President's Message - June 05, 2024

June 5, 2024

Last week, I was proud to witness the celebration of our entrepreneurial spirit at the first ever Red River Métis Business Excellence Awards. As our Citizens know, we are retaking our place as an economic engine of the West through initiatives within our Red River Métis Government, but also through the innovation, hard work, and drive of our business-minded Citizens. The gala dinner was well attended by Red River Métis business owners, Red River Métis officials from the province, and our own Cabinet, as well as community members, friends, and family who came out to celebrate the award nominees and recipients. Red River Métis pride was clearly on display as we honoured and celebrated the entrepreneurs and business owners of our community.

I congratulate the award winners, who were celebrated warmly for their accomplishments, including tears of joy and pride from many in the audience. Curtis, Kelsey, Andréanne, and Casandra all worked hard to grow their businesses and their accomplishments are worth celebrating along with all nominees across the five categories. I also want to extend my personal congratulations and thanks to Bob Penwarden, who received recognition through the President's Lifetime Achievement Award, for his dedication to the economic advancement of our Nation. Each nominee and recipient were carefully and thoughtfully selected by other members of the business community, and I thank the members of the selection committee for their work to highlight these individuals.

These individuals are representative of our diverse, optimistic, and growing business community. We now have 700 verified Red River Métis owned and operated businesses in our directory. Of these, the majority are in construction, with traditional economies as the next largest category, and other businesses engaged in retail, tourism and hospitality, professional services, and in manufacturing and transportation. Some might be surprised to learn that less than half of our Red River Métis businesses operate out of Winnipeg, but this is proof that we are not only investing in businesses located in the heart of our Homeland, we are also actively supporting businesses where our Citizens live and work, including Beyond Borders.

If you haven't already registered your business, now is the time to register. It doesn't matter if your business is big or small, traditional or modern - being on the registry can lead to opportunities. This includes the potential for engagement in procurement for other levels of government, which can lead to contract opportunities and future business successes.

There is no doubt that we have the most credible FNIM (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) business directory in the country - in part because our Citizen registry is a gold standard, making our Red River Métis business directory equally strong. In short, we know who our people are, and we know who our business owners and entrepreneurs are. The federal and provincial governments need to clear the path for FNIM governments to lead the way in vetting who is eligible for FNIM set asides in their procurement policies. This way, all Canadians can be confident that anyone benefitting from procurement policies that create space for FNIM businesses to succeed actually benefit the intended Nations.

Just as self-identification as First Nations, Inuit or Red River Métis is not enough for individuals and groups, it equally cannot be enough for businesses looking to take advantage of set-asides in the federal government procurement process. The federal business directory must shift to primarily engage with legitimate FNIM governments and rights holders such as MMF and its proud affiliate, the Louis Riel Capital Corporation (LRCC). This, like any process that relies on self-identification, is doomed to fail. Having organizations that do not carefully vet who they promote, or those that have reason to muddy the waters about who qualifies as FNIM and who doesn't, create far too many opportunities for identity fraud, which results in taking away opportunities from legitimate rightsholders. Organizations that use self-identification to steal opportunities from legitimate FNIM rightsholders are shameful, and should not be allowed to profit from this theft. For example, the federal Indigenous Business Directory is deeply flawed in terms of who is included, which has been acknowledged by the Minister responsible for it, Patty Hajdu. Your Red River Métis Government is advocating for direct engagement with recognized FNIM governments, such as the MMF. It is only through these full-scale transformational changes to the federal procurement process that there can be any confidence that the identified businesses belong to the Nations they claim.

Remember, these opportunities are set aside for FNIM businesses because of the historic disadvantages we have experienced. It is because of the injustices perpetrated on our peoples by past Canadian governments. It is because we have been marginalized and are only now beginning to gain strength. As the National Government of the Red River Métis, we know we are best positioned to confirm who our Red River Métis business owners are. Like our business owners, we are ready to work with Canada to ensure contracts are awarded to confirmed Red River Métis businesses.

As Citizens, I encourage you to support our businesses wherever possible, either by purchasing goods from our Red River Métis Marketplace, or sourcing service providers from our business directory. This way, you can be confident that the businesses you work with, or the service providers you engage with, are Red River Métis. Time after time, it has been shown that businesses have greater success when they are supported and frequented by their community. When our businesses succeed, they can employ other Red River Métis Citizens, and share the prosperity. It is a win for all.

We will continue to add to the supports we offer our Red River Métis business owners and entrepreneurs, in addition to equity financing, opportunities through our procurement process, and the establishment of the Red River Métis Business Development Corporation and the Red River Métis Business Association.

To our business community, I want you to know that it was my privilege as your President to celebrate you last week. I look forward to next year's gala and the opportunity to honour you again.

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



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