President's Message - February 3, 2021

February 3, 2021

I am proud of all our Citizens who have continued to keep their families and others safe during this pandemic, paid attention to the guidance of your Métis Government and stayed close to home.

Should you require a COVID-19 test, we are encouraging all of Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) Citizens in the Winnipeg area to use the MMF's new COVID testing site, exclusively designated for Métis people. Out of an abundance of caution, I myself recently got a test at the facility. I received my negative test result very quickly. Test results for all Citizens should be available in under 24 hours after the test is administered. I can assure you the process was fast and took place in a facility that is modern and professional.

To get a test done, Citizens must contact the MMF ahead of time, by calling 1-833-390-1041. We will help you make an appointment and tell you where you need to go for the test. We expect to use the data from the testing site to know when our Citizens have been affected, so we can work with their families and provide wraparound services and support. We will be sharing the data with the province to help the province keep better track of the health of Métis Citizens.

We are continuing conversations in our push to get the Manitoba government to invite us to the table for meaningful involvement with the vaccine rollout. We hope to have our appointed members to the Tripartite Prioritization table and the Logistics table soon, hard at work advocating for the Métis people. Participating at both these tables will allow us to connect with medical experts and actively work to change the current vaccine priority list to include Métis Elders and vulnerable Citizens of the Manitoba Métis Community. I will keep you posted on our advancement of that work. Thanks to Minister Chartrand and the health team on these continued discussions.

We are continuing to receive positive feedback from our Citizens on our approach throughout this pandemic, supporting all Métis Citizens from children to our Elders. I am happy to hear reports that our families and our students are doing exceptionally well right now. To keep that going, we are working with Canada to negotiate additional student supports in the next distribution of pandemic response funds. We are hoping to earmark enough support for our students to keep them safe during these difficult times.

Our Métis small businesses are not immune to the economic impacts of this lengthy pandemic. Locally owned businesses are the backbone of our economy, but this is especially the case in our small Métis Villages. We recognize the benefits that strong small and medium businesses have on these small economies and will continue to work with our federal colleagues so that we can continue to advance our work as an economic engine for Manitoba.

We encourage our Métis entrepreneurs to keep in contact with Louis Riel Capital Corporation and the Métis Economic Development Fund. Keeping your Métis Government aware of how your business is doing and telling us how we can meet your unique needs during these stark economic times will allow us to better cater our supports to our entrepreneurs. We also want to assure all Métis ranchers, farmers, fishers and artisans, as well as others who are going through a difficult time trying to support their families - your Métis Government has your back and is ready to continue supporting you through the pandemic.

With a new variant of COVID-19 springing up in western Canada and showing early signs of being more contagious and more deadly, we sincerely hope that all provincial leaders take this new threat seriously and implement strict provincial strategy restrictions. The variant is already starting to spread quickly. All it takes is one case in one of our Villages and it will quickly rampage through the entire community. Prevention through hygiene, social distancing and not traveling or having visitors from out of province are still very necessary.

I recently attended a conference on Anti-Indigenous Racism in Healthcare. I will share more about this later, but I can tell you that the discussion was mostly centered around the experiences of the First Nations, and it is obvious as to why. The First Nations have been working with different Canadian departments for decades and have their own healthcare institutions and programs.

There is a clear lack of Métis-specific healthcare programming federally. We do not have a Métis-specific health program with nursing stations, mental health supports, or a diabetes program. Healthcare is the most prevalent example of how the Métis Nation have been trapped in a jurisdictional entanglement - and our Citizens are the ones falling between the cracks and suffering the consequences.

Not including Métis Nation in the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNHIB) name exposes a historic policy of exclusion and systemic racism within the Canadian government. This policy of blatant discrimination has been in place since 1979, and we are looking forward to seeing it corrected.

It is no surprise that most of the discussion was around challenges and opportunities from new programs that are being developed for First Nations across Canada. But we have some very good news. Making good on a commitment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada and Minister Marc Miller have announced new distinctions-based health care legislation, with negotiations starting in the spring. This has been a long road, but we are eagerly looking forward to working with Canada to develop this distinctions-based healthcare legislation for Métis Citizens.

I also look forward to working with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and negotiating the opportunity to revolutionize the healthcare programs and services offered in our Villages and families. This new legislation may allow us to broaden the bundle of healthcare programs we can offer our Citizens and includes things such as dental, optical, mental wellness resources. We will make sure to have positive negotiations and continue our strategy of protecting our Citizens and finding new ways to improve their wellness.

I am so proud to be working with a leader like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is committed to making real steps toward a distinctions-based approach to healthcare for the Métis people.

We know this approach can work. Even before this legislation was around, your Métis Government here in Manitoba was already ahead of the curve and working hard to build healthcare programs and services for our Citizens.

We've already opened one pharmacy in Winnipeg and our next location in Dauphin is nearing completion. I encourage all Métis people and Manitobans to use our MEDOCare pharmacies for prescriptions. All profits from our MEDOCare pharmacies go back into Métis programs and services, so by supporting our pharmacy, you support the Métis in Manitoba.

The success and continued growth of MEDOCare, along with other programs and services for Citizens will help us transition to a successful partnership with Canada as they work to develop and implement this legislation.

I cannot end this message without again thanking our Local and Regional leadership and staff who have continued to work hard to keep the Métis Nation safe and supported. I would also like to thank the MMF's COVID response team for continuing to look after our Citizens through this pandemic.

I offer my prayers to all of our Citizens, friends and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.

Thank you, the Citizens of our Nation, who believe in your Métis Nation and your Métis Government. Stay safe, look after each other as much as you can from a distance, and be confident we will keep fighting for you.

If there is something you need to keep safe and well during this time, reach out to your government. We have your back.


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