President's Message - May 13, 2020

May 13, 2020

Thank you to everyone who has been following along with our daily messages and continuing to adhere to social distancing protocols. We all need to keep doing our part, even as restrictions begin to lift across Canada. We are unaware of any Metis in Manitoba who have contracted COVID-19, and it is because of the tough decisions made by you, and the swift response and hard work of the Manitoba Metis Government.

Many dates worthy of celebration have passed in the past two weeks.

May 10 was Mother's Day. The Metis are traditionally a matriarchal society and we value our women as the heads of the household. While men were often away from home hunting, fishing, or trapping, it was the women who forged the identity of our Nation. It was the women who often influenced the children with their spirituality and culture. I know for me personally this rings true. I hope you all had an opportunity to celebrate Mother's Day with your loved ones and that you continue to honour your mothers every day.

As we all know, this year was an especially important Manitoba Day as it marked Manitoba's 150th birthday. It is also the date that the Manitoba Metis, led by Louis Riel, joined Canada as partners in Confederation. We are the first and only Indigenous People to create a province. This is something that should be celebrated by all Manitobans.

In 1868, the Dominion of Canada passed the Rupert's Land Act, which transferred Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) to the Dominion of Canada. The HBC had no right to sell this land. It belonged to our People. After the purchase of Rupert's Land, Canada wanted to survey this land without consultation and without permission. Our ancestors were concerned about our land and our families. They were also mindful of our linguistic and religious rights.

In order to help protect these rights, the Metis formed the National Committee of the Metis on October 16, 1869, followed by the Provisional Government on December 8, 1869. These two bodies were an expression of our Metis governance traditions used since the days of the buffalo hunt. The Provisional Government drafted a List of Rights. Using this document as a framework, a team of negotiators led by Father Ritchot went to Ottawa to negotiate. An agreement was reached and turned into The Manitoba Act. This Act received Royal Assent on May 12, 1870, and Manitoba became an official province of Canada soon thereafter.

Every Manitoba Day we need to make sure we take a moment to remember the vision and sacrifices of our Ancestors. Without their commitment to stay firm and resist Canada's entry into the Northwest, who knows what Indigenous and Language rights would look like today.

This Manitoba Day the MMF celebrated in spectacular fashion. Together in Partnership with BMO Financial Group, we announced the MMF purchase of the historic Bank of Montreal building at the corner of Portage and Main. This will become the future home of our long-awaited Metis Nation Heritage Centre. This is an extremely proud moment in my tenure as your President. There were once nights when I tossed and turned, worried about not being able to pay our staff. Now, after lots of hard work, we own perhaps one of the most famous historic pieces of architecture in all of the Homeland.

Typically, on May 12, the MMF celebrates this historic achievement by organizing a gala, which this year we had called "The Heartbeat of the Nation". Every year we choose beneficiaries and host this fundraiser. This year it is with a heavy heart that we must postpone our event. This year's beneficiary, Diabetes Canada, will remain the recipient of this donation. I would like to thank Chair Denise Thomas and Honorary Co-Chair Sandy Riley for their courage in making this difficult decision, while remaining committed to hosting this event at a later date.

Believe me when I say I cannot wait until the restrictions on gatherings are lifted so we can all celebrate together.

Last week also marked two dates of significance for our WWII veterans. May 5, 1945, is the day the Netherlands was liberated from the occupation of Nazi Germany. Canadians, including the Metis, played a key role in liberating the Netherlands. Canada was even the home of future Queen Juliana during the war. While here she even gave birth to Princess Margriet. Canada's actions on and off the battlefield shaped an unbreakable relationship between the Dutch and Canadians.

On May 8, we also celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Originally, there was a trip planned for veterans to go to Europe to visit memorials and recount their heroic journey. Though these are postponed due to COVID-19, we wanted to make sure as a Metis Nation that we continue to honour all veterans - those who rest in foreign soil and those who made it home. We placed advertisements in national papers and also filmed a commercial to commemorate these pivotal events.

Red River Cart Adventures, our online early learning program, has been continuing on Tuesdays at 10 am and has become a big hit with several thousand viewers already. With this success we decided to expand the program and have added a Thursday program featuring a special guest. Our first Thursday spot featured Metis magician Donald Sanderson.

Make sure to keep tuning in to The Beat Goes On every Thursday at 7 pm and Saturday at 2 pm. We're glad that music and entertainment have resonated with so many people. It's a way to be positive and upbeat during an unsettling time.

Our Metis Nation forges on throughout this COVID crisis. The MMF is continuing to assist Citizens, Elders, and students. Staff are still following up and reaching out to our vulnerable Citizens to survey their condition and needs, and offering hampers to top up their supply. The LRCC and the MEDF are still hearing from entrepreneurs who are affected by this unprecedented threat and in need of our assistance. Though we are seeing more positive news than negative, we know that we are not out of the woods yet and must carry on helping family, neighbours, and all those who need it.

We'll continue to do as much as we can to assist you during this crisis. If you need help, please call the MMF at 204-586-8474.

My heart is with anyone who has lost a loved one during this terrible crisis, and everyone currently battling COVID-19, especially our Metis brothers and sisters fighting this deadly virus in Saskatchewan. The Metis Nation prays for you, and we are with you.


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