President's Message - March 16, 2023

March 15, 2023

March 8, 2023, marked the 10-year anniversary of our historic Supreme Court of Canada victory, MMF (Manitoba Métis Federation) v Canada. As some of our Citizens and former leaders will remember, the MMF land claim case began in 1981, with the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. What followed was a 32-year journey toward victory, which we finally achieved on March 8 of 2013.

The decision recognized "the unfinished business of reconciliation of the Métis people with Canadian sovereignty is a matter of national and constitutional import." It further recognized that the mistreatment of the Métis and the theft of 1.4 million acres promised to the Nation's children engaged the honour of the Crown.

As many of you know, settling our land claim was a priority for me from the time I first took office as President in 1997. At the time, the case was completely inactive. It took tremendous commitment by many people to revive it. In fact, there was a group of patriots who were dedicated to making it happen, regardless of the effort and personal sacrifice needed. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to my late brother, Elbert Chartrand, who was the finance minister for the MMF at the time we launched the land claim case. He was a tireless fighter for our Nation, whose bold actions, wise counsel, and determination were an inspiration to many people, including me.

Our land claim was a landmark case in the history of our Nation. It forever changed the face of our relationship with Canada and proved that our long journey toward justice was worth every sacrifice and effort. The words I spoke that day came from my heart: "We've been vindicated. Our history has been vindicated. Riel has been vindicated. This country's history has been put on trial, and justice has prevailed. It is a victory. It is our time!"

There's no doubt that many of our recent advancements could not have happened without the land claim victory and the support of Citizens to get us there. Together, we are finally realizing the hopes and aspirations of our Citizens and forever changing the history of our people.

In our land claim victory, as in all matters, the National Government of the Red River Métis is the servant of the Citizens. It is your guidance and your will that has led us to every success we've had today. You have always told us that settling our land claim is critical to righting the wrongs done to our people when Manitoba joined Canada's confederation. You also told us that any settlement we achieved must be put back into programs and services, creating a long-term legacy, as was intended by our Ancestors. We expect that negotiations for the land claim settlement will be completed during this term, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first committed to in 2015.

I am proud of the work we have done together, advancing our Nation and securing the future, and I'm proud to be the leader you chose to see this through on behalf of our Nation. It took 25 years of my life to get here, but I know every effort made by all leaders was worth it.

Of course, we still have more work to do to finally secure our place in Canada's confederation. However, I know that with each victory, we've gained confidence in our next step, always working together, united in our shared purpose and our sense of kinship.

To our grassroots leaders - our Local executives - you may not always realize how important your work is. You may not see how much of a difference you have made in your Métis Government's strength and ability to tackle large issues like our land claim and our modern-day treaty. You may not realize it, but your President does. Your Cabinet does. Your determination, your presence as a focus point for community to gather around and your persistence in keeping our Citizens engaged - this has made all the difference. You have kept the flame of our nationhood alive, which has guided your Cabinet to follow your will on matters of national import. I hope you can see as clearly as I do that our success is a direct result of your time, your energy, and your confidence in your Red River Métis Government.

Again, to our Local leaders, I say thank you from your President and Cabinet.

There is also no doubt that our Cabinet today stands on the shoulders of all the leaders who came before us, just as we will be the shoulders for our Youth - our future leaders - to stand on.

To our Youth, know that your Cabinet is always working toward the future. You are the inheritors of the legacy we are building. The prosperity our Nation pursued for our children through the land negotiated by our Ancestors into the Manitoba Act will be your inheritance, along with so many other achievements. I know you're as invested as your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in protecting our rights, our culture, and our Red River Métis identity for the generations behind you.

What was robbed from our Nation at the formation of Manitoba will come back to you and your children, and all those in our Nation who are still struggling to recover from the intergenerational legacy of harm and poverty that was left to us.

Many of your Cabinet representatives, including me, are not building this future for us. We know that our time to fight and advocate for our Nation will one day come to rest. I hope you are ready to take up the responsibility and understand that we are all here to support you and provide you with everything we can.

As part of this legacy, we are building for the next generations of Red River Métis, I will be continuing to meet with Citizens from across the Homeland as we engage in the important consultations about our historic modern-day treaty. We cannot lose sight of the fact that this is another massive milestone on our path to finding our rightful place in Canada's confederation. I am always happy to have an opportunity to be with you all at regional meetings. There is nothing like being with the community, talking about matters of importance to all of us, and listening to your will and guidance. It is what fuels my heart, as well as what fuels our direction as your government.

Until we meet, 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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