MNC briefs House of Commons Finance Committee on Métis Nation COVID-19 emergency needs
April 9, 2020
Opening Remarks to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance
Vice-President and National Spokesperson, Métis National Council
Thank you for inviting the Métis National Council here today to assist in your study of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In our discussion on March 13, the Prime Minister assured me that there would be distinctions-based funding for the Métis Nation.
On March 25 the federal government provided $30 million for the Métis Nation COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan.
The $30 million is enabling the MNC’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 support 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 being provided with assistance while staying in their homes.
I greatly appreciate Canada’s rapid response to help our citizens and families in this time of crisis.
At the same time, the health emergency has exposed the particular vulnerability and disadvantages of the 400,000 strong Métis Nation population.
At the federal level, we are excluded from the resources of the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.
At the provincial level, despite our staggering chronic illnesses, the Provinces tell us to deal with the federal government to deal with our unique health care conditions and needs.
Even during this pandemic, amazingly, we remain a political football being kicked back and forth between different jurisdictions.
It is our hope that the proposed new federal Indigenous health care legislation will correct that inequity.
In the meantime, we must be vigilant in ensuring that resources to cope with the COVID crisis are available to Métis governments as the situation evolves.
I do want to touch on Canada’s support for small business which is of particular importance to our people who have the highest rate of self-employment of all Indigenous peoples.
Without special measures being taken, our entrepreneurs may not be able to access the funds being committed to help small business or access them in time to avoid insolvency.
Our Métis Nation capital corporations which make loans to our entrepreneurs have paused the loan payments of their clients during this period of business interruption.
But their clients still need additional bridge loans to make it through the shut-down.
Our entrepreneurs are very anxious which may force them to make decisions like selling equipment and abandoning leases they would not otherwise do if they knew there was some backstop financing available to them to get through this rough period.
Most also have difficulty accessing credit from conventional lenders which is why we established the Métis capital corporation decades ago.
The Métis capital corporations are offering to deploy $17.3 million in loan capital now for interest-free bridge loans to many of their more than 900 Métis small business clients who will require this support to survive.
They are seeking federal government backing of these loans through the Canada Emergency Business Account or other measures.
The Métis capital corporations are experienced and prudent lenders.
They were established on the Prairies more than 30 years ago and have rolled over their initial capital eight times.
In August 2018 an MNP survey of their activity showed that over the previous three years their loans of close to $31 million had resulted in loan write-offs totaling $510,000 or 1.6%.
This was a lower default rate than that of the Canadian Business Lending Index for Small Business of a similar period.
Their loans should be accorded the same federal backing as those of the banks.
They also need flexibility to ensure all their business clients can be funded including many who pay themselves by dividends and can’t meet the $50,000 minimum payroll requirement for loans under the Canada Emergency Business Account.
On April 2, I wrote to Ministers Morneau and Bains seeking federal backing for the $17.3 million in loans we are ready to deploy now.
I realize 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.
Any assistance this Committee can provide in supporting a positive response to our request will be greatly appreciated as I know it is in Canada’s interest to help us ensure the survival of the Métis Nation business sector.
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