The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is accusing the provincial government of discriminating against Métis citizens in the province because of its lack of communication with the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to First Nations and others.
The MMF filed a complaint with Manitoba’s Human Rights Commission on Sept. 11 saying the group has been subjected to systemic discrimination by the province, Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen and Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s top doctor.
“At the end of the day there’s not a strategy, a relationship or something tangible we can take back to our people saying this is what the province is willing to do,” MMF President David Chartrand told APTN News.
Chartrand said the province has failed to provide a sufficient pandemic plan to the federation that includes the Métis people.
He believes this stems from the contentious relationship the MMF has had with Brian Pallister’s government, which has played out for years in the media and in courtrooms after the premier cancelled a $67.5-million tri-partite agreement between the Federation, Manitoba Hydro and the previous NDP government.
“They don’t want to recognize my Metis government… that they recognize us as a Metis government representing our citizens,” said Chartrand. “That’s the problem Pallister faces and that’s the problem his government faces.”
In a letter released Sept. 11, the MMF said, “COVID-19 is a matter of life and death for a vulnerable, at risk Manitoba Metis Community. The fact is that Manitoba, the Minister of Health and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Roussin, will not communicate with nor work with the MMF on the COVID-19 pandemic response. Given their willingness to work with First Nations and Inuit, the two other Aboriginal peoples of Canada, I have concluded, that the sole reason they will not communicate with the MMF is because of our citizens are Metis.
“As such, I believe this is discrimination.”
Pallister fires back with some accusations of his own
“I can only say to president Chartrand if you really care about representing your people stop trying to weasel money out of everybody including Métis people and start getting to the table and looking after their best interest,” he said.
Pallister went on to say Chartrand is in the business of suing people and will not return calls, emails or texts to discuss on-going issues.
He also added he has many Métis friends and respects them too much to, “start throwing money at them to make them my friends.”
Chartrand says the complaint isn’t about suing anyone, and Pallister’s response is misleading the public.
“He’s like a school yard bully right now and that’s not going to fly,” he said.
Chartrand said the MMF was supposed to enter into a data-sharing agreement with Manitoba months ago but that has stalled.
The province currently has an agreement with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The group releases this information on a weekly basis.
Chartrand added the agreement faltered after the province told the MMF it relies on self-identification during its health data collection – a move he doesn’t agree with.
“I wouldn’t have a record of that person if they’re not registered with the Federation government,” said Chartrand.
Both Friesen and Roussin responded to the MMF’s complaint during one of their weekly briefings.
“We’ve asked them to participate with us. We’ve reached out to encourage the development of an information-sharing agreement,” said Friesen.
“We have not heard back so that door is open as soon as Mr. Chartrand will walk through it.”
Roussin told reporters he’s always been willing to work with the MMF.
“I’m open to meet and address any issues and collaborate moving forward,” said Roussin.
Right now the organization only tracks COVID-19 cases through word of mouth. They believe a data-sharing agreement where the government records who is a registered MMF member will allow them to provide proper support to their citizens.