An agreement signed in Winnipeg on Tuesday has seen Canada acknowledge and recognize that the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is the government of the Manitoba Métis.
The Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement was signed on the site of the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park in downtown Winnipeg on Tuesday by MMF President David Chartrand, and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, who appeared at the announcement virtually due to current COVID-19 restrictions.
In a press release, the federal government said the agreement now recognizes the Manitoba Métis right of self-government, and the mandate of the Manitoba Metis Federation as “the government of the Manitoba Métis.”
“The Agreement recognizes the Manitoba Metis Federation's jurisdiction over citizenship, leadership selection, elections and the operations of their government on behalf of the Manitoba Métis,” the federal government said.
Before the agreement was signed, MMF president David Chartrand spoke in a fiery speech about what the agreement means for the country, and for the Manitoba Métis.
“This self-government document which is official today stands very clear that the federal Crown says that the Métis government is the government of all Métis people in the Red River. That is who we are, and that is what we’re going to stand to protect,” Chartrand said.
“This document makes it very clear that legitimately and legally the Métis government represents self-government for all Métis people in Manitoba. At the end of the day Canada will always treat us as a government, and not as an organization or corporation.
“They will treat us as a government.”
During the announcement, Chartrand thanked Bennett for what he said was her perseverance in getting the agreement signed on Tuesday.
“I want to thank you Caroline for not backing away ever on this issue, for standing up and fighting for our government,” Chartrand said. “We had some fisticuffs back and forth, but at the end of the day we came to an agreement.”
In a press release, Bennett said the agreement is another step towards the goal of reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous people.
"The Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement we have signed today with the Manitoba Metis Federation is a major step forward on the path to reconciliation, as it revitalizes and transforms our relationship,” Bennett said.
“We remain firmly committed to working together to advance this vital collaborative work, as we support the Manitoba Metis Federation's vision of how best to put their right to self-government into action, and co-develop solutions that help build a better and brighter future for all their citizens."
During Tuesday’s announcement, Chartrand also took some time to talk about what he said was the resilience of the Métis people over many decades, and he said it was that resilience that ultimately led to the agreement being signed on Tuesday.
“Everything we have achieved we have fought for, everything we have achieved we have had to vigorously put our plans together and unite ourselves to fight for a common cause, and we’ve been successful, and they better understand one thing, that we never give up,” Chartrand said.
“We will not give up to anyone our rights and our place in Confederation. We earned it, we bleed for it and we died for it. There is nothing in this country that has ever been given to the Métis nation without us fighting for it.”
In 2019, nearly 3,000 delegates at the MMF Annual General Assembly passed a resolution endorsing negotiation that would lead to the MMF entering into a self-government agreement with Canada.
That agreement was approved and ratified by the MMF Cabinet as well as the federal Cabinet ,who both authorized their representatives to sign this agreement.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun