President's Message - September 16, 2020

September 16, 2020

I hope everyone is making the most of what is left of our summer! Though it is difficult when you are limited on your travel and activities, it is still important that we get out and spend time with family in whatever capacity possible. Before we know it, the ground will be covered in snow and we will be stuck inside.

Throughout history, our People have been known by many different names. Some common names include the Red River Métis and the Manitoba Métis. We were also known as the "flower beadwork people" for our beautiful floral beadwork that is unique to our people and our region. Another name we were often referred to as by the Cree and Ojibway was "Otipemisiwak," meaning "the people who own themselves," due to the fact our Ancestors stood up for our independence and rights, resisting injustice at every step.

The Manitoba Métis have passionately defended our identity and culture over and over again throughout our history. In 1816 at the Battle of Seven Oaks, or as we call it, the Victory of Frog Plain, we resisted the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) attempting to intrude on our way of life by making the sale of Pemmican illegal outside of HBC forts. The Pemmican trade was not only a major component for our culture, it was a large source of income for Métis traders.

In 1849, Pierre-Guillaume Sayer and three other Métis were brought to trial for illegally trafficking furs - a market that the HBC wanted a monopoly on. The fur trade was another critical source of income for Métis families in the 1800s. Though HBC had won the case, the jury and judge recommended no punishment and the Métis were able to continue to trade furs in HBC land.

This pattern continued into 1869 and 1870 when our Ancestors resisted Canada's entry into the Red River Settlement, and ultimately the North-West, without first negotiating and reaching agreement with our people. This resistance led to the Métis drafting the List of Rights to protect the rights of the inhabitants of the Red River Settlement. In 1885, the Manitoba Métis packed our families up and once more were called to resist Canada, this time in Saskatchewan, at the North-West Resistance.

This spirit lives on in the Manitoba Métis to this day. In 2013, the landmark decision was reached by the Supreme Court of Canada in the MMF v. Canada case after over three decades of going through the court system in Canada. This case affirmed what we always knew: Canada failed to fulfill their promises to the Métis Nation in the Manitoba Act (1870) and Canada must attempt to right this wrong.

More recently, the Métis Nation culture and identity haves been facing internal threats from those who are wrongly claiming that they are a part of our Nation. In 2002, the Métis National Council passed a resolution that outlines the National definition of Métis. In recent years, people across Canada have been mistakenly claiming Métis identity. Even one of our Governing Members, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), has been found guilty of not adhering to this definition.

This identity crisis reared its ugly head in March at our Métis Nation Citizens Forum on Identity, Citizenship & Homeland. Many representatives at this forum opposed the standard definition and did not see the threat that MNO's membership posed to the Métis Nation as a whole. They did not understand that by allowing these outsiders into our Governments, the real Métis Nation is at risk of being drowned out and silenced by the new voices at the table from these new "Métis" communities east of Fort Frances.

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) left this forum knowing that once more we would be tasked with defending our Nation's culture, heritage, and identity from this new wave of people claiming to be Métis.

Sometimes this threat comes from theis new trend of "race-shifting" taking place in Canada. In many instances, these individuals did not have an Indigenous ancestor, but rather created one. We have so much to lose by allowing these individuals into our Nation. When we allow people to misuse our Métis identity, we take resources and funding opportunities away from those who are truly Métis and whose families have suffered from the intergenerational traumas that our Ancestors were subjected to.

Last week we also sent a letter to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission to file a complaint on the basis of discrimination against the Government of Manitoba; the Honourable Cameron Friesen, Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living; and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer. In April, the Government of Manitoba engaged with the MMF and wanted to enter into a data sharing agreement using their own definition of Métis. When we rejected this and requested that we use MMF Citizenship cards to define who is Métis, they went radio silent on us.

We then followed up with various letters between April and August. Despite Dr. Roussin telling the media in May that he looked forward to entering into an agreement with the Métis, we never got a response to a single letter until media inquiries forced the Minister of Health's hand at the eleventh hour before the article was written.

In order for statistics to truly reflect the experiences of the Manitoba Métis Community, we need this data to be accurate. And in order for our pandemic respoense services to reach the Manitoba Métis, we need to be certain that they are truly Citizens of the Manitoba Métis Community.

How are we as the Manitoba Métis Government going to help those who self-identify but do not want to be with their Nation? We would potentially be blamed or at fault for not providing services to families of which we have no knowledge. It would not serve the family or your Métis Government well if we did not take this seriously.

Your Manitoba Métis Government will continue to be on the forefront of the battle against those who attempt to misappropriate our culture, identity, and historic figures.

I will continue to keep in my prayers those who have loved ones suffering from COVID-19 and have been affected by the pandemic protocols. We need to continue to wash our hands regularly, wear personal protective equipment whenever possible, and adhere to social distancing protocols. Together we will get through this as a Nation and emerge stronger than before.


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