October 1, 2018, Ottawa ON: Statement from President Chartier on today’s National Seniors Day.
National Seniors Day is an occasion to publicly honour and celebrate the profound contributions of Métis Nation seniors in Canada. Métis senior citizens hold a prominent and highly respected role in Métis life. They are our traditional teachers and carry the knowledge of our Métis history, culture, language and our relationships– knowledge and values that define who we are as a Nation and as a people. They are our vital connection to our past and their wisdom continues to inspire and guide younger generations and our Nation as a whole. As such, we hold our Métis Elders and senior citizens in utmost high regard.
The contributions of Métis Nation seniors, including the invaluable contributions of Métis Veterans during WWII, are many and reach across generations. Indeed, Métis Nation seniors, those with us and those who have passed, have been instrumental in shaping this country. They continue to impact all aspects of Canadian society, through their public service including the Canadian Forces, the legal and other professions, in business, the arts, and in society at large.
Despite these contributions, Métis Nation seniors often face a great deal of unnecessary hardship and discrimination. National Seniors Day is therefore also a day to shine a spotlight on the plight of our more vulnerable seniors. Too many elderly Métis community members are suffering physical, emotional and financial hardship, living in poverty, experiencing food insecurity, homelessness, and struggling with ill-health, social and geographic isolation and inadequate housing. The historic exclusion of the Métis Nation from access to federal Indigenous programming and services such as coverage for prescription drugs, medical transportation and other non-insured health services, has exacerbated problems that Métis seniors are facing. We see the results in the statistics and through the stories we hear on a daily basis from Métis citizens across the Homeland. It is heartbreaking to hear, repeatedly, that many Métis seniors are going without their prescription medications because they simply cannot afford to buy them, or rationing their medications in order to buy food.
The Canada-Métis Nation Accord signed on April 13, 2017 commits all Parties to a process of reconciliation and a nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship and identifies a number of priorities for more immediate action including housing, homelessness, poverty reduction and health, among others – all critical focus areas for improving the lives of vulnerable Métis Nation seniors. The subsequent signing of a Canada-Metis Nation Housing Sub-Accord on July 20, 2018, the associated federal investment of $500 million over 10 years in Métis Nation housing, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on a Canada-Métis Nation Health and Wellness Accord on August 21, 2018, are all positive developments for Métis Nation seniors. We look forward to continuing these discussions and to putting in place tangible strategies that will improve the lives of our Métis senior citizens in the immediate future.
It is in this context that today, on National Seniors Day, we invite all Canadians to celebrate the significant achievements and contributions of Métis Nation seniors, including our Métis Veterans, and to join with us in advancing the ideals of inclusiveness, recognition and equality in the treatment of the Métis senior citizens in Canada.