President's Message - May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

As you will have no doubt heard, your Métis Government is honouring our democratic traditions by holding an election for the positions of President of the MMF, along with Vice-President and Executive Officers in each Region.

It has been my honour to serve as your President for the past seven terms. When I first earned this role from our voters, I made a number of commitments to Citizens. I'm very proud of the fact that I have been able to make good on many of those commitments. I've worked with and learned from some great regional leaders over the years, as we moved through challenging times to a place where we are financially sound, and able to offer the many programs and services we have for our Citizens today.

One of the most significant things we've done in the last few years is signing our Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement with Canada. Signed in July of last year, it removes any artificial boundaries and makes it clear that geographical restrictions do not apply to our citizenship. Our Citizens can live anywhere in Canada and across the globe, and still receive their citizenship with the Manitoba Métis Federation, the national government of the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis.

Signing this agreement has led us to the next phase of work, which is settling our land claim. I know this is of great importance to our Citizens, as it is to your Métis Government. I made a commitment in 1997, when I took office as President, that we would do everything to settle our land claim. Through significant effort and personal sacrifice, we raised over $6 million to keep that court case moving during the times when we had very few resources.

Getting to a place of settling our land claim was a tremendous challenge, but the promise was made and kept. It was so fulfilling when we won the case in 2013, when the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that settling our land claim was outstanding and unfinished business in Canada's Confederation. Working toward the finalization of this settlement led us to the relationship we have today with the federal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a commitment to us that he would settle our land claim on his watch, so we are working collaboratively in a nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship to make this happen. We expect to have this work completed by the end of this fiscal year.

The legacy of settling our land claim will be passed on to the leaders of the future, who will have the massive responsibility of ensuring that the funds are put to good use, in areas like funding for post-secondary education, caring for our Elders, securing Métis-specific health care, and much more. Your future leaders will need to ensure that the advancements available to us through our land claim settlement are put to good use. It has the ability to fundamentally change our landscape and allow us to secure our future, without any worries about the political landscape in Canada.

Settling our land claim is one of the things I committed to when I took office as President. As you all know, my mother raised me to value my name and uphold my integrity, so I will continue to work as your elected leader until this important work is concluded.

That's why it is my intention to run for President of the Manitoba Métis Federation. I will leave it to you, as Citizens and voters across the Nation, to decide if you wish me to be your leader again. Know that it has been my privilege to serve you, and, if I'm elected, I will continue to work tirelessly to do justice to your faith in my leadership.

I also want to extend my thanks to all the Cabinet and Caucus, who have served our Citizens with great diligence and heart over the last four years. Our progress simply would not be possible without the collaboration and tireless efforts of this team, who have supported each other and provided oversight on some of the greatest advancements our Nation has ever witnessed. Each and every one of these leaders has demonstrated their commitment and dedication to our communities and our Nation.

Accountable governance, from the grassroots up

Your Métis Government has one of the most accountable structures in the country, and that includes non-Indigenous governments. Each Region has an Annual Regional Meeting, where we report back to Citizens and share our progress on programs and services, investments, and related activities of interest to our Nation.

Beyond each of the seven regional assemblies, we also hold our Annual General Assembly. As many as 3,000 of our Citizens gather to hear firsthand about the progress made by your Métis Government, which ensures we are always held accountable to the will of our Nation.

As I've said in the past, our strong democratic approach ensures that only the most experienced and respected individuals take on the great responsibilities of advancing our Nation. Knowledge, experience, and a demonstrated commitment to the well-being of the group are required, just as they were required for the Captains of the Hunt back in our earliest form of democratic self-governance.

These requirements underline the importance of engaging our Youth in the processes of governance early and often in their lives, so that they can build their capabilities and capacity, as well as giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of the community. You need only look at the hard work and efforts of our elected Youth Representative Kyra De La Ronde and the other Youth delegates who were with us as we met with His Holiness in Rome. They showed their dedication to the community's well-being throughout the entirety of our time overseas, in full recognition that they are accountable to the broader community.

This accountability and the care they showed is not strictly confined to the delegation - their work continues today, as they rally together to offer support to families and Elders who are at risk of flooding due to our unusual weather patterns this spring.

