President's message - November 02, 2023

November 2, 2023

Education - a building block of our Nation

I have always said that the one thing that can never be taken away from you is your education. Once you have it, it's yours for life. Every Citizen who gains an education helps strengthen our Nation, safeguarding us against the treatment our Ancestors experienced at the hands of governments and individuals who wanted to erase us.

When we were consulting with Citizens about our modern-day treaty earlier this year, one message I wanted all Citizens to hear is that we want to change the conversation about higher learning at kitchen tables across our Nation.

Your Red River Métis Government is working hard so that the conversation isn't "can we afford to send you for post-secondary education?" Instead, it will be "where do you want to go for your post-secondary education?"

I know this idea is something near and dear to the hearts of Red River Métis parents and grandparents, so it's no surprise that the response at each of the meetings was powerful. I saw tears in many eyes.

Education leads to a lot of other things that contribute to the well-being of our Nation. Even in the earliest years of our children's lives, we now provide culturally-focused education through our Early Learning and Child Care Department. To date, we have opened eight child care facilities in the cities, towns, and villages our Citizens live in, with a further seven to be built in the next few years. Along with a caring, nurturing environment, we teach our children to take pride in who they are, as they learn our traditional ways, music, and culture. Early learning is where we plant seeds with our youngest Michif speakers, growing knowledge of our critically endangered language in their hearts and minds.

Through education, more of our Citizens can obtain quality housing, food security, and stability in their children's lives. Education also expands the pool of talented, educated Citizens who can come and work for your Red River Métis Government, gaining meaningful careers that allow them to use their education to the benefit of our Nation.

Education is the root of many things for the next generation, including pride, strength, independence, and financial security.

Even though we are better educated than we were in the past, we still have work to do. Too often, I have heard from parents and students that they don't see our history being told as a part of Canadian history, and they don't feel visible as Red River Métis as they interact with the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system.

For your Red River Métis Government to have an impact on this issue, we must build strong partnerships, including partnerships with provincial governments.

Building partnerships in education

As a starting point, one of the priorities we shared with the parties vying to form government in Manitoba during the recent provincial campaign was related to education. While your Red River Métis Government has been actively investing in the future of our Youth through education and training, it was important for us to understand what the province we brought into confederation intends to do in support of our efforts.

I'm happy to share that Premier Kinew and his NDP party agreed to work with the MMF to develop and implement a distinctions-based Red River Métis education strategy for Kindergarten to Grade 12, along with ensuring the availability of culturally relevant education for our Red River Métis students.

They further committed to providing strong bursaries, grants, and student aid for post-secondary students, with a goal of eventually offering matching funding allocations for the expansion of MMF's scholarship and bursary program to help our students succeed.

The implementation of these commitments will give us the ability to have our voice heard on our needs in the education system. We look forward to seeing Premier Kinew and the new Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister, Nello Altomare, bring this commitment to life.

I will always seek full engagement with the leaders of provinces across our Homeland in a renewed government-to-government relationship for matters relating to our rights, citizenship, and, of course, in education.

We are also developing international relationships with organizations and schools across the globe, like the one we recently signed with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. These partnerships help provide new opportunities for our students to learn from leading experts in the fields of health, the environment, social development, and more. We will continue to expand our efforts in this area in the coming years, so make sure you remain connected to your Red River Métis Government through social media and our regular communications by email.

You can be sure we will continue to invest in the education and training of our Citizens. The power of education is the reason we began offering scholarships and bursaries to Citizens in post-secondary education, even before we had any support from the provincial government.

Your Red River Métis Government is invested in your education

Since the inception of our education support program in 2019, we have funded nearly 3,500 students with a total investment of $15.2 million. Each student gets up to $5,000 for each year of their education, so your Red River Métis Government needs to make sure that those who are taking four-year degrees can access the same amount of funding each year of their post-secondary education.

In last year's school year alone, a total of almost 1,200 students were funded for their schooling, at a cost of just under $5 million. We expect to outpace that number each year, as interest in post-secondary education and demand for support grows. The school year is only two months gone, and we've already received 1,100 applications, and expect those numbers to grow. We expect this will put us on pace to support somewhere between 1,300-1,400 students this year, to a cost of approximately $6 million, and an estimated $7 million the following year.

This funding is part of a total MMF commitment to invest $90 million over 10 years, in support of Red River Métis post-secondary education. I thank Minister Joan Ledoux and Associate Minister David Beaudin for their work in provincial education.

Along with support for post-secondary education, we also offer training courses for our Citizens. Investing in education through labour market training programs in our Métis Employment and Training (MET) Department is another way we can ensure the long-term well-being of our Nation. These training courses are responsive to labour market trends and needs, which means that we can help bridge the gap between education and employment, building sustainable economic development and prosperity, ultimately benefiting both individuals and our wider community, which in turn benefits all Canadians. The MET Department has served thousands upon thousands of clients since it started in the year 2000, helping nearly 2,500 in the last year alone as they return to the workforce or enter post-secondary education. I thank Minister John Fleury for his hard work making this portfolio such a success.

The investments we've made have been significant, but I believe the long-term, beneficial impacts of our educational supports for Citizens are only starting to be felt. However, we know that more and more of our people are entering the post-secondary education system, with our support. This has been a long-cherished dream for so many in our Nation, including me, your Red River Métis Cabinet, Elders, seniors, parents, and past leaders. I'm so proud to see how many advancements we've made in education supports since I started my work as your President. I hope you can see, as your Cabinet and I can see, that the future has never been brighter for our children and grandchildren. They can pursue their dreams, receive an education, and achieve excellence, giving us even more reasons to be proud to be Red River Métis.

Until we gather again, I send my well wishes to Citizens who are honouring our traditions by harvesting from our Homeland to feed family and community. Stay safe and remember - your Red River Métis Government has your back.

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



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