President's Message - July 10, 2019

July 10, 2019

I have three special wishes for the Manitoba Métis this summer, beyond my daily thoughts and prayers.

First, I hope that you are all able to savour this glorious summer rooted in our Métis traditions of music, dance, food and special gatherings. Second, is that you keep keenly aware that as soon as summer is over, we face a critical battle for our province - and our Métis rights. Because simply put, Manitoba is in chaos.

Look at it this way: Our youth will soon be back in school. Manitoban students rank poorly in Canada. This is terrible news, and an embarrassment for Manitoba. But Métis children specifically rank behind non-Métis children in Manitoba. Our youth are more likely to be deemed not ready for school. This is an outrageous failing on the part of Pallister! Should Métis children have less of a chance at a successful, prosperous future than other children in Canada? We look to the future, and the Métis nation says no. No longer will we be discounted. We will own our Métis destiny.

Why won't this Pallister government look to the future? Over and over they put us all at risk. Health care is a disaster, citizens are homeless. Pallister's reckless cancellation of the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP) clearly targets the Métis, and is likely to cost Manitobans $200 million in damages as we go to court. This is wasted money! Money that could serve Manitobans - who are struggling for basics like safe housing and food on the table.

But food, housing, health care, and public education are not the issues of the wealthy, which sums up who Pallister is, who his friends are, and where his concerns lie. Your Métis Government is here for you, standing up for you with integrity and ensuring that your voice is heard.

My third wish is that every single one of our Métis Citizens goes to the polls this September and votes. We are voting for our families. We are voting for our futures. We are voting for priorities and programs that are vital to us.

Pallister has called an early election date of September 10, 2019 - the single instance of the premier looking to the future - more than a year before the fixed election date! Why is Pallister scrambling? What does he fear Manitobans finding out? The election day is one single day before the scheduled court date for the MMTP. This tells us what we already know - from our Children to our Elders, Pallister has complete disrespect for the claims, rights, and interests of the Manitoba Métis Community.

Our answer to his disrespect: "Métis Votes".

This is your call to show up to the polls. Will you join me to say you care about education, food, housing, health care, fishing rights, and the Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights of the Citizens of the Métis Nation?

Together, our votes will be a thundering voice. Only then will Pallister hear.

We the Métis have fought for decades to have our distinct rights recognized. I offer my best wishes to the Métis organizations of Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan on the recent signing of self-government agreements with the federal government. They have many tasks ahead of them as they create new constitutions, new referendums, and more.

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is in a completely different place; we have won our land claim, and we will be negotiating our agreement as we move forward towards a comprehensive claim and a self-government agreement negotiation. Our legal footing is much stronger, broader, and equal to a modern-day treaty. In 2002, the Métis National Council adopted the following definition of "Métis": "Métis" means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry, and who is accepted by the Métis Nation."

In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the Métis are a rights-bearing Aboriginal people. Its judgment set out the components of a Métis definition for the purpose of claiming Aboriginal rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act.

What this all means is there is only one Métis Nation. Hopefully we'll all agree that we have a definition - one that the MMF adopted over 10 years ago. That's the definition we'll hold, and protect solidly.

And speaking of solidarity, the 14th Annual Indigenous Day in Selkirk was the biggest yet, and I gratefully thank the over one hundred volunteers who managed this huge event! Warm thanks to MMF Ministers Jack Park, Alfred Anderson, Monica Buors, the Mayor of Selkirk Larry Johannson, City of Selkirk Councillor April Hourie, and many, many more supporters. Our presence is strong!

Cabinet Meetings were recently held, and a sash was hung on an empty chair in honour of the late Jean Desrosiers, Minister of Agriculture and French Language. Senior representatives from each region highlighted priorities which included daycare, housing and real estate development.

Our next full meeting will be just before the Ste. Madeleine Days, July 19-21! The lineup is extraordinary. What a gift to celebrate our culture! I personally invite you to come and be a part of this very special weekend.

Another special moment was when I had the honour of attending a 50th wedding anniversary of Lawrence and Georgina Belhumeur in Birtle, Manitoba, on June 29. I want to wish this wonderful couple many more years of love and happiness together.

I offer my thoughts and prayers to those who are shut in, sick or caused to grieve. Let us bond together in the spirit of support. Enjoy this gorgeous summer - while we prepare for the future.



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