Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Let me compliment you on pronouncing ITK because I can't say it to my old friend Natan. There are so many different times that I've tried.
I want to start off quickly, before I do my presentation, with this. I'm a leader who likes to speak right off the cuff. I don't really read speeches, but I have no choice. This is a standing committee so I have to make a presentation. I want you to visualize this when you're dealing with the Métis. What you hear from Perry and Natan are the challenges that they face, and what systems and structures they have in place.
Last week you had three ministers here, plus you had FNIHB, first nations and Inuit health branch, and they said to you point blank, the Métis are under federal jurisdiction. When it comes to a province, “Sorry, you're under federal jurisdiction”—that's what happens to us.
I really want you to picture this. We have 400,000 Métis in western Canada. In Manitoba alone, I have 80 villages and all the rest are in urban centres, where my people live half and half, 50% each way. We don't have one clinic. We don't have one nursing station. We have zero—nothing. Imagine from that perspective what I'm challenged with and what we, the Métis Nation, are challenged with, with the pandemic, yet we pay billions of dollars in taxes every year both nationally and provincially. We pay over $400 million or $500 million in Manitoba. Just think about it for a second and picture our situation.
Let me start off again, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak here today. I'm speaking to you from the homeland of the Métis Nation of Manitoba. Of course, the study on what response we will be doing to COVID is going to be a continuing challenge for all of us. In our discussion on March 13, the Prime Minister assured me there would be distinct funding for the Métis Nation. That's fundamental. It's very important. It has to be there or we will be left in the dust and blackened out of the process.
On March 25, the federal government provided $30 million for the Métis Nation COVID-19 emergency response plan. The $30 million is enabling the Métis National Council's governing members or provincial affiliates to provide immediate supports to Métis Nation citizens, families and seniors. They have developed and are rolling out action plans, providing immediate supports such as food, income, supplies and rent supplements. Thousands of our elders across our homeland in western Canada have been contacted and are being assured of and have been provided with assistance while staying in their homes. In fact, in Manitoba, we did over 3,000 hampers already.
I greatly appreciate Canada's rapid response to help our citizens and families in times of crisis. At the same time, the health emergency has exposed the particular vulnerability and disadvantages of the 400,000 strong Métis Nation population. It has highlighted the distressing fact that neither level of government has taken responsibility to address the deep-seated health conditions of the Métis people in Canada. At the federal level, we are excluded from resources from the first nations and Inuit health branch, and this continues during this pandemic, even after, if you remember, in 2015, the Daniels decision came down, where it made it very clear that the federal government has fiduciary responsibility for the Métis. Still, to this day, even during this pandemic, the first nations health branch is saying, “No, you're not under our jurisdiction.”
Minister Miller and Minister Bennett appeared before you last Friday and informed this committee on how much PPE was distributed to indigenous communities, the strategy, of course, and the health supplies. What they obviously did not tell you is that none of this was distributed to the Métis community. In fact, in Manitoba, we've been forced to purchase our own directly from China. We have shipments coming in as we speak, but it's a very risky venture when you're putting hundreds of thousands of dollars outside your country and hoping it's going to come back with your product. We have no choice as neither level of government has provided access to those important pandemic supplies.
I want to thank this committee for recognizing the Métis community in northern Saskatchewan, La Loche. I heard Perry Bellegarde reference La Loche. That's a Métis community with a large Métis population. They say it's Dene, but there's a large Métis population there. The neighbouring band is Clearwater River Dene Nation band. In fact, the Métis national president's son is the chief of that reserve.
Perry raised this, and it's not in my speech, but it's interesting that he raised it. When you look at La Loche, you see that the first case came on April 15 or 17. If you look at the band, you see they have 12. The Métis community has 117 cases, because there was no plan. That's just how fast it is that the one with a plan can maybe stop it, and in the one without a plan, it takes off.
This pandemic is reaching hundreds of people and affecting those in the communities of Buffalo Narrows, Île-à-la-Crosse and Beauval this spring. Those are all Métis villages I reference. In speaking to one of the leaders in the affected community, it is clear that there was no set plan by the province or the federal government—because both were arguing over who was responsible—to address the crisis that occurred in the Métis community because of jurisdictional debate.
