It has been a tumultuous few years in Métis politics, especially within the Métis National Council.
Years of infighting have seen the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) placed on probation over concerns with its citizenship registry, the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) leave the MNC and a lawsuit launched against the MNC’s former president, top executive and other employees.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been battling some real dysfunction at the Métis National Council level,” says MNO president Margaret Froh, on the latest episode of Face to Face.
“A lack of board of governors meetings, a lack of governance and oversight, a lack of assemblies being called. I’m very happy to report that last summer, we were successful in having a court-ordered assembly that resulted in business resuming, the election of a new, national president, in Cassidy Caron.
“And, I think a recommitment to ensuring that the Métis National Council moves forward in a new way, which is one focused on transparency and accountability for the good of our citizens all across the Métis Nation.”
The MNO commenced the litigation that led to the assembly and the replacement of long-time MNC president, Clément Chartier. That it took legal action to make it happen, “speaks to the need for change in leadership and a fresh perspective,” says Froh.
“I think it’s unfortunate that MMF chose to leave, on the eve of a long-awaited general assembly. Just to be very clear, I think that the decision was made when they realized they no longer had control of the Metis National Council, they chose to walk away.
“The reality is, the Métis community in Manitