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This article was published 22/9/2018 (618 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Amidst thunderous applause and news of a landmark reconciliation agreement, Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand heralded the dawn of a new era in a 148-year-old battle for the rights of Métis people.
On Saturday, Chartrand took the stage at the MMF’s annual general assembly to unveil a new $154.3-million agreement with the federal government that pledges to work towards reconciliation and self-government.
In front of a crowd of hundreds at Assiniboia Downs, Chartrand lauded the deal as the culmination of nearly 150 years of Métis organizing dating all the way back to Louis Riel, the Red River resistance and the creation of Manitoba.
"We’re back into Confederation," Chartrand announced. "(The government of Canada) left the table in 1870, and they are back at the table in 2018, and our lives are going to change forever."
In an emotional 30-minute speech, Chartrand — who first took the helm of the MMF in 1997 — blinked back tears as he remembered Métis leaders who had long worked to earn this level of recognition from Ottawa.
"People don’t realize how many people have fought to get us here," Chartrand said, as his voice caught in his throat.
"There are many who have left us already, and could not be here to join us in the celebration."
Along with the funding, the agreement paves the way for the MMF to be recognized as the self-determining government of Métis people in Manitoba. Some of the funds announced Saturday will be used for the transition.
Chartrand also unveiled plans for new investments in social supports for Métis people.
"It will change people’s lives in a way never before seen in this country. We will use our resources to create jobs, to put a better health system, education system, and invest in our young people to go to university," he said.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, in town for the announcement, championed the transfer of funds as a "huge breakthrough" that would allow the MMF to look after Métis people in Manitoba.
"In some ways, our government is to get out of the way so your government can lead," she told the assembly.
The $153.4-million is money Ottawa had already earmarked for the purpose, Bennett told reporters. She also pledged to build accountability frameworks into a future recognition legislation.
"It’s going to be very important to have in this legislation: how do you hold Canada to account? How do we work as a partnership, not the paternalism, or just the exclusion that the Métis nation have felt up until now?" she said.
Bennett did not give a timeline on when eventual legislation to recognize the MMF as a government might move forward. When it does happen, it will clarify and solidify the Métis nation’s role in official matters, Chartrand said.
"The key word is inclusion. We’ll finally be included. We’ll finally be drawn in to be a partner to processes... this new formation will make it very clear who the players are, and who the government is," he said.
Though Chartrand joked that he might not stop smiling for weeks, he said believed he would one day see the MMF formally recognized by Canada as the Manitoba Métis community’s government.
"I had dreams that this day would come," Chartrand said. "I had a vision that if we were consistent in our direction and stayed united, and let no one break us as a people and a government, that we will win."
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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Updated on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 10:42 PM CDT: Edited