President's Message - January 22, 2020

January 22, 2020

We are now well into 2020. The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia is now in full swing. Much of the coming year will be devoted to properly marking this monumental time in Canadian history. However, I also truly hope you had some time to focus on those closest to you during the holiday season.

I too have taken some time to be with my family and loved ones. I've always described myself as a workaholic, and often need to be reminded to take a break.

I'm grateful for the time to recharge, but this January has also been a time to take stock of the year ahead and to acknowledge how critical it is for us to properly celebrate the Father of this Province, the great Louis Riel, and to remind all Manitobans of the personal sacrifices he made to bring Manitoba into Confederation 150 years ago.

We embarked on this mission late last year. I tasked my staff with creating a campaign that stood out and paid proper respect to the Metis contribution to this province.

Today, I am so proud to drive through the city of Winnipeg, or to board a plane at the Richardson International Airport, and see colourful, full- sized billboards welcoming people to the Metis Homeland. I ask you to take the time to think about the significance of this message and the thousands of pairs of eyes that will read it.

As we begin celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Metis Nation bringing our Homeland into Confederation, we continue the critical work of strengthening our resolve to defend the integrity of our Nation and our Citizenship.

But despite those best efforts, there are those who choose to undermine all the work that has brought us to what should be a celebratory year, a year that should be filled not only with celebration, but also with a unified Metis Nation voice.

The Presidents of Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan recently signed a document and issued a press release that undermines the integrity of the Metis Nation. The document they signed was not a Métis National Council resolution. Nor was this document endorsed by the Assemblies of the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan (MN-S) or Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA).

In a statement, they call for more transparency and accountability from the Metis National Council, and that any self-government and rights-related discussions and negotiations must occur between Canada and their Governments, not through the MNC.

Make no mistake, the real issue here is Ontario Citizenship. This is about the failure of Ontario to comply with the Métis National Definition and the failure of MN-S and MNA Presidents to comply with their executive responsibilities. Instead, they have chosen to attack the very definition and identity of the Metis Nation and endangered its integrity and its future. To think that this is taking place in 2020 is both heartbreaking and maddening. Today, after many hard-won battles in the field, in the courts, and in the political forums, these three Presidents are now undermining the strength and democracy of the Nation.

The actions of these three individuals amount to cultural appropriation. To put it into even simpler terms, this is nothing short of Metis identity theft. This group is putting at risk the birthright of generations of our children. They are willing to sacrifice our People's future... and for what, I ask?

During the last several years, the Metis Nation has been very successful in bringing new investments into the Metis Nation for the benefit of present and future generations. Now, the unwillingness of these people to honour the democratic decisions of the Metis Nation is putting at risk all these hard-fought gains.

These developments do not come as a huge surprise. This kind of pressure on the Metis Nation by non-Metis people from Eastern Canada was foreseen by the man whose legacy we are celebrating this year, Louis Riel. He feared that this kind of invasion would lead to the loss of our lands and resources and deny us our rights. There was an invasion after 1870 and another after 1885. Now, with the actions of Ontario, we are confronted by the prospect of a third invasion, made all the more dangerous by the fact that these new invaders, self-styled "Metis" groups, are springing up all over Ontario, Québec, and Atlantic Canada. They have no connection historically, culturally, or politically with the Metis Nation.

Will I stand by as your President and let this happen? Absolutely not. As I mentioned to all of you at the Annual General Assembly back in September, I will not watch the MNO create this dangerous precedent and open the doors to hundreds of thousands of individuals who could attempt to steal Metis Nation citizenship.

With that in mind, be assured we will still move ahead and do everything we can to celebrate Louis Riel and the 150th Anniversary of the Provisional Government in the year ahead.

And while we look forward to a year of celebration, we must never forget our past, nor those who once walked beside us and now watch over us. Our departed grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins will always be dearly remembered in our hearts. It is in their memory that we continue the journey toward our lasting place in Canadian Confederation. I pray and share my heartfelt condolences for all those who have lost loved ones. I also offer my best wishes for those who are sick or shut in.

Meeqwetch,

 


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