May 13, 2020
Premier Pallister ignores Métis and First Nations contribution to Manitoba History
Premier Pallister missed a golden opportunity to advance reconciliation by deliberately choosing to ignore the contribution of the Métis and First Nations peoples to the founding of Manitoba and its entry into the newly formed confederation of Canada. “Manitoba” derived from the Cree, Ojibwe or Assiniboine languages means “straits of Manitou, the Great Spirit”. (Canadian Encyclopedia). Louis Riel, the Métis leader, brought Manitoba into Canada in 1870. He also led the northwest rebellion after Canada reneged on land promises it made in return for Manitoba’s entry info confederation.
What better forum to advance reconciliation than the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s entry into Confederation to celebrate the leadership of Louis Riel, the Métis leader and the First Nations who made up the original inhabitants of Manitoba. In a province where Indigenous people make up 18% of the population according to the 2016 census, Pallister could have taken the opportunity to celebrate Indigenous people. What a missed opportunity to change perceptions, combat negative stereotypes and use the opportunity to move reconciliation forward. Instead he has chosen to further entrench negative bias and white privilege in a province where according to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:
- 74% of incarcerated men are Indigenous
- 82% of youth in custody are Indigenous
- over 90% of children in the child welfare system are Indigenous
- the highest rates of child poverty at 75 per cent;
- highest rate of police-involved deaths of Indigenous people at 60 per cent; and
- one of the highest rates of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls at more than 50 per cent
Prime Minister Trudeau on National Indigenous Day on June 21, 2020 acknowledged the contribution of Louis Riel and the Métis people in bringing the province of Manitoba into Confederation. He also took the opportunity to recommit his government to Reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.
July 10, 2021
Premier Pallister whitewashes Manitoba history
A First Nations leader is among those accusing Manitoba’s premier of offering a distorted reframing of the province’s history, omitting the displacement of Indigenous people and violence against them in what feels like “a punch in the gut.” “It’s very disheartening, very disrespectful to Indigenous people,” said Leroy Constant, the interim grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Constant is among a number of Indigenous people calling on Brian Pallister to educate himself on the history of colonization in the province, after the premier spoke publicly about the toppling of the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth on the Manitoba legislative grounds on Canada Day.
On Wednesday, Pallister admonished those involved in bringing the statues down and announced they will be restored. “The people who came here to this country, before it was a country and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything. They came here to build. They came to build better.” Brian Pallister.
That take on history doesn’t sit well with Leroy Constant, the interim grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Constant, is also the chief of York Factory First Nation in northern Manitoba. Pallister’s comments served to “minimize, romanticize and celebrate the settler colonialism that displaced First Nations from their ancient and sacred lands in the most brutal and heinous ways,” Constant said. That’s “unconscionable and a desecration to the graves of the ancestors on which the legislature is built and on which the city of Winnipeg now lies,” he said. Pallister is out of touch with reality, says Mary Jane Logan McCallum, a history professor at the University of Winnipeg and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous people, history and archives. “I think his knowledge of Manitoba history is about 50 years out of date, maybe 60 years out of date,” said the member of Munsee Delaware Nation in Ontario.
Settlers in Canada did come to build farms, businesses and churches as Pallister says, but that building came from dispossessing and destroying Indigenous peoples’ way of life, she said. In the 1870s, the numbered treaties that cover Manitoba were signed by the Crown and First Nations leaders. They allowed the Canadian government to actively pursue agriculture, settlement, transportation links and resource development in exchange for payment or other promises, the Treaty Commission of Manitoba says.
Within a few short years, though, McCallum says land was given to settlers in exchange for small, remote reserves and First Nations treaty rights were never fully realized. Then came the deluge of government and church-run programs that attempted to assimilate Indigenous people and “take the Indian out of the child.” The idea that “to build you always have to tear down” suggests “that what is being torn down doesn’t matter — it’s not relevant, it’s not meaningful,” McCallum said. “In a way, that fails to bring a really deep analysis to our country’s history and it allows us to get through with a really positive story of progress.”