MMF Message from the President – June 19, 2008
This past week can be best described as a milestone for the resistance and persistence of the Metis Nation. The Metis People have faced over a 130 years of emotional, physical and political struggles against the past federal and provincial government policies of assimilation. Today our Citizens still face many struggles in being fully recognized and meaningfully accommodated.At the time of Louis Riel, our Ancestors took a stand to protect our way of life, our community, and our families. As a result of what became known as the Red River Resistance, due to the determination of our leaders and strength of our people, the Metis became the Founders of Manitoba and Partners in Confederation.
Afterwards, believing our Treaty would be honoured by Canada, Louis Riel was elected to Parliament three times by his constituents. But he was not allowed to sit in Ottawa – not even once. He and other leaders were hunted, exiled, or murdered. Our Metis right to self-determination and to self-government was denied. A period of dark times ensued.
The Metis became refuges in our own land, often living on road allowances and unwelcome in many cities, towns, and villages across our homeland. Men were beaten. Women were raped. For many of our Metis children, these dark times held violent and unspeakable horrors of emotional, physical and sexual abuse in Church-run Residential and Day Schools. This can never be forgotten.
This past week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took the bold, courageous, and visionary step to make a historic apology for the past government policies of assimilation including the Indian Residential School system. I thank our Prime Minister for his genuine and forthright apology for the government’s action and inaction. I thank Premier Gary Doer and all the Federal and Provincial Party Leaders for their apologies.
I also thank Minister Chuck Strahl, Federal Interlocutor for Metis, for his important proactive leadership in promoting upcoming discussions on those issues of importance to the Metis Nation including Metis School Survivors, Veterans, Governance, Claims, and Policy. We are confident in his sincerity and ability to renew the trust and partnership between Canada and the Metis Nation.
Metis National Council President Clement Chartier in his speech to Parliament, both in the House of Commons and Senate, made it clear the vast majority of Metis Residential School Survivors have not been recognized for their pain. After hearing the Apology, and the responses from Manitoba Premier Gary Doer and the federal and provincial party leaders, I believe we can work towards resolution, reconciliation and accommodation.
I offer my prayers and condolences for those who have recently lost family, friends, and neighbours. Please pray for the good health of those who are sick or shut-in. I also ask that we pray for our Ancestors and School Survivors who have passed away and were not here to share in the Apology. There is hope for the future. Believe in Yourself – Believe in Metis!