Supporting our future leaders and guiding them as they expand their skills is critical to the health and well-being of our Nation. We have gained so much ground in recent years for our Nation, and it's imperative that our leaders understand our history and our path forward in order to lead our government.

How, where, and when to vote

As our Citizens also know, elections for the government of the Red River Métis are required every four years and the last elections were conducted in 2018.

David Gray, Chief Electoral Officer, has set the date for the election in accordance with our constitution. The election for all positions will be held on June 14, 2022, with advance polls on June 10 and June 11. Other dates for advance polls may be added in response to pandemic conditions, should they be required.

All Red River Métis Citizens who meet the constitutional guidelines and who are 18 years of age are eligible to vote, and those who meet the qualifications in the constitution may run for office. The deadline for nominations to be filed is May 13, 2022, at 5:00 pm CDT.

Elections will be held for all seven of our regions: Thompson, The Pas, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, Interlake, and Winnipeg. There are approximately 75 polls planned for the seven regions, and any active Local that wishes a poll across Manitoba can contact the CEO or the electoral team.

Each Region has a Regional Returning Officer who is identified on the MMF website. For information or to download forms, visit the elections website: mmfelections.ca.

Because we are a national government, we are also making mail-in ballots available to maximize all Citizens' ability to participate in our rich democratic traditions, regardless of whether they live in remote communities or outside of Manitoba.

Why vote?

Elections - like the Assembly, the Cabinet, and the role of President - are pivotal to our historical democratic structures and our fundamental respect for democracy. The right to vote in every election - be it for your Métis Government or for any other level of government - should never be taken lightly. I know our Citizens recognize our rich democratic traditions and are always ready to get out and vote for candidates who support the issues that matter and have the right ideas and dedication to help advance our Nation.

We have gained so much ground in recent years. We can now provide up to $20,000 in funding over four years for our post-secondary students and offer funding to Citizens to make much-needed repairs to their homes or purchase their first home; we've already helped Citizens purchase over 600 houses. We're opening child care centres across the province that will employ hundreds of early child care workers.

We're seeing Red River Métis entrepreneurs excel in the emerging microbusiness economy and we are finding ways to support these innovative entrepreneurs, along with the farmers, ranchers, and fishers who are dedicated to preserving our traditional economies. We've begun the process of taking over jurisdiction for our children in care, ensuring that the system moves from apprehension to prevention. We've received a multimillion-dollar stimulus package to generate economic growth and recovery in the post-pandemic era.

The responsibility for protecting and advancing these important issues for our Nation falls to the President and the Caucus of your Métis Government. In order to ensure that our strength continues to grow and we achieve the vision we have for the future, it's critical that all eligible Red River Métis Citizens consider who is best positioned to continue this important work, and then get out and vote.

I encourage you to ensure your eligible family, friends, and community members also understand the importance of voting. I ask our seniors and Elders - the Knowledge Keepers and protectors of our traditions - to spend time speaking with the Youth in their community in the days leading up to June 14, to help them understand the importance and the tradition of voting.

Our Nation must continue with the tremendous advancements we have seen. The act of voting in support of democracy is one of the fundamental exercises of our nationhood, one that connects us with our ancestors, who voted for the Captains of the Hunt and created the basis for one of our earliest self-governance structures.

One of the most pressing issues we are facing today is the risk to our identity. People from outside our Nation are seeing our successes and our advancements. They see the benefits our Citizens are attaining - benefits that are ours by right - including education, housing, economic support, and everything from free medicine to hampers and wood for our Elders. They see our advancements and they want them for themselves, which is why they are now claiming to be Métis and expecting the same rights and benefits we worked so hard to gain.

Fighting to preserve our identity and help all Canadians understand that we are a distinct Indigenous people is a battle that has not yet ended, which is why it's important that we all work together to keep our traditions and our culture alive. This includes voting for your elected representatives here in the heart of our Homeland, for the National Government of our people.

I look forward to engaging with Citizens and hearing your thoughts on our progress, as well as your concerns and ideas for the future. In the meantime, 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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