President's Message - October 20, 2021

October 20, 2021

"We must seek to preserve the existence of our own people. We must not by our own act allow ourselves to be swamped. If the day comes when that is done, it must be by no act of ours."

"Pray that God may preserve the little Métis Nation and cause it to grow . . .and remain faithful to its mission. During the five years that I must pass in exile, I have only this to say to the Métis: Remain Métis, become more Métis than ever."

- Louis Riel

From the days of Cuthbert Grant and Louis Riel to today, the Red River Métis have fought vigorously to preserve and protect our identity and independence, earning the name Otipemisiwak - the people who own themselves. It's who we are and what we stand for. We have always known we can accomplish anything, as long as we remain united.

When Louis Riel and John Bruce informed MacDougall that he could not enter the Northwest - our Homeland - without permission in October of 1869, they made the declaration as the national government of the Red River Metis.

Today, the Manitoba Métis Federation is the democratic government and national voice of the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis, which is the origin, root, and core of the Métis Nation. Our ancestors negotiated Canada's entry into the Northwest, and Manitoba's entry into Confederation. We remain committed to advancing our work to meet the needs of your family and your community while we advance our Nation.

While the world continues to grapple with COVID-19 and variants, which have caused significant challenges in parts of our Homeland in recent months, we are thinking of how to prepare our Nation for the post-pandemic future. Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy, and our Nation's entrepreneurial business owners are no exception. While our businesses have done a tremendous job of weathering the challenges of the pandemic, we continue to provide support to any Citizen entrepreneurs who need help to ensure the long-term health of their businesses.

And while I have no doubt that the resilience and work ethic of the Red River Métis will remain strong and help us find a pathway out of the economic impacts we've all faced, there have been some clearly emerging trends that our Citizens are uniquely positioned to take advantage of. Your Métis government is particularly focused on finding new ways to support solo entrepreneurs who would like to start a business of their own. This includes businesses with a cultural focus, like traditional beadworkers, maple syrup harvesters, fishers, artists, artisans, and crafters, but can be expanded to include those who'd like to learn how to code or explore the global digital economy. We know this will be especially critical for Citizens who live in northern, rural, or remote areas who may not have access to traditional employment, but still want to find ways to grow their economic strength and security.

Access to effective, efficient, and affordable broadband will be key for the global economy. While there are initiatives to create better access for rural and remote communities, many Red River Métis villages have not been included in current plans. We will work to end this disparity and ensure that our entrepreneurs, students, and Citizens are on equal footing when it comes to accessing everything the World Wide Web has to offer.

Combining economic opportunities with social development opportunities is a consistent focus of your Métis government. Daycares, pharmacies, business supports, funding for education, and uncovering new opportunities for Citizens to start microbusinesses - these all work together to create a strong foundation for future success, and no part of this vision works without the other parts.

I recently had the privilege of attending the grand opening of Michif Children's Place in downtown Dauphin. This 65-space day care centre not only provides cultural programming and a safe space to grow and learn, it also allows the parents of these children to return to jobs that require their physical attendance. Not only that, but it will provide employment for approximately 20 staff and provide economic opportunities for tradespeople and contractors who are working on the construction of this facility, the MEDOCare Pharmacy, and the Northwest Métis Council offices. This is one of 12 builds across Manitoba that we're currently in the process of starting, developing, or nearing completion of, which all provide similar benefits to the communities we build in.

While we are addressing the needs of families and ensuring culturally appropriate care is available for their children, we are also dedicated to the fact that all our children deserve a head start in life, like the one that was promised us when we brought Manitoba into Canada's confederation. We will never stop working to ensure that our children receive what was stolen from our ancestors.

In 2019, Canada's Bill C-92 - An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families - affirms our right to have jurisdiction over our kids in care and provide culturally appropriate care, shifting the focus from apprehension to prevention and placement with extended families and communities. As of January 2021, that bill came into force. The bill creates a direct relationship between the federal government and your Métis government; the province will continue to play a role in this partnership, but it will be quite different from the role they played in the past.

What's important to know is that we are not simply going to assume jurisdiction over our kids in care. We will continue to evolve the ways we support them. A recent example is how we're investing in RESP accounts for our kids in care. Through this endeavour, we are beginning to secure the future success of over 500 children, ensuring that when they are ready to move on to the next phase of their lives and their education, they have what they need to pursue their academic dreams.

We have also recognized that a child turning 18 does not automatically have everything he or she needs to succeed in life, and could struggle without a continued support system. That's why we're investing in them beyond the age of 18, including the development of new transitional housing facilities to help them land on their feet, as well as additional supports to gain life skills like budgeting, along with training opportunities and help to access the post-secondary education system. We will do everything we can to help them gain and maintain their independence as they spread their wings and launch into the next phase of their life.

Your Métis government will continue to work on these and other initiatives that ensure our families, our communities, and our Nation are positioned for success, regardless of the pandemic or any economic challenges we face. Standing together, united in our traditions, culture, and values, is how we've survived all the challenges we've faced in our shared history. It's part of our identity as the Red River Métis, and it's something each and every one of us should take pride in. We are a reflection of the resilience and strength of our ancestors, and I believe they would be proud of what we've been able to accomplish by staying strong together. Always remember - your Métis government has your back - today, tomorrow, and beyond.

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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