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‘I’ve never forgotten 1991’: Manitoba Metis Federation leader shares memories of Brian Mulroney

The head of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is paying his respects to Brian Mulroney ahead of the former prime minister’s state funeral.

“I’ve never forgotten 1991,” MMF President David Chartrand told CTV News, “As soon as I heard the words ‘I respect Red River Metis Nation,’ that was it for me. There was a man who finally respected us, and we’d been fighting so long to be recognized.”

In October 1991, Brian Mulroney’s government passed a resolution through the House of Commons to recognize Louis Riel as Manitoba’s founder, and to support the constitutional rights of the Red River Metis.

Chartrand praises Mulroney for not only recognizing the Red River Metis as a governing nation, but for inspiring him as a young politician at the time.

“I was really taken by his approach to us and his respect for us and our culture,” Chartrand explained. “You respect us, and we will respect you with great, great pride and also bring you into our family.”

Chartrand also credits the Mulroney for his work launching Indigenous business development, employment and training programs – which helped the MMF establish Louis Riel Capital Corporation in 1992.

“It was just an idea of allowing us to try to earn our own revenue by giving us the seed to grow and develop.”

Chartrand said the first transfer was around $1.8 million at the time.

“And today, we’d done hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from our capital and created about 1,000 Metis businesses,” he explained. “So that little seed money made a massive difference.”

Chartrand added the aforementioned training programs have benefitted thousands of Metis families.

“It shows you his future vision of giving us an opportunity to govern ourselves and operate our own businesses.”

The MMF president was in Ottawa this week to give his condolences on behalf of the Manitoba Metis Federation. Mulroney’s casket has been lying in state ahead of the funeral scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

On a personal level, Chartrand remembers Mulroney as “like more of a common man” – someone easy to relate to and talk with.

“You really touched us and I’ve never forgotten that,” Chartrand said.

The state funeral takes place on Saturday. CTV News’ special coverage begins at 9 a.m. ET.

 – With files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso

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