President's message - October 19, 2023

October 19, 2023

It is always such a joy to gather at our Annual General Assembly. It is a highlight of my year, seeing how happy our people are to get together, reuniting with friends and family, listening to our music, and sharing in our Red River Métis hospitality. It's what fuels me, and gives me the energy and drive to continue to do the work that our Citizens depend on.

Along with our regular business of updating our Citizens on our progress in each portfolio, introducing important constitutional updates and advancing our government, our three-day agenda is also full of entertainment, games, and fun. Our trade show was absolutely stuffed with booths, and Citizens were packed in the aisles, learning more about what our departments and affiliates offer, as well as introducing themselves to Red River Métis-owned businesses. The Red River Festival offered fun for the family, with friendly competitions in laughing, jigging, and moose and duck calling. I congratulate all who participated in the competitions, and hope everyone enjoyed Friday night's first ever Monster Bingo as much as I did.

This year's assembly was so well attended that our Red River Métis Marketplace and Mini AGA were moved outside to tents, alongside our citizenship bus, our Mobile Métis Clinic, our mobile classroom, and our tree-planting trailer. With more than 4,000 in-person attendees, we were a formidable presence, taking over the entire Assiniboia Downs. We also offered satellite locations to our Beyond Borders Citizens in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, as well as a satellite location in the Thompson Region for those who could not attend in person.

There can be no doubt that interest our advancements continues to grow among our Citizens, while at the same time interest in reclaiming heritage and community are growing, as can be seen in the thousands of citizenship applications we continue to receive.

Our growing strength and presence were acknowledged with the powerful words of Premier-designate Wab Kinew, who has faithfully attended many of our past AGAs to listen and learn. This year, he showed his deep and nuanced understanding of our people in his remarks, after being greeted by a roaring crowd, clearly showing our faith in him. He touched all our hearts when he indicated that one of his first acts as Premier would be to introduce legislation recognizing Louis Riel as our province's first Premier. He also committed to righting the historic wrong done in Ste. Madeleine, when a thriving Red River Métis town was burned down to make room for cattle pasture. He told the entire Assembly that he would work to return that land to our people, and I have high confidence that he will do what he promised. It's no surprise that he received several standing ovations during his presentation, because he said words that we have been waiting decades and decades to hear.

Not only did he speak in Saulteaux and repeat my mother's wise advice to me that we should never forget where we come from, but he also added this comment:

"Louis Riel and the Métis Nation are the reason why Manitoba is part of Canada. I want you to know that I understand that, that I revere that, and that I will never forget that."

I was also happy that Canada's Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree came to our Assembly. As he is new to his portfolio, it was important for him to see the sheer size and unity of our democracy in action, and to understand how focused and determined we are to continue our advancement. It's unfortunate that Canada has stated that they have not completed their consultation, which has now delayed the signing of the treaty. However, the message that came from the Minister is that this will get done, which went a long way to reassuring the people in attendance. This commitment was further assured by the Prime Minister himself, directly to my office.

I also extend my thanks to: Minister Dan Vandal; Parliamentary Secretary Terry Duguid, MP; Mayor Scott Gillingham; and the Honourable Anita Neville, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba. I was also happy to see Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre Ben Carr in attendance, following in the footsteps of his late father, Jim Carr, who was always pleased to attend our Assembly.

I extend my thanks and welcome to President Dave Lamouche of the Métis Settlements General Council and RCMP Superintendent Scott McMurchy, and thank Archbishop Gagnon, who delivered our opening prayer and who has continued to carry the message of steadfast friendship for our Nation from the Catholic Church since the Holy Father's apology.  

It's worth remembering that the Annual General Assembly is coordinated and executed through the tireless efforts of our staff, many of whom are Citizens themselves. It's not just one weekend of effort - the AGA takes months to plan and organize. Everyone who works the AGA takes pride in creating an exciting and seamless event, where Citizens feel cared for and supported. I thank each and every person who contributes their energy and enthusiasm to making this event possible, including my wife, Glorian, who has ably led the team to many successful AGAs. I was so encouraged by the work of so many of the MMF team, working in partnership. Side by side, they worked hard and took on our fourth Assembly in two years, with this being the biggest assembly to date. This was truly an event that put the full test on for all staff, along with Glorian, who our Cabinet has consistently entrusted with leading these efforts. I know their hard work was appreciated by the Assembly. I want to state again that as your President and on behalf of Cabinet, and all the Red River Métis people of this province and beyond borders - from here to wherever you are - I say thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the people who made this a success.

I thank the Locals and their delegates, and the general delegates, who came out and gave their views, listened to the business of the Red River Métis, and participated in our important democratic traditions. Your will is always our guide, and I thank you for taking the time to help us continue our important work.

As Citizens know, one of the things we do at the Annual General Assembly is introduce resolutions for debate and voting. On Sunday, Citizens, Local representatives, and general delegates heard the introduction of a resolution to remove prayer at all Red River Métis gatherings. The motion was strongly opposed, and many Local leaders immediately stood up and spoke from the floor. They talked about how important prayer is to our ceremonies and events. It is fundamental to our community and our culture. I was so moved by those who stood up for our traditional ways, and the heart they put into their remarks. I also stood up and spoke against the resolution, because I could see how many Elders and seniors were hurt that this could even be a discussion. There were tears on many faces in the room, and I know many in our Cabinet were busy during the debate and discussion, comforting those who were struggling with the hurt it caused.

The good news is that the resolution was overwhelmingly voted down by Citizens, who also understood the importance of prayer, and connecting ourselves to our history and the ways of our Ancestors. But let me be clear - I said it at our gathering and I say it now - there will never be at time that your Cabinet and I will let a resolution like this pass. For as long as I am President, prayers and ceremony will remain a part of our gatherings. This is fundamental to who we are and where we come from. We may come from different beliefs and denominations, but the act of prayer brings us together, unites our focus, and reminds us that there is something greater than us that guides our steps.

One of the other resolutions that saw spirited debate was around funding for Locals. During my State of the Nation, I shared that the MMF will be increasing local capacity grant funds that are available to our Locals from $5,000 to $10,000, which was strongly applauded by the Local delegates and executives. However, there was more discussion about funding for Locals on Sunday, with a resolution brought to the floor asking for Local executives to be given salaries. After much discussion, Citizens defeated the resolution with a strong majority. I thank our Locals for their wisdom, and their thoughtful and respectful approach to the lively discussion, as well as providing us with the wise decision to keep local, grassroots leadership as independent volunteer positions.

 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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