President's Corner:

John Morrisseau

Biography as submitted by the MMF

Mr. John Morrisseau served as President of the Manitoba Métis Federation from 1976 to 1981.

Mr. Morrisseau recalls in 1976, the Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau was willing to provide federal dollars to fund mutual claims research on land claim issues such as outlined under the Manitoba Act.

His team including Harry Daniels and Sam Sinclair began the task to put together a proposal.  The proposal would require people to go through the archives to search for material to support the claim but the issue was there were no Métis with the skills to do the job.  Doug Spraque who had the skills and is a well known historian, was hired to train Metis.

After working with different government departments in drafting the proposal, it was presented to the Trudeau government for consideration.

Through intense negotiation, they were able to secure research funding through 1981 which allowed for intensive examination of church, and Hudson bay records.

Mr. Morrisseau says Trudeau staff clearly saw the land claim like a treaty believing an opportunity existed to re-patriate the Constitution.

In 1981, MMF President John Morrisseau told the Metis and non-status Indians Constitutional review Commission: “We can’t draw up the rights of a new constitution when our rights entrenched in the Manitoba Act of 1870 are still outstanding.  We’re only putting ourselves back and giving them another way out.  First of All, let’s settle the issue that’s there, that’s the issue of land claims.”

Moreover, the absence within the patriation resolution of a requirement for Métis consent to constitutional amendments affecting them raised the real possibility of government removing the Métis land rights sections of the Manitoba Act that the MMF intended to make the subject of major litigation.  Mr. Morrisseau said “If the Government of Canada was to repeal section 31 and 32 of the Manitoba Act through an amending process, we would consider such a maneuver to be the greatest breach of faith in Canadian history.”

On April 15th, 1981, the Native Council of Canada joined the Manitoba Métis Federation in a major land claims suit against the federal government and the Government of Manitoba.  The Statement of Claim MMF v. Canada challenged the unfulfilled treaty promises made to the Metis people promising 1.4 million acres of land under the Manitoba Act, 1870

After leaving the MMF in 1981, Mr. Morrisseau joined the Howard Powley NDP government as an Assistant Deputy Minister hoping by working inside government, he could continue his valuable work for the Métis.

Mr. Morrisseau says “The work to file the land claim helped to re-kindle pride in Métis.  It was time to lift our heads again to feel good about ourselves and it helped us to build strong Métis communities.”

Now retired, John Morrisseau currently lives in Grand Rapids.  He and his wife Nelly are celebrating 45 years together.  They have two daughters and 4 sons, and 4 grandchildren.

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