President's Message - March 29, 2023

March 29, 2023

There can be no doubt that the Red River Métis, like other Indigenous peoples in Canada, have been forced to undo the harmful effects of many colonial tools, designed to erase our culture, our community, and our sense of belonging. Some visible harms are the reign of terror against our people, the residential and day school systems, and the 60s Scoop. The colonial child welfare system is also a part of this effort to erase our culture. It's a reality for many children, who were taken away from their birth family and community, and never had the chance to claim their place with the Red River Métis.

Studies have consistently shown that the outcomes for children raised in the colonial child welfare system are more negative than their peers. They are more likely to suffer from substance use, hospitalization, incarceration, and homelessness. They may be attracted to gangs for the sense of belonging or face many other challenging situations because they don't have stability in their lives, or their families are still broken. In fact, most young people experiencing homelessness are those who were once in care.

This is why we have been working toward improving this system for decades. In the past, we could not focus on extended care, or even preventative care. Preventative care is such an important part of the process of our own child welfare system. It means working with at-risk families, building up their skills and strengthening them so that there is never a need for a child to be placed into care. It means getting the parents any help they need to deal with mental health or addictions challenges, strengthening the skill sets that help them raise healthy children, and ensuring they have a strong network of friends and family to help them through any other challenges they might face. For families that had already interacted with the colonial child welfare system, we were not empowered to help stabilize them and make them stronger so they could bring their children back home.

In 2019, Canada's Bill C-92 - An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families - finally recognized our right to have jurisdiction over our kids in care and provide culturally appropriate supports, and finally shift the focus from apprehension to prevention and placement with extended families and communities. In January of 2021, that bill came into force, creating a direct relationship between the federal government and your Métis Government. This was an important milestone, but it did not mean we were at the end of our fight to protect our Red River Métis children.

For us, there is far more involved than assuming jurisdiction over kids in care. Not only is it critical that these kids keep a sense of their culture, community, and family connection, it is also vital that they feel supported in their dreams. When a child turns 18, it does not automatically mean they have everything they need to succeed in life. The data tells us they can struggle without a continued support system.

For these reasons, we continue to evolve the ways we support our kids in care. Your Red River Métis Government was the first to change the age of transitioning out of care from 18 to 21, which we later changed to 24.

We successfully fought and won against the provincial government's attempt to take away the Children's Special Allowance for kids in care. Making children pay for the administrative costs of their own apprehension was simply the wrong choice by the province, and I'm glad the courts have agreed. I look forward to seeing this settled for our children. It is estimated that the settlement will be worth $48 million for our Red River Métis children. The MMF has already committed that 100 per cent of the settlement we get from the provincial government will go back into the children's pockets, where it always should have been. Of course, class action lawsuits may affect settlements like this, along with impacting other monies and resources that should go to help our children and families.

We've also been investing in Registered Education Savings Plan accounts for these children, ensuring that if they choose to go into post-secondary education, they have what they need to pursue their academic dreams. Further, we honour their transition to adulthood with ceremony, showing them their community supports and celebrating them. And if they need more time to transition to adulthood than other children their age, we will not abandon them. They are our children, and like all other Red River Métis Youth, they are the inheritors of the legacy we have all worked so hard to deliver to them. Our children are our foundation, and the reason we fight so hard to build a legacy.

Now, we are moving into the next phase of supporting our Youth. I am so proud to share that we are investing $8 million into the creation of new, transitional housing for kids aging out of the child welfare system. The new facility is called Mazoun Infinitii Pakoshayimoohk ("Mazoun") in Michif, which translates to Infinity House of Hope. Construction is expected to start July 3 of this year and be completed by July 31, 2024.

The Mazoun is being designed and developed to offer culturally safe urban transition homes for Red River Métis Youth aging out of care. Mazoun will offer two seven-unit residential facilities with support services, with 10 suites for Youth aging out of care, two suites for family reunification - which will help young parents regain custody of their child - and two more suites for emergency housing for Youth who have left MCFCS care but are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

While this will primarily serve Red River Métis Youth in the 16 to 21 age group who are currently in formal agreements for care with Métis Child, Family and Community Services, Mazoun will also support Youth aged 18 to 24 who are not in formal agreements but require temporary or emergency housing. Even if they still need help at age 24 or older, we will never refuse to help our Youth. This is a fundamental of our approach. At the end of the day, if the family was not broken, these children would have gone back home a long time ago. Turning a certain age does not automatically mean that their family is now able to be the kind of support network these Youth need. We still need to help these families and these children heal.

That's why Mazoun is not just housing. We know that without wraparound services, housing alone does not equip anyone with the right tools to succeed. Mazoun will create a space where current and former kids in care can always return to receive support, services, and a sense of community.

An example of the kind of wraparound support offered is our spirit programs. For more than a decade, the MMF has supported Youth aging out of care through the Métis Spirit and Michif Spirit programs. These programs are unique to our government and are built to support Youth formerly in care through emergency financial help, advocacy, programming, and social support. In recent years, both programs have started evolving to become Youth-led, employing former kids in care to further develop and run the programs for themselves. After all, who knows better how to support kids in care than those who experienced it themselves?

Citizens should know that no other child welfare agency in Manitoba has a program like this, dedicated to ensuring that all Youth who have left the care of an agency always have someone to turn to for help. Even though these programs are only mandated to provide supports up to the age of 24, no one is turned away. In the last year alone, the programs supported more than 150 young adults as they transitioned out of care.

I thank Mona Buors, the MMF's Minister for Métis Child and Family Services, and her team for their years of hard work and advocacy and applaud their successes. I also thank them for the heart and thought they have consistently put into our kids in care and the systems that support them. Métis Child and Family Services, along with every department and affiliate of your Red River Métis Government, will continue to work together to ensure that every Red River Métis child has the head start that was promised to us in 1870, even if it means that we must do this one child at a time.

The need to ensure our Youth are ready and able to take on the inheritance we are building for them is something we are speaking about at length during our treaty consultations. These consultations for our proposed modern-day treaty with Canada are now well underway, and there can be no doubt that they are a signal of the historic times we are living in. It has been powerful to see the level of engagement from our Citizens in the Northwest Region, the Southwest Region, the Winnipeg Region, and the Thompson region. Our strength as a people is on full display at each consultation, as we come together to walk this pathway toward our rightful place in Canada's confederation. I thank all the elected officials in each region for their hard work and diligence in making sure that Citizens can take part in our democratic traditions.

For those living in regions that have consultations upcoming, I encourage you to reach out to your region to register. Even if you missed the consultations in your region, it's not too late - there more consultations coming, including a virtual engagement. Check out the MMF's social media pages for more information or email

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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