Manitoba First Nation, Métis leaders share mixed emotions on Canada 150
AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, Pimicikamak Chief Cathy Merrick and Métis Federation president weigh in
Canada 150 has touched off a national conversation over how Canadians ought to mark the day, which many view as contentious based on historical injustices visited upon Canada's first peoples.
Three First Nation and Métis leaders in Manitoba shared thoughts with CBC News on what they hope Manitobans keep in mind on July 1.
Derek Nepinak is the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; Cathy Merrick is chief of Pimicikamak, a First Nation about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg; and David Chartrand is president of the Manitoba Métis Federation.
AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
I do not feel conflicted about Canada's 150th birthday, because it is my responsibility as the grand chief to ensure that we not only have solid policy positions and understandings about where we stand on specific issues, but also to be firm on our positions.
We recognize that many people who have come to call Turtle Island home have also been raised and educated to idealize Canada based on popular local, regional and national narratives. This gives many Canadians a sense of pride in 150 years of being a successor state.
For most Indigenous families, we have inherited a history of subjugation, marginalization and purposeful attempts to either kill us off through disease, starvation and loneliness, or to keep our families alive on the margins of Canadian society but at far less of a quality of life than that provided for others. That is nothing to celebrate.
My message to non-Indigenous Manitobans is to celebrate what their nation state has provided for them but to be wary that the standard of living achieved for some in this society has come at great cost to the other side of the treaty-based relationship.
Manitoba was settled on a foundation of treaty relationships that have yet to find balance in opportunity. When we put the treaty-based relationship front and centre as the foundation to truly create a harmonious and peaceful society, we will find an even greater outcome that benefits all people who call this place home.
Pimicikamak Chief Cathy Merrick
The creator gave Pimicikamak the responsibility to govern itself, its lands, its people and traditional resources. Pimicikamak excercised this responsibility from a time beyond the memory of mankind, and never surrendered it.
Canada is celebrating a 150 years of cultural genocide to the original people of this land, from the Indian Act to their starvation policy administered by the federal government.
My people will be celebrating Pimicikamak Cree Nation Day to recognize and honour our ancestors who were here way before the birth of Canada.
My advice to Manitobans is to know the history of the first peoples in this country and appreciate the kindness of our ancestors — our ancestors who entrusted the treaty relationship for the benefit of future generations.
We are here, our children will be here and our grandchildren will be here. We are not going away, nor will we be assimilated into the ruling power.
We will strive and ensure that our children, our grandchildren will learn their language, their culture, their treaty relationship to the Crown.
Métis Federation president David Chartrand
We are proud to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary with Prime Minister Trudeau, his government and all Canadians.
The Manitoba Métis are Canada's negotiating partners in Confederation and founders of Manitoba.
The Métis, led by Louis Riel, created a list of rights forming the basis for the negotiation and passing of the Manitoba Act, 1870. This list called on Canada to create and honour treaties with the Aboriginal Peoples, including the Métis. The list also required Manitoba to be bilingual in both English and French.
Canada's cultural inheritance and its diversity are in part due to forward-thinking leaders like Riel. We are proud as both Métis Nation citizens and Canadians. We helped build this great country and continue to contribute to Canada's growth and success.
Today, Canada is reconciling its past and renewing its partnership with the Manitoba Métis. We are advancing in our land-claim negotiations to address historic wrongs and move forward together to build a stronger Canada.
We invite all Canadians to join in the 150 celebrations. On Canada Day, we also remember and thank all Canadian veterans and their families for their sacrifices for democracy and their help making our country a leader in promoting peace in the world.
In 2020, the Métis Nation will celebrate Manitoba's 150th birthday and the bringing of our homeland into Confederation. We look forward to sharing our unique and distinct culture, history and pride with all Canadians.
Believe in yourself — believe in Canada.