President's Message - September 1, 2021

September 1, 2021

We are Louis Riel's people, the founders of the province of Manitoba. Not since 1870 have we taken more steps on the pathway toward taking our rightful place in Canada's confederation than we do today. As the 2021 federal election campaign continues, it's more important than ever that we, the Red River Métis, make sure our voices are heard, and that our votes are counted. We must protect the gains we've made in recent years and prevent anyone else from taking what we have earned.

One of the ways your Métis Government is communicating your needs and interests, and the needs and interests of your family, is through the creation of a document called The top 15 priorities for the Red River Métis. This document is on our website and has been shared with the New Democratic Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois, and the Green Party of Canada. We asked each to consider building our priorities into their national platforms to help address Canada's "unfinished business of reconciliation" with our Nation.

These priorities were identified based on feedback from Citizens through surveys, along with consultation with Citizens who reached out to our departments with concerns, and the collective experiences of your elected representatives in theon Cabinet, including me.

Our priorities

Protection of our identity - You have told your Métis Government that your highest priority is the protection of the existing definition of Métis identity, and the prevention of any appropriation - cultural or otherwise - of the term by others who are not part of our Nation.

Recognition of our treaty rights - The agreement signed on July 6 between Canada and the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) commits the federal government to creating a constitutionally protected modern-day treaty, giving us a foundation for further negotiations around taxation, law enforcement, and fiscal arrangements, with more to come.

Land claims - We know the 2013 MMF v. Canada declaration said that the solemn constitutional promise in section 31 of the Manitoba Act was not kept. The 1.4 million acres promised to Métis children as a head start were not delivered. The ensuing scrip program was a failure, rife with negligence and fraud. Our July 2021 agreement reinforces Canada's commitment to negotiating toward a resolution. I committed to resolving this at the beginning of my time as your leader, and I will not rest until this is complete.

Proportionate and fair funding - As constitutionally protected rightsholders, we know that Canada is obligated to support a distinctions-based approach for funding Red River Métis governance, programs, and services. This is not a request for a handout, but an expectation that a recognized government should be able to determine how Citizen tax dollars are spent. This funding must be clearly, proportionately, and equitably distributed between the Indigenous communities in Canada.

Métis-specific healthcare - The need for a Métis-specific healthcare strategy has never been clearer than it has been through the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw our ability to access appropriate support for Citizens become subject to the political whims of the provincial government. Therefore, we seek full inclusion in the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch (FNIB) and empowerment to deliver healthcare services to Citizens, including nursing stations, laboratories, homecare, hospital funding, long-term care, and data-sharing so we can properly deliver on population health surveillance, infectious disease management, and immunization record keeping.

Métis child and family services - We have argued with provincial authorities that our children have become an industry, and that their continued focus on apprehension does not create a good environment for families or kids in care. We intend to fully implement the provisions of Bill C-92, but we need to secure adequate funding and full cooperation from all partners.

Education and employment - The number of Métis Citizens entering post-secondary education continues to grow, but we know more can be done to support our students. That's why we are seeking enhanced funding for post-secondary education for Métis students, with an emphasis on those in remote and rural areas, and initiatives for graduates transitioning into the workforce through internships and federally supported hiring programs to combat systemic racism.

Funding for microbusinesses - One of the trends that has emerged with the pandemic is the growth of microbusinesses. From beadwork to clothing design, leatherwork, and jewelry design, we see this as a growing space that suits the entrepreneurial spirit of the Red River Métis. Between supports for these new start-ups and the traditional small- and medium-sized businesses that form the backbone of our country and our Nation, we will continue to advance your interests and ensure you have the right tools to succeed.

Distinction-based set- asides - Allowing all Citizens to have meaningful participation in our economy is vital to the well-being of our communities and our families. That is why we are asking for revisions to the federal set-aside program and procurement process, so that we have access to a proportionate share of contracts with Canada and allow time for individuals to gain the needed skills to successfully compete for contracts in our communities.

Competing in the global economy - Access to effective, efficient, and affordable broadband is key to competing in 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.

International trade - Part of our nation-to-nation, government-to-government standing is the ability to look beyond the boundaries of our Homeland and our country, to forge new relationships with other Indigenous governments and communities across the globe. These relationships and trade arrangements allow for economic prosperity to be in the hands of all Indigenous peoples of the world and must be supported by any party who wishes to lead our country.

How we'll share the information with you

The perspectives and responses we get from the parties vying for leadership of our country will be shared with our Métis Citizens and voters in Manitoba and beyond, to help you and your family members understand which parties are able to commit to advancing reconciliation with our Nation and to make sure you have the information you need to make an informed voting decision.

I encourage all Red River Métis Citizens to look for these important priorities when speaking with or listening to all candidates, so that you know where they stand on prioritizing your needs and the needs of your family. And above all else, make sure that your eligible family, friends, and community members are able to get to the polls and vote in this critical election. Our ability to negotiate for these priorities will be significantly impacted by the philosophy of the party that takes power.

While your Métis Government continues to work on these long-term supports for our Nation, I encourage everyone to stay safe and follow the public health guidelines. 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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