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MMF Invests in Health of Metis Community

Photo from Manitoba Metis Federation's website.

Last Thursday, November 2, the Manitoba Metis Federation broke ground on Michif Manor, a home away from home for families coming to Winnipeg for medical care. The facility will have a focus on Metis culture and will be open to members of the Metis Nation living outside Winnipeg. 

The intention of Michif Manor will be to give those in the Metis Nation living outside of Winnipeg awaiting medical procedures a safe, comfortable place to stay. In a post shared on the MMF website, the facility will offer traditional healing practices. Traditional methods in modern healthcare will help “enhance the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of Metis Citizens travelling from outside Winnipeg.” 

“Michif Manor is another building block of our ongoing approach to supporting our citizens through facilities that provide wraparound services and holistic support,” Will Goodon, MMF Minister of Housing and Property Development, said in the same post. “Whether they need help finding or buying a home, transitioning from the child welfare system into adulthood, or securing a home away from home while undergoing treatment, we’re here for them.” 

The building project will have ten personal units near the Health Sciences Centre, so every patient has a private room with their own washroom. The facility will have two communal kitchens, a group dining area, a room for working out, laundry facilities, a cultural resource room, and a games room for kids. The MMF describes the idea as being a similar concept to Ronald McDonald Charity Houses. 

Michif Manor is expected to be open by September 2024. The MMF website ensures there will be support for the unique needs of all families using the services at the Manor. The promise for daily operations includes educational programs, workshops, and resource centres to provide families with the information they need to manage the healthcare system. 

Funding for the project comes from the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative (IHII). This federally operated group works to support First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people with breakthrough ideas pertaining to assisting Indigenous people across the country. Additional financial support for Michif Manor was given by the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO), a federally recognized not-for-profit organization. 

The Federal Government created the IHII to support Indigenous communities across Canada. Three hundred forty-two projects were submitted for funding through IHII, but only 24 were selected. Two of the accepted propositions were from the MMF. Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu praised the new project, calling it an innovative step toward “reversing the impacts of colonialism.” 

“Michif Manor is an excellent example where traditional practices will provide a culturally safe and inclusive place to stay for those travelling to Winnipeg for medical care. Through the IHII, we are proud to support this important project.” 

The $11 million project is aimed to help Metis citizens from across the province with their medically related stays in Winnipeg. Approximately $2.5 million of assistance will be coming from the IHII.  

“Sometimes that little bit of a helping hand gets people over the hump,” Will Goodon said in a video posted by the MMF. “Because when there’s really bad illnesses in families that can hurt and tear people apart. Rather than having that happen, the historic Metis Nation Red River Metis want to wrap our arms around everybody and do the best that we can for them. I’m excited to be a part of this and looking forward to opening the doors here by next year.” 

The MMF described this temporary housing project as an affordable option for families compared to the cost incurred from staying in a hotel when they come to Winnipeg for medical treatment. These costs of staying in Winnipeg can be prohibitive for many, while the overall experience can be an alienating experience for others. The location, 790 Notre Dame, will allow those staying at Michif Manor easy access to the HSC emergency department as well as the Children’s Hospital, the HSC Women’s Hospital, Canadian Blood Services, the Manitoba Clinic and CancerCare Manitoba.  

This substantial project is one of many the Manitoba Metis Federation has made in recent weeks. On October 5, the MMF began a new housing complex project called Mazoun Infinitii Pakoshayimoohk, which translates to Infinity House of Hope. The complex, which will colloquially be called Mazoun, will have 12 one-bedroom units, two two-bedroom suites and two emergency suites for individuals in the child welfare system. 

Mazoun will be a house for Metis youth aging out of the childcare system or recently aged out of the system. The house will offer education on life skills as well as on-site therapy and programs which pertain to Metis culture. The emergency suites will be available to young people who have been involved with Metis Child and Family Services and will act as a place where young people can find care on short notice.  

Young mothers working to support themselves and properly care for their children will be welcome to the assistance of the emergency suites, and families working to reunite will be allowed temporary housing there as well. Many young people who age out of the child welfare system have an abrupt end to their support services and are left with few real-world capabilities. This leads many to a lack of housing and employment in addition to other mental health-related issues. 

According to a 2020 study of unsheltered people in Winnipeg nearly 65 per cent of youth experiencing homelessness had a history of dealing with child protection services. Mazoun will help young Metis people to establish their lives and receive the support they need. 

“Our Red River Metis government believes it is crucial that our kids transitioning into adulthood maintain their connections to their culture, community and family,” David Chartrand, President of the MMF, said of the Mazoun housing complex. “That’s why Mazoun is not just housing. It will create a space where current and former kids in care can always return to receive support, services and a sense of community. We will never turn our back on our kids. If they need help at any age and stage of life, we will be there for them – this is the fundamental purpose of Mazoun.” 

This project was also funded by IHII, as well as many other programs, and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2024. 

“The ongoing housing crisis in Canada is a challenge that the Red River Metis government is tackling through a multi-pronged approach, from support for first-time home buying to home repairs and support for those experiencing homelessness,” said Will Goodon. “Kids leaving care are among the most vulnerable populations in Canada, with an elevated risk of homelessness. Mazoun Infinitii Pakoshayimoohk will provide a solid foundation for the continued growth and development of our Red River Metis Youth, which will allow the residents to leave care positioned for success.”

Mazoun will be on Edison Avenue and will be aimed at helping young people between 16 and 21 years old. Services offered at Mazoun will include programs based on Metis Spirituality, therapy to teach general life skills and a cultural mentorship program. 

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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