President's Message - November 28, 2023

November 28, 2023

"I am glad that the Crown have proved that I am the leader of the Half-breeds in the North-West. I will perhaps be one day acknowledged as more than a leader of the Half-breeds, and if I am I will have an opportunity of being acknowledged as a leader of good in this great country."
Louis Riel - Memoir

There can be no doubt that Louis Riel has been on my mind and in my heart recently. On November 16, we remembered him on the anniversary of his judicially-sanctioned murder in Regina - then part of the historic Northwest, and still under old English law - which took place 138 years ago. This allowed the use of archaic English law from 1352 to ensure that he would be executed.

The annual commemoration of our historic leader is usually the last opportunity of the year to gather in community and honour Louis Riel's contributions to our Nation, our province, and our country.

The recent Speech from the Throne confirmed the message given by Premier Kinew to more than 4,000 Citizens at our recent AGA, that one of his government's first acts of business would be recognizing Louis Riel as the first Premier of Manitoba.

It was only two days later that your Red River Métis Cabinet and I witnessed the tabling of a piece of legislation called the Louis Riel Act, which will see this historic injustice against Riel finally righted.

During the second reading of the Louis Riel Act by the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, which took place on Monday, November 27, member statements were made about the bill. I listened closely to all that was said by the leaders of the parties, and heard the messages shared by other MLAs.

It was truly a moving moment, not only for Louis Riel's legacy, but for all of us as Red River Métis, who have remained faithful to Louis Riel's vision throughout generations. I felt it was important to share some of the highlights with our Citizens.

Premier Wab Kinew said: "I'm sure that all of us over our lives have seen the evolution of the way that we talk about Mr. Riel, and this seems to be operating on a parallel track of the work of reconciliation that is occurring within Manitoba. And I think that we all feel positive about that arc moving in a future-facing direction. . . .Mr. Riel's vision is the foundation of why we're able to do all those things here in Manitoba today, and while perhaps we haven't fully realized a hundred per cent of the articulation of Mr. Riel's vision, it is my belief that we are getting closer each and every day."

Leader of the Official Opposition, Heather Stefanson, said: ". . . this bill that's before us today is an important one. It will bestow an honourary title on Louis Riel for the history that he has made in our province. And we on this side of the House are fully supportive of this, and we want to see this bill move forward to committee so we can hear from other members of the community and what this means to them."

Cindy Lamoureux, the lone Liberal MLA in Manitoba, said: "Riel was not only a fighter for rights, but a believer of justice and the rule of law. He wanted to make sure that there were fair rules to govern the Métis, and that power should not and cannot be centralized in the hands of the few. Because when power works for the few and not the many, that is not democracy. Riel was at the forefront of some of the most important conversations that we continue to have today. Conversations about democracy, representation, and voting rights. It was Riel's provisional government that led the charge, and we can thank him for fighting for these fundamental rights that we as Manitobans enjoy today."

Red River Métis Citizen and MLA for Lagimodière, Tyler Blashko, said: "Our diversity makes us stronger today and every day. We pay tribute to the pride and strong spirit of Métis communities that have fought so hard to have Louis Riel recognized as Manitoba's first Premier. We strengthen our multicultural roots by making and acknowledging this change, and recognizing Louis Riel as that first Premier. This is something all Manitobans should be proud of and should celebrate, and something the province of Manitoba is honoured and proud to support."

Red River Métis Citizen and MLA for Seine River, Billie Cross said: "I stand here and bring voice to people who have not had a voice. I stand proudly to talk about my grandmother, a Métis woman who went to residential school, who spent two years in a school, and eventually grew up on a trapline. A woman who couldn't read or write, who experienced poverty and hard times most of her life, a woman who was proud to be Métis but couldn't tell the world who she was. She instilled the values in me that I carry today to be a person who can be proud of who they are, openly. By proclaiming Louis Riel the honourary first Premier of Manitoba, we are finally telling the truth. We are finally showing Canada who our true first leader was. Manitobans deserve to have that honour; Métis people deserve to have that truth be told."

Minister of Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Natural Resources, Jamie Moses said: "This bill brings hope to the entire province. This is a type of bill that can unite us around the idea that regardless of where we come from, regardless of the community that we subscribe to, regardless of the part of the province where we live, we can come together and recognize that as a people we are greater together than we are apart. That's the ideal that Louis Riel brought into the work that he did every single day, the important work of establishing the framework of the province that we call home, establishing that framework by bringing people together from different walks of life across this province, from different walks of life across this country, around the idea that Manitoba could be its own community, its own people, that the Métis people could be their own people and stand on their own and live on their own and thrive on their own, and the idea that we could do this altogether as one people, as part of one nation, Canada. And that's the ideal that Louis Riel brought into the work that he did, the legacy that he had, and that's why it's important that we bestow this honourary title on him today."

This is the first time in our history we've heard such truthful and deep recognition for our historic leader from other levels of government. The quote from Riel at the top of my message speaks to his own hope for the future - a future he knew he would not be alive to witness - where he would finally be recognized as a truly great leader of good in Canada.

The statements in the House this week clearly show that what he hoped for has finally come to fruition. We should all be proud of what he achieved as a leader. The recognition of his efforts and sacrifices by other levels of government is something we never gave up hope on, but hearing the words from provincial elected officials as they correct this historical wrong are powerfully moving.

Imagine if what we've heard in honour of Louis Riel in the past few weeks was a reflection of the historic attitude about his deeds, instead of what was actually said about him, which were tales full of misinformation, bias, and hatred. Our people wouldn't have experienced the diaspora, where we were cast off our own lands, and pushed to the margins of our Homeland without homes or community. We know we have always been a hardworking people. I'm confident that if the treatment and attitudes Louis Riel and our Nation experienced in the past were more like what's happening today, we would have been very advanced culturally, economically, and socially by our own hard work. Instead, we have been forced to fight to regain our place from the position of underdogs, a fight that continues through every advancement we make; every week, every new building, every new program and initiative is part of this fight. It's a fight that I've been actively involved in for decades, thanks to your faith in me as your President. Never forget - believe in yourself; believe in the Métis of the Red River.

Don't forget, the Louis Riel Act is not simply a piece of legislation. It's going to become part of the education children receive in this province and in this country. No longer will future generations hear what I heard in school, about the traitor, or the madman. Now he will be known as the first Premier of Manitoba. People will learn about his contributions to Canada, and how our people changed the shape of the West.

We can never forget that our province is unique in its creation and its history. The forces that shaped it are a spirit of independence, a vision that includes all people, and a strong will to fight against injustice. It's who the Red River Métis are, and what Manitoba is all about. I have great optimism for the future, working with a provincial government that will sit down at a table with us, eye to eye and on equal footing. I'm sure we will disagree on matters from time to time, but I believe we will always work toward resolutions with mutual respect.

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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