The head of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) didn’t mince words when it came to responding to recent criticism from a collective of Métis people calling themselves Red River Echoes.
“For those out there who want to criticize our system, our government, our design they can go to hell because our people work hard to develop it,” MMF President David Chartrand said during the group’s virtual annual general assembly (AGA).
Chartrand called out the newly formed grassroots group consisting of more than 50 Métis professionals, activists and students.
“There’s some people opposed to the decisions of how we govern ourselves. They say they’re young, Métis leaders of the future and what they say is they ‘don’t believe in the locals,’” said Chartrand.
“They don’t believe they have to put their energy…to fight for our cause.”
Chartrand took issue with a Winnipeg Free Press article published March 19, in which a representative from Red River Echoes spoke about the letter the group released the day prior outlining concerns over the MMF’s move to fund a full-page advertisement commending the Winnipeg Police Service and Chief Danny Smyth.
The piece also included details about the MMF’s governance structure including Chartrand’s 24-year run as president.
Representatives from Red River Echoes told APTN News while they are advocating for a governance that is more reflective of traditional ways of governing, their main points of concern are actually rooted in something else.
“The collective is very respectful of the people who have come before us and who are in governance right now,” said Seraph-Eden Carr.
“We are not trying to embarrass or disrespect or harm anybody. What we’re doing is pointing out the harm that’s being caused.”
The group formed earlier this month after the MMF took out the police advertisement in local newspapers.
They said the campaign was the final straw in what they call “out of touch” decisions the MMF has made including, statements against Wet’suwet’en solidarity, dismissing calls to change the names of buildings named after people who killed and hurt Indigenous people and the decision to remove a tent city from outside their Winnipeg headquarters.
“Our letter basically spoke to what we say as being undemocratic and unfair, and what was harming our brothers and sisters in the community. We were offering community support,” said Carr.
Following Chartrand’s comments over the weekend, the collective released another letter in response.
“We understand what is at stake for our future, and want to ensure our Nation’s success. What’s the use of billions of dollars in benefits from the federal government if Métis do not see themselves in their own government? If we are alienated from First Nations relations? Our collective wants true democracy, a return to our traditional ways – including weaning ourselves from the influence and permission of colonial governments.”
Red River Echoes representative Breanne Lavallee-Heckert found Chartrand’s response jarring but not surprising.
“Really solidified our point because things need to change. This isn’t what we should expect and this isn’t what we should see,” she said.
A spokesperson for the MMF said they encourage youth to take an active role in their government.
“If they have issues they feel should be raised, we urge them to connect with their Locals to learn more and become involved,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The collective said they will continue to organize and echo voices for change.