President's Message - May 26, 2023

May 26, 2023

Our treaty consultations with Citizens are starting to draw to a close, and we are just days away from our Extraordinary General Assembly. We all can't wait for the moment we are called upon to vote on our treaty on June 3. Together we will vote as we gather at the Assiniboia Downs, and in our regional locations in the province, our Beyond Borders satellite events and online.

Our team has been busy negotiating with Canada, engaging with our Citizens in consultations, and organizing our Assembly. They have worked hard to get us to this important moment in our history.

This will be an historic decision about our future - a future and a destiny that was kept from us after the federal government of the day abandoned our first treaty of 1870, the Manitoba Act. For over a century-and-a-half, Canada refused to recognize our Nation and our Government, our claims and our rights.

"[The Métis] had a government of its own, free, peaceful and well-functioning... it was a government with an organized constitution whose jurisdiction was all the more legitimate and worthy of respect, because it was exercised of a country that belonged to it" - Louis Riel

As Riel stated above, the Red River Métis governed over the affairs of the historic Northwest peacefully for decades before Canada became a country. However, in the years following 1870, the Red River Métis were forced to flee what was then the new Postage Stamp province of Manitoba and settle throughout our traditional lands. This was due to the Reign of Terror and Canada's failure to distribute the lands promised to the Red River Métis in section 31 of the Manitoba Act. Families had to hide their beadwork, their identity, in order to survive the discrimination faced at every turn.

That is, until 1967 when a group of forward-thinking Métis founded the Manitoba Métis Federation to provide responsible and accountable governance by and for the Red River Métis.

Since then, we have celebrated a number of historic milestones, moving forward in our path to self-government. Steps that those who came before us could not have dreamed of. First, in 1982, Canada was securing its place in the world as an independent nation, which required a constitution beyond the British North America Act, and a charter of our rights and freedoms. Led by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canada adopted a new constitution that spoke of Aboriginal rights. In it, the Métis were listed in section 35 as rights holders.

In 2004 when we began distributing our Harvester Cards, then in 2013 with the landmark MMF v. Canada Supreme Court of Canada decision that clearly stated that the Red River Métis interests were represented by the MMF and that Canada failed to diligently implement s.31 of the Manitoba Act, and finally to 2021 when we signed the first ever historic Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement for the Métis of the Red River, no matter where they live.

All these moments, though by themselves may look small, strengthened our Nation, and led us to where we are today, at the Red River Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Treaty.

By the time the June 3 vote comes, we will have held consultations with our Citizens from Ottawa to Vancouver and even in the United States, along with consultations in what is now called Manitoba. These meetings have been crowded, and at times overcrowded - rooms full of Red River Métis Citizens taking the opportunity to listen to our subject matter experts, learn about the Treaty, and asking questions to gain further understanding. We met with thousands of Citizens from coast to coast.

The excitement we have seen from our Citizens is unmatched and so powerful. Citizens across all our Consultations embrace our story and our new era, ensuring our relationship with the Crown. Our vision for the future will be locked in place and we will be able to negotiate specifics that will affect all our daily lives. Families will no longer have to wonder where they will get the money to pay for their child's university, but instead sit down at the dining table and wonder which university they will attend.

Along the long and difficult path that we have travelled, it is you, our Citizens of the Red River Métis Nation, who give us the energy to continue on to further future successes.

Now, on June 3, we turn to you, our Citizens, our families, neighbours and friends, to be a part of this historic event and vote to ratify the Red River Métis' Treaty. A treaty our Ancestors were promised in 1870 but was stolen away from them. Indeed, when I am on that floor voting alongside you, I will be thinking about my mother and the other strong Red River Métis that brought me to this moment and brought the MMF to this historic time.

With this vote, we will take the next steps to right the wrongs done to our Nation. Our unity and strength will be on full display for all Canadians to see. I know we will make our future generations and our Ancestors proud.

Our future is in our own hands, where it was always meant to be. That future is bright, and it's ours to defend and to shape. We will let no one steal our identity or distort it for their own purposes. We know that there are forces in Canada that are trying to use our identity to insert themselves into Confederation. We cannot let these people sneak into the Canadian consciousness on the backs of our Ancestors' sacrifices.

Your Red River Métis government will continue to do all it can to ensure that our future generations understand our history. One of the ways we will do this is through our heritage centre, which will quickly become a centre of knowledge about the Red River Métis. This centre of knowledge will not just be available to our own Citizens. It will be for all Canadians, along with scholars and historians from every part of the globe. Gone will be the days when our history could only be found in the hands of private collectors, in colonial museums, or in archives with other levels of government.

Make no mistake - we owe a debt of gratitude to the private collectors, museums and archives that gathered our history and artifacts during the times we had no resources available to collect these pieces ourselves. They have helped preserved many things that are of value and importance to our people and this great country we call Canada.

While in Vancouver for the treaty consultation with our Citizens, I met with just such a collector - a retired bookstore owner by the name of Don, who has dedicated a great deal of his time and energy toward the preservation of many critical artifacts in our Nation's history. The amount of information and history contained in his collection is astonishing. He, like many collectors, now believes that the time is right for our history to be put back in our own hands, and we have made arrangements for this important archive to become part of our heritage centre collection.

The plans for our heritage centre continue to rapidly take shape, and we are drawing inspiration from some of the best museums and heritage centres across the globe as part of our planning. Our heritage centre will be a state-of-the-art facility, full of resources and national treasures. When we open this centre in 2026, I fully expect to astonish visitors with the full scale and scope of our history and the ways we are highlighting it.

In the meantime, we will continue to educate our Citizens and all Canadians about our identity and our history. We will do everything we can to ensure that our next generations do not have to explain who they are - the Red River Métis. We will continue to honour the ways and traditions of our Ancestors, including gathering in Assembly and discussing our modern-day treaty, just as we always gather to discuss important issues.


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


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