President's Message - February 5, 2020

February 5, 2020

As I write this, I am coming off one of the most joyful experiences in the history of the Metis Nation. For three incredible days, our culture, language, food, music, and most importantly our story were on full display in our nation's capital.

For the first time in its history, the Winterlude Festival in Ottawa fully partnered with an Indigenous group to showcase its people and culture. This year's Winterlude also marked the beginning of a year of celebrating Manitoba 150, Louis Riel, and the Metis Nation. To that, you need to understand why we chose to kick off our celebrations this year in the nation's capital.

One hundred fifty years ago, Louis Riel led a provisional government from the Northwest to Ottawa and with it, brought Manitoba into Confederation. What began with a list of rights became the Manitoba Act of 1870, and with that, the establishment of Manitoba as the fifth province in Canada.

A little-known fact about that time is that our Leader had a bounty on his head for $5,000, and he was wanted dead or alive. Think about this, as the journey from the Northwest to Ottawa was anything but easy 150 years ago.

Despite those formidable odds, Riel made his way to Ottawa and snuck into parliament to sign the test roll, marking his place in parliament. It verified his seat of Provencher, in which he was elected three times to represent the people of that corner of Canada. That historic document was displayed at our Metis Nation Gala as part of our Winterlude celebrations. That night was not only a celebration by the Metis Nation in honour of Louis Riel, it also embraced the strength and perseverance of our people. I can say with confidence, he would have been proud.

Speaking of that emotion, I was justifiably proud to attend our gala alongside the Most Reverend Bishop Richard Gagnon. I also took the time to attend a special church service at the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral-Basilica in Ottawa. During that service, significant time was devoted to highlighting the accomplishments of Riel.

During this time in Ottawa, your Manitoba Metis Government continued its important work on behalf of our Citizens. One of the most pressing topics was the continued efforts of three provincial bodies seeking to undermine and even threaten the work we have done up to this point in time.

Recently, the presidents of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), Metis Nation - Saskatchewan (MNS), and Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) issued a press release following a "tri-council" meeting of the three governing members. The tri-council presidents signed documents asserting the sole authority of Governing Members, not the Métis National Council (MNC), to conduct self-government negotiations with Canada and to deliver programs and services to Metis Nation citizens.

As National Spokesperson of MNC and as your President, I believe I am in a unique position to address these matters and set the record straight for an honest assessment of where the Metis Nation stands today. You can read in detail my sentiments on the MNC and MMF websites.

To summarize, the real issue is the failure of the MNO to comply with the Metis Nation's citizenship rules, embodied in the National Definition, and the failure of the three presidents to fulfill their fiduciary duties as members of the MNC Board of Governors to enforce the bylaws and resolutions of the General Assembly. The importance of our National Definition and citizenship rules cannot be overstated.

The MMF waged a 32-year court battle to secure the land rights guaranteed by the Manitoba Act, 1870 to the Metis of the Red River Settlement who at that time were the vast majority of the population in the new Province of Manitoba as well as of the Metis population in the entire Northwest. Red River is where the Metis Nation was conceived, where our flag was first unfurled in the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816, and where Riel's Metis Provisional Government was established in 1869 to negotiate our admission into Canada. As successor to Riel's provisional government in Red River, the MMF has the historical duty to ensure that the integrity of our Nation is not compromised. You need to know that I will not allow it to happen under my watch.

Of course, that wasn't the only topic we covered. I want to commend and thank my Cabinet for their continued devotion to bettering the lives our citizens. In particular, I want to commend Education Minister Joan Ledoux and her department staff for continuing to develop our newly announced $500,000 Post-Secondary Education Support Program. I have been advised that more than one thousand Metis students have applied to this initiative.

Special mention also goes out our Housing Department and Minister Will Goodon. In the next few weeks they will be announcing details of a new home repair program. I am very proud of this initiative as it will greatly enhance the housing services we already have in place.

With that, I want to circle back to Ottawa and thank Heritage Canada for giving us the opportunity, finally, to tell our story to a national audience, from a Metis perspective. I encourage all of you to take the time to see the photos and stories from this festival, not only in this issue of Le Metis, but on our social media channels as well.

In closing, I offer my best wishes and prayers for peace to those who are sick, shut in, or in failing health. My deepest sympathies are with all of you who are coping with grief or a recent loss. May you find comfort, strength, and help through your community and your family and friends. I wish you all the best.

Meeqwetch.

 


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