Annual General Assembly to Build on Past Successes

young-citizen-storyYoung Métis citzen at the MNO AGA (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) In his State of the Nation address to over 400 Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizens attending the MNO Annual General Assembly (AGA) in Sault Ste. Marie, MNO President Gary Lipinski called on everyone in the MNO to place increased attention on helping and supporting Métis young people. “We all need to put more emphasis on how we support Métis children to dream the dream,” he said.

President Lipinski linked increased attention to children and youth to the MNO’s long-term goal of Métis self-government. “Self-government,” he explained, “isn’t something people are going to give you – we need to just do it. We do it by being responsible for ourselves and responsible for our citizens.” In keeping with this principle, President Lipinski called on all MNO citizens to encourage Métis “to help our children and youth to be the best they can be” from the womb to young adulthood. “It should not be just a certain percentage of young Métis who have the vision of finishing high school and going onto postsecondary education and careers,” he stated. He told the delegates representing communities from all parts of Ontario that parents and family members need to support their children to take advantage all the opportunities that are increasingly opening to them.

In keeping with President Lipinski’s suggestions, the MNO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth during the AGA. The President also reported that the Provincial Government had recently agreed to review a MNO report on Métis children and family services as part of an overall review of provincial child and family services. The President’s emphasis on youth was also timely as youth participation in the AGA has steadily increased in the last several years. This year over 10% of delegates were youth compared with less than 1% in 2008.

The AGA also provided the MNO the opportunity to highlight its successes in several areas. President Lipinski noted that the Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF) had commenced operations on August 14 this year with the support of the provincial government which has committed to contributing $30 million dollars in funding over the next ten years. The MVDF will provide financial support for Métis entrepreneurs and businesses in the resource sector. “The MVDF will create jobs and economic opportunities for Métis people and will have an impact for generations to come.”

President Lipinski reported on the MNO’s decision to intervene during the Manitoba Metis Federation’s landmark land claim case that went before the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2011. “If this case is successful, the Federal Government will be forced to create a process to deal with our historic grievances,” explained President Lipinski, “we are the only Aboriginal people without a process and so it was important that the Supreme Court heard our voice.”

Other highlights during the AGA included the signing of a MOU between the MNO and Union Gas and the election of four Senators who sit as members of the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO). Two Senators, Reta Gordon and Joseph Poitras were re-elected, and they will be joined by two new Senators, Verna Porter and Rene Gravelle. These Senators were sworn in as PCMNO members along with the other PCMNO members elected in the MNO general election that took place on May 7 this year.

In addition to business meetings, the AGA included a wide variety of cultural activities including events featuring an exciting all-star show featuring top Ontario Métis entertainers. The Métis Voyageur Games, featuring athletic competitions based on the traditional voyageur lifestyle were filmed by APTN and will be featured in the new TV program, Warrior Games, in 2013. The MNO also presented 20 Queen’s Jubilee Medals to its veterans and other citizens. The medal recipients were: Chris Plummer, Rene Gravelle, Guy Mandeville, George Kelly, Earl Scofield, Elmer Ross, Greg Garrett, Kerry McLaughlin, Gerry Bedford, Ray Bergie, Jean Camirand, Moe Sarrazin, Alvina Cimon, Ruth Wagner, Joe Poitras, Bob McKay and France Picotte.

The principal AGA sponsors were Union Gas, Bruce Power, MNO’s Abitibi/Temiscamingue and James Bay Territories Consultation Committee who recently signed the first Metis Impact and Benefit Agreement with a mining proponent south of the 60th parallel, Detour Gold, Premium Gold, Osisiko, Royal Bank and OPG Deep Geologic Repository Survey.