President's Message - October 19, 2022

October 19, 2022

"When the Government of Canada presented itself at our doors it found us at peace. It found that the Métis people of the North-West could not only live well without it . . . but that it had a government of its own, free, peaceful, well-functioning, contributing to the work of civilization . . . It was a government with an organized constitution, whose jurisdiction was all the more legitimate and worthy of respect, because it was exercised over a country that belonged to it."

- Louis Riel, Memoir

Our second Annual General Assembly (AGA) in a single calendar year was a great success. Hosting two assemblies in one year is due to the need to catch up after the lockdown resulting from the pandemic. It was wonderful to be able to see that so many Citizens continue to be engaged in the governance of our Nation.

Make no mistake, ours is the largest Indigenous assembly in Canada. Not only did we have thousands upon thousands of attendees from within Manitoba, but we were also joined by many Citizens beyond borders, both online and in person - some Citizens came all the way from British Columbia and even the United States to participate in our democratic traditions.

Along with passing resolutions and engaging in important dialogue with our Locals - the grassroots foundation of our government - we shared our progress as your Métis government and our future vision for the Nation.

Saturday morning's opening ceremonies took place in front of a hall that was so packed, the Assiniboia Downs staff had to bring in extra tables, and there were still some attendees who stood at the back to witness these historic proceedings. Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, announced funding in the amount of $23.1 million dollars for our Red River Métis National Heritage Centre, which was quickly followed by Premier Heather Stefanson announcing a further $10 million dollars in support of our heritage centre. These announcements will help ensure that we will be able to offer an innovative, world-class experience to visitors, which may even include an opportunity have a face-to-face conversation with our great leader, Louis Riel.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Red River Métis event without some fun and laughter. On Saturday night, we held our first ever Red River Festival as part of our AGA. This event included card tournaments, a talent show, and contests that allowed our Citizens to show off their traditional skills like jigging, moose calling, and duck calling, along with a joke contest and a laughing contest. Congratulations to all our winners, including Cathy Panson, who claimed top honours and became the national champion in Sunday's 2nd Annual Pickler Classic, out of a field of 35 submissions.

Over the course of the weekend, I also saw many Citizens proudly sporting new hats, beadwork, and clothing purchased from our Red River Métis vendors, artists, and artisans. It touches my heart to see so many people visibly proclaiming their identity as Red River Métis, making our assembly as colourful, patriotic, and festive as anyone could hope for. Supporting our vendors and giving our Citizens access to their beautiful work are important parts of growing our Red River Métis economy.

None of this would be possible without the tremendous efforts and hard work of the AGA team, all our staff, and volunteers. The success of our AGA relies entirely on their efforts, and it simply would not be the same without the heart and care they give every aspect of the planning and execution. Many Citizens stopped me to share how impressed they were with the assembly planning, and how well cared for they felt. This is the very essence of our Nation on full display - caring for one another, organizing for the benefit of the community, and ensuring our democracy continues to honour our inheritance from our first government, the National Committee of the Red River Métis.

Now that the assembly is done and we have heard the will of our Citizens, we must continue to build on the momentum we have achieved for our Nation. I can assure you that we will continue to make wise investments on behalf of our Citizens, expanding on the programs and services we are able to provide. Inch by inch, day by day, we are slowly regaining the head start that was promised to our children when we brought Canada into the Northwest. Through our unity, hard work, and focus, we are building a strong legacy that we can pass on to our next leaders, and future generations.

As the season continues to turn, our harvesters should feel a great sense of pride as they go out onto the land to exercise our Section 35 rights and feed our families and communities. I hope all our harvesters stay safe out there and remember - your Red River Métis government has your back.

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


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