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Since we last spoke, Metis National Council President Clément Chartier and I have met with Minister Chuck Strahl. Minister Strahl leads the Federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and is also the Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians. It was a positive discussion of topics including embarking on a new relationship and a working partnership.Following our meeting with the Minister we again met with the Assistant Deputy Minister and senior staff from the Office of the Federal Interlocutor to discuss the next steps in building this new relationship. For all parties, Metis Governance and Metis Economic Development are among the key issues and priorities in moving forward.
This past week, while in Ottawa for meetings, I had the opportunity to attend a hearing on the issue of Bill-292 that was being held by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. Bill-292 is also known as the Act to Implement the Kelowna Accord. As you recall, the Accord was the unprecedented result of the historic November 2005 First Ministers Meeting.
Senator Gerry St. Germain, a fellow Metis Nation Citizen, chaired the meeting of the Committee. President Chartier had been invited to provide our Metis perspective and he gave an excellent briefing to the Committee concerning the need to implement the Accord. Having passed in Committee, it is our understanding that Bill-292 will be forwarded to Senate without revision and will be subject to a vote.
The Accord is a commitment by all governments – Federal, Provincial and Aboriginal – to achieve results to close the gap between the expectations of Canadians and the reality lived by aboriginal peoples throughout Canada. It is a commitment that recognizes the distinctions-based approach is necessary to deal effectively with the issues.
In his briefing, President Chartier also discussed the importance of our Canada-Metis Nation Framework Agreement, signed in May 2005, as a foundation for the Kelowna Accord. It offered a partnership based on mutual respect, responsibility, and sharing. These principles are essential.
We look forward to working in partnership with both Canada and Manitoba in our goal to close the gap. There must not be any further delays. The future health of our Metis Community – Our Children, Women and Elders – depends on acting now. Today is the time to act. Not tomorrow.
I offer my prayers for our Elders and others who are sick or in poor health. I also offer my condolences to our families who have experienced the recent loss of a loved one. Believe in Yourself – Believe in Metis!
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