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Métis Nation Responds to Conservative Leader’s View of Macdonald and Riel

On September 9th, newly elected leader Erin O’Toole addressed his fellow Conservative Party members and Canadians. It was at this speech where O’Toole felt the need to draw a parallel between Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald and the Métis leader Louis Riel.

The Métis Nation agree with O’Toole and the fact he mentioned modern Canadian politics is causing too much division and western alienation. Where the difference of opinion comes in is how O’Toole failed to address the needs and desires of the Métis Nation.

September 10, 2020 – Amidst the controversy over the toppling of statues of Sir John A. Macdonald, the new Conservative Party Leader is warning that those who are tearing down the statues of the country’s founders are dooming Canada to forget the lessons of history. He is contrasting Macdonald’s legacy with that of our Métis Nation leader Louis Riel, who Macdonald hanged for treason, to show how perceptions of our historical figures change with time and require a balanced look at history.

On this point, I agree that we should recognize both the contributions and shortcomings of our historical figures. I recognize both Macdonald and Riel as founders of Canada albeit with divergent visions of what this country should be.

I also agree when Mr. O’Toole says the story of Macdonald and Riel serves as a warning for modern-day politicians of what happens when Canada is divided, Western alienation takes root and people feel ignored by a distant government in Ottawa. How could I not when the alienation he is referring to is the betrayal and dispossession of the Métis people after our Provisional Government under Riel’s leadership negotiated the admission of Manitoba and western Canada into Confederation one hundred and fifty years ago.

Where I take issue with the new Conservative Leader is the failure of his party with its base in western Canada to address the needs and aspirations of the citizens of the Métis Nation who are an integral part of western Canada. In his platform, he committed the Conservative Party under his leadership to improve the relationship between the Government and Indigenous peoples but the Métis Nation is conspicuous by its absence in the document.

History, it appears, is repeating itself. Reform Party leaders assured us that Riel’s Provisional Government was the model for their movement and the “West Wants In” yet we experienced a lost decade with a Harper government that did virtually nothing for our people.

I have recently written to Mr. O’Toole to seek a meeting to get a better understanding of where his Party stands on our issues and priorities. Let us hope that, despite references to Riel and western alienation, the omission of the Métis Nation from his platform does not doom the Conservative Party to forget the lessons of history once again.

David Chartrand, National Spokesperson, Métis National Council.

The MNC represents the Métis Nation in Canada at the national and international levels. The Métis Nation’s homeland includes the 3 Prairie Provinces and extends into the contiguous parts of British Columbia, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and the United States. There are approximately 400,000 Métis Nation citizens in Canada, roughly a quarter of all Aboriginal peoples in the country.

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