MMF president says removal of signs from Ottawa airport a ‘sad day’

The president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, or MMF, says officials at Ottawa’s airport should not have removed a sign promoting his government just because of one complaint.

“For somebody to come along now and say that the Red River Metis sign, Red River government is offensive? That’s a sad, sad day in this new era,” said David Chartrand.

As travellers arrived at the airport, they were greeted with a large sign that said “National Government of the Red River Métis”.

According to the airport authority, the sign was up for 13 months without any complaints.

But in early December, Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin First Nation north of Ottawa, made a complaint to the authority saying it was both offensive and political.

The letter said in part that the sign “had the potential to create confusion regarding the territory’s ownership.”

APTN reached out to Whiteduck for comment on the complaint. In response, he and Chief Greg Sarazin of Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, an Algonquin community two hours west of Ottawa, sent a joint release.

“It is now time for the original peoples of what is today called Ottawa to do our part in welcoming visitors to our territory,” said Whiteduck in a statement to APTN and also shared with the MMF. Sarazin added, “It also provides our people an opportunity to educate all citizens about who we are as they spend time with us.”

The MMF doesn’t have any territorial rights in the Algonquin area or history.

Ottawa airport
One of the signs removed at the Ottawa airport at teh request of Kitigan Zibi. Photo: MMF.

But Chartrand said the signs were there to educate people about the Red River Métis.

“I think for them to use this now as a claim that we are trying to intrude into their land is clearly wrong,” Chartrand said. “It’s truly, it’s really grasping at straws.”

The MMF has similar signs at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport and billboards throughout Manitoba where the MMF originated.

Chartrand said he hasn’t heard from Whiteduck about the signs but wonders if there’s confusion about whether the MMF is supporting a Métis rights law being put forward by the federal government.

Bill C-53 is currently making its way through Parliament and will grant some powers to three Métis groups in Canada.

“So maybe they got us mixed up with the Ontario Metis, maybe that’s something where Whiteduck made a big mistake thinking we’re Ontario or supporters of Ontario,” said Chartrand. “We’re not supporting Ontario, we’re actually supporting the First Nations of Ontario against the Métis Nation of Ontario for having a false claim of their identity, bringing this so-called ‘new historical Metis’ which do not exist in our books and they’re not related in any fashion to our people of the west.”

APTN News has reached out to both Whiteduck and Sarazin multiple times for an interview but hasn’t heard back.

The MMF said it had a two-year contract to keep the signs at the airport in Ottawa that was paid in full.

Chartrand said he’s planning to send a letter to the chair of the Ottawa airport about the removal and is considering legal action.

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