President's Message - July 19, 2023

July 19, 2023

On July 10th, I attended a meeting with members of the Council of the Federation, which included the leaders of provincial and territorial governments. As your President, I take my responsibility to represent your voices and your interests at forums seriously. Last week's meeting was a valuable opportunity to speak directly to every provincial and territorial leader and to continue building relationships with each of them, constantly advocating for all Red River Métis Citizens, no matter where they live.

I provided the Premiers with an update of the Red River Métis Self-Government and Implementation Treaty with Canada. I explained that negotiations with Canada are complete, and that Citizens voted unanimously to ratify our Treaty at the Extraordinary General Assembly in June. It is important that provincial and territorial government leaders understand that our Treaty will correct the historical wrongs committed by the federal government following the neglect of the promises made to us in the Manitoba Act, 1870.

Each member of the Council was interested and receptive to further dialogue. They all listened and asked a range of thoughtful questions, indicating their willingness to work in partnership with us. I thanked Premier Stefanson for her hospitality and engagement and was pleased with the commitment to dialogue from Premiers Eby, Ford, and Moe, as well as Quebec Premier Legault.

I will continue to share our history with the leadership of other levels of government to recognize our rights within our Homeland, particularly as it relates to harvesting. They must understand that we were promised 1.4 million acres of land reserved for the children of Red River Métis families. They need to know that this was further followed with the corrupt Métis scrip system, and the Reign of Terror that forced our people to flee from the Red River Settlement further West in search of peace and stability - which is why our people live across the Homeland and beyond, even today.

Exiled, Red River Métis went on to create new homesteads in areas that later became known as Richer, Ste. Genevieve, St. Ambroise, Ste. Amelie, and Ste. Madeleine, but our people also settled in places like Île-à-la-Crosse and St. Paul Des Métis, just to mention a few. We were farmers, raising cattle, ranching, hunting, or trapping. We built towns, raised families, and found joy in being together, looking after each other, and being independent.

One place where you could see our way of life continuing was the historic town of Ste. Madeleine. As Citizens know, we return to the site of this once thriving Red River Métis village, built during the era of our exile. We gather here every year thanks to the incredible efforts of the Ste. Madeleine Local and the Southwest Region. Their hard work organizing the festivities ensures we have the opportunity to gather and share the memories kept alive in this place. Sharing this time together as a family and celebrating our Red River Métis culture is always wonderful.

However, we must always remember what happened in Ste. Madeleine and commemorate the lives of those who survived the tragedy that took place there during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

During this challenging time of drought and financial uncertainty, the federal government passed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. Ste. Madeleine was selected as an area that would be reclaimed for cattle pasture. While Red River Métis families were away from the town and working for local farmers in the summer of 1938, Ste. Madeleine was burned to the ground. Everything, from the church and Beliveau school, to homes where families with many children lived, was reduced to ash. Dogs were shot and belongings were destroyed. This all happened while the country again asked us to go and fight for people we did not know overseas in World War II. While we were gone, they did this to our families and our homes. It is shameful that we gave our hearts to Canada, but our lives were rejected.

Today, this tragedy remains within living memory. The tragedy of Ste. Madeleine was not a 19th-century random act of aggression but the result of 20th-century government policy. This is one of the many reasons I will always defend the rights of Red River Métis Citizens and insist that our place in Confederation is recognized and respected.

We believe our negotiations with the province of Manitoba will continue to progress quickly and we will have a chance to right the historic wrong of Ste. Madeleine, through the return of the land to our people. Once that happens, we can build a memorial at Ste. Madeleine to remember all the families, so all Red River Métis remember our history, and Canada never forgets what was done to us.

I will always sit at the table and be fully engaged with the leaders we now call our partners across our Homeland for a renewed government-to-government relationship. As Ste. Madeleine and so many other events have demonstrated, our people have suffered too much to waste the opportunity of these meetings for anything else.

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


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