At the provincial level, despite our staggering chronic illnesses, the province tells us to deal with the federal government to deal with our unique health conditions and needs. Our pandemic plans have been limited to providing income and food supports. In British Columbia, for example, this has included supports for families with children in school to access online educational supports.
In Manitoba, we've created our own isolation units to ensure that anyone who needs a safe place to stay during the pandemic can stay in these isolation units. Why have we done that? We have overcrowding, just like Inuit and just like with the first nations. We have 10 people in a two-bedroom, so how do you isolate with 10 people in two bedrooms? We bought tiny homes, isolation units, and we created our own off the communities.
Our pandemic plan has been limited by a lack of access to Métis health care services. Despite all health research that shows how important it is to have culturally competent and safe health care, Métis have been shut out of the provincial and federal health care systems. As I mentioned, in Manitoba we created over a hundred isolation units but have been unable to secure any health care workers. We have had no partnership with a health care provider, and we actually had to search for and find a health care provider virtually from Ontario. It shows, even in this pandemic, how vulnerable we are in the health care field.
We had proposed a new approach to the Métis health care in budget 2019 and again this year for budget 2020, an approach that would see federal investments to Métis health care that would assist the Métis nation in transforming the provincial health care system to allow us to establish Métis health care hubs in each province in western Canada. Our health care proposal would also enable us to meet the non-insured health care needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
It is our hope that this budget proposal will be supported, and we believe that the proposed new federal legislation, indigenous health care legislation, will correct this inequity. In the meantime, we must be vigilant in ensuring that the resources to cope with the COVID crisis are available to Métis governments as the situation evolves. They are all the more important, given our lack of access to health care resources.
I want to touch on Canada's support for small business, because you referenced it last week with the three ministers. This is of particular importance to our people. We have the highest rate of self-employment of all indigenous peoples. We are grateful for the investments made by the Government of Canada to support small and mid-size businesses. Our Métis Nation capital corporations, which make loans to our entrepreneurs, have paused the loan payments at this time to support those clients during this period of business interruption. They are working with their clients to keep them afloat. We're telling our businesses that they don't have to pay their loans right now. We'll keep them afloat for six months, they don't pay, and then we'll come back.
Their clients will need additional bridge loans to make it through the shutdown. The Government of Canada is proposing to support our Métis capital corporations to meet the needs of their clients, but it is proposing to base the amount of support on the overall value of each capital corporation's loan, not the volume of loans that are out there. The reason I say that to you is so you'll capture it. It's a little complicated, and I have to get briefed over and over.
The way they're approaching this matter is that they're going by volume. If you had a million-dollar loan, then you can have a higher ratio given to you, but your only cap is at $40,000. On the smaller loans, we have hundreds and hundreds of them that exist out there, so we're saying go by volume of loans to keep the small businesses alive, not by gross volume, because this way you're only supporting a few businesses. We're debating that with Canada right now.
This does not work for us in Manitoba, as our capital corporations have hundreds of small loans supporting smaller Métis businesses. Our entrepreneurs are very anxious, which may force them to make decisions like selling equipment and abandoning leases, which they would not otherwise do if they knew there was backstop financing available to get them through this rough period. Most also have difficulty accessing credit from conventional lenders, which is why we established the Métis capital corporations decades ago.
The proposal by the Government of Canada to base its support for our capital corporation in Manitoba does not reflect the needs of our small Métis businesses in Manitoba, and we urge the committee to support our request to change the supports to reflect the number of entrepreneurs who require support, and not use a gross mechanism.
I realize that the ministers, the members of this committee, and indeed all of us who represent Canadians at this time are facing unprecedented demands, pressures and anxieties, and I'm sure you're hearing it loud and clear from all three leaders.
I urge this committee to support our request for greater inclusion in the health care system going forward and for support for our Métis small business sector. This pandemic has shown us what systemic discrimination can do and shows the weakness in our health care system.
We look forward to working with you to transform the health care system and hope this is reflected in new indigenous health legislation in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to speak here today.