A side by side image of MNO President Margaret Froh and MNA President Andrea Sandmaier

This article was originally published in the National Post on November 15, 2023

Nearly 140 years after Louis Riel was executed, Métis in Canada are still fighting for our rights to be recognized.

As we reflect on our history and look to the future on Louis Riel Day, we are reminded that our journey towards reconciliation and federal recognition is far from over. The progress we have made so far is a testament to the unwavering spirit of the Métis people, but it is well past time that we solidify our gains with the passage of Bill C-53 – our Métis self-government legislation.

Louis Riel, a Métis leader and visionary, remains a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of injustice. His efforts to protect the rights and culture of the Métis were rooted in a deep love for his people. His struggle was a cry for justice. Recently, the Government of Manitoba introduced legislation to formally recognize Riel as the first premier of the province – a recognition deeply appreciated by Métis people.

For generations, our Métis ancestors fought to have our rights recognized. They petitioned the Crown, took collective action and even took up arms in some regions to defend our identity, lands, way of life, and rights. Promises made to our ancestors by the Crown were broken, a process that has repeated itself time and time again throughout our history, and our rights were ignored. Nevertheless, we persevered, building self-government structures through assemblies and democratic elections. We leaned on each other, our communities and nationhood maintained by the strength of our collective will.

We have a chance now to make a historic change. Bill C-53 is a crucial step toward the recognition for which Louis Riel fought. This legislation solidifies the recognition Métis have been pursuing for more than 200 years. It is a formal — and legal — recognition of Métis self-government and Métis self-determination by the Canadian government on behalf of the Crown. It’s about how we elect our leaders, determine our citizenship, govern ourselves, and take care of our Métis children.

The Government of Canada has passed nearly 30 pieces of similar legislation for other Indigenous people; this would be a first for the Métis.

In the spirit of Louis Riel, we must continue the fight for the rights of our people and for reconciliation. Bill C-53 is a pivotal step in this direction. It is reconciliation in action.

Louis Riel Day reminds us of our shared history and the responsibility we all hold to learn from the past, rectify historical wrongs, and work towards a brighter future. The passage of Bill C-53 is a tangible way to honour the legacy of Louis Riel and fulfil our commitment to reconciliation. As we reflect on this important day, let us not only remember the struggles of the past but also dedicate ourselves to the promise of a more just, inclusive, and equitable Canada.

We call upon Parliament to support this crucial legislation. Let the Métis no longer be known as the “forgotten people.”

Instead, recognize us as an equal order of government alongside self-governing First Nations and Inuit. Passage of C-53 will end the legacy of ignoring the Métis and denying our rights as an Indigenous people. This historic step toward reconciliation is long overdue and we must seize this opportunity to finally see Louis Riel’s dream realized.

Our story continues and the path forward is clear. It is time to write the next chapter in the Métis journey — one of recognition, respect and reconciliation.

  • Andrea Sandmaier is president of the Métis Nation of Alberta and Margaret Froh is president of the Métis Nation of Ontario