done, and that we would have to continue to work together to find our rightful place in Canada's confederation. Riel also seemed to understand that if we kept our faith in our Nation and our culture, we would see justice for our people and for our historic leader, even if we had to wait generations.

Seeing Riel recognized as the first Premier last year was a proud moment for me, coming after nearly 30 years of advocacy.

This Louis Riel Day was the perfect time to continue what we started last year, with the passage of the Louis Riel Act. There has been a photo of Riel in the Legislative Building since Greg Selinger and I worked together to hang it there in 2016. At the time, it used to say "President." As of February 19 of this year, it now says:

First Premier Louis Riel
March 1870-June 1870
(Received Royal Assent in December 2023)
Founder of Manitoba. Proud Red River Métis.

I had goosebumps when Premier Kinew and I unveiled these words on Riel's portrait in front of our Red River Métis Cabinet, as well as many representatives of the Government of Manitoba, including Red River Métis MLAs Bernadette Smith, Renée Cable, Tyler Blashko, Robert Loiselle, and Billie Cross.

I appreciated Premier Kinew's remarks at the time, particularly when he echoed our longstanding urging that Canada recognize Louis Riel as an official Father of Confederation. This emphasizes the fact that the acknowledgement of Louis Riel as the first Premier of Manitoba is just one step along the path to full recognition of his contributions, along with the contributions of our people to the shape of Canada today.

The honouring of Louis Riel through this new language on his portrait was only part of the day. It was equally important to share this day with Citizens and with Riel himself. As everyone knows, I am a man of faith - I know in my heart that Riel was present with us as we travelled to his gravesite to present him with a signed copy of the Louis Riel Act. I know he was touched to see so many people gathered around his grave, to pay tribute to his legacy and his life's work. I know he was proud to see that his Nation is growing and thriving, and that we still govern ourselves through the MMF - the National Government of the Red River Métis.

It was important that Premier Kinew joined me in presenting the Act at Riel's gravesite, so Citizens could express their gratitude and appreciation for his government. It was equally important to have Minister Denise Thomas and my granddaughter Martha Chartrand join us as well. Bringing Minister Thomas with me was important, because she has been an active part of our government for decades and her contributions to our advancement must be acknowledged and celebrated. Including my granddaughter sends a message to our Youth - one day soon, the torch of our Nation will be handed to you, and you will be responsible for the ongoing pursuit of justice for our people, ensuring our Red River Métis Nation is truly respected and included in the fabric of Canada. This will be the task that will be left for you, and as is our way, we want to include you so you never forget and never give up fighting for the Red River Métis.

I know stories will be told about this historic day - much like we now talk about the Convention of 40 in 1870. Perhaps someone who attended Louis Riel's graveside to witness the proceedings will write stories about the day, which will be read and discussed in another 154 years.

I know I am so proud, and so touched to have represented our people and our government on this important day, celebrating what we achieved and recognizing Riel for what he always was. Now we can continue to educate people that Riel was not a rebel, a madman, or a traitor. He was a leader of our people, and through him, the Red River Métis established the values that Manitoba now stands for today - inclusiveness, the welcome of newcomers, diversity, and upholding the rights of all. He was a real leader for all Manitobans, and we are on our way to having all Manitobans understand that truth.

While the events in the heart of our Homeland were important and were picked up by media outlets across Canada and even into the United States as far as Florida, these were not the only events that celebrated Louis Riel Day and the leader the holiday was named for. From Thompson to Selkirk, St. Eustache to Roblin, Powerview to Stony Point, and Victoria Beach to Turtle Mountain, our Locals rolled out the red carpet to Citizens and the broader community. Of course, each and every celebration included music, food, and traditional activities. I am so proud of the efforts of our Local leadership to show our Red River Métis hospitality to all who stopped by.

I would have loved to attend each event and visit with people in each region, but there were so many it simply wasn't possible. I was able to stop by the celebrations put on by Liberty Local in Winnipeg on the Saturday night, and in St. Eustache on the Sunday, and I enjoyed spending time with our Citizens at both events, listening to music, eating good food, and enjoying the dancing and other activities.

However you celebrated, wherever you celebrated - if it was in your own home, or among other Red River Métis at an event - I hope you enjoyed this Louis Riel Day. Your Red River Métis Government will continue to advance our Nation, not only by continuing to advocate for the legacy of Louis Riel, but also by ensuring that our priorities are addressed at all other levels of government. There is no doubt that this Louis Riel Day was special. This year and every year, I encourage all of our local leaders and families to take the time to enjoy the activities on Louis Riel Day. So bring your family out for the festivities and bring all the joy, smiles, and pride you can muster as you support our Locals and appreciate the hard work the volunteers do that makes it so special. I also encourage you all to walk with great pride each and every day, ensuring that the dream and the vision of equality and fairness for our people and respect for our culture and identity are maintained.

Until we meet again, I offer my prayers to all our families, Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.



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