President's Message - November 20, 2019

November 20, 2019

All Manitobans need to look at the actions of our Premier and wonder how he can represent Metis and First Nations minorities when he doesn't seem to respect them? And how can he represent Manitoba when he doesn't know its history?

It's the eve of Manitoba's 150th birthday, and Pallister writes in his recent op ed in the Globe and Mail, "...it's worth remembering that Manitobans actually staged a rebellion to join Canada."

This statement is wrong.

Louis Riel returned to his homeland after attending university in 1868 - and he found the prairies were for sale by the Hudson's Bay Company, and about to become part of the Dominion of Canada.

Settlers were rushing in from all over, eager to acquire land. No one had given any thought about what would happen to the people who were already there.

The Metis were suddenly looked upon as squatters. Our ancestors were rightly anxious about being turned out of their own homes and off the land they'd worked for decades.

Before the land transfer was even concluded, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had surveyors prepare to break the land up. On Oct 11, 1869, a party began to survey the property of Andre Nault, a Metis farmer.

The Canadian government had unilaterally decided not only to turf honest people off their land but to change the settlement's long narrow river-lot farms, which allowed everyone access to water, to squares.

When the surveyors began work on his land, Nault called his cousin Louis Riel for help. Riel came and told the surveyors to back off.

Soon about 6,000 French-speaking Metis were behind Riel. He had stood up to the surveyors to help Nault, and he'd stand up for them, too.

Riel knew something had to be done to get the government to listen. That very day, he led about 400 men to seize Fort Garry. No one was killed in the takeover. Riel and his men now controlled what was the symbol of access to the northwest and the nerve centre of the Hudson's Bay Company. Then Riel and his compatriots composed a List of Rights. They asked for some essentials: not to be stripped of their homes or lose their religious and French language rights. Not a lot to ask.

On December 10th, Riel formed a provisional government of French and English Red River residents, who said no more Hudson's Bay control of the Red River. Ottawa needed to deal with residents, with the Metis -- themselves. I will leave off on the history there, but clearly no one, "...staged a rebellion to join Canada." And I ask you, why does Pallister carelessly use the word rebellion?

Riel and the residents of the Red River refused to be driven away. They stood their ground. Arms played a part - but the Provisional Government just wanted their voices to be heard in reasonable negotiation.

The word that comes to mind is resistance: the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.

What Pallister wants to reference is actually the Red River Resistance.

Pallister gets more creative in the Globe and Mail op ed. He goes on to complains about an, "...elaborate, duplicative and cumbersome energy and infrastructure project assessment process," that have delayed the Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels Project (Project).

But the truth is, the Project has been delayed because the federal government recognizes that the Pallister Government has not fulfilled its Duty to Consult with Metis and Indigenous communities. In fact, the federal government sent back 27 pages of special advice to Manitoba that quite frankly make it look an awful lot like the province was inaccurate, vague, and just plain sloppy in its submissions on the Interlake flood-channel outlets.

His response to a failing grade? Pallister runs to the Globe and Mail with his creative writing. He attempts to school us about Manitoba's history and make up for his government's failings by placing the blame on the federal government. What is actually going on is, Pallister simply doesn't want to perform his Duty to Consult. This is not a Premier who promotes reconciliation or unifies a province. He doesn't even know Manitoba's history.

The Metis will stand our ground. We will have our voices heard. 150 years later, the Metis will resist again.

In closing, I offer my best wishes and prayers for peace to those who are sick, shut-in, or in failing health. My deepest sympathies are with all of you who are coping with grief or a recent loss. May you find comfort, strength, and help through your community and your family and friends. I wish you all the best.

 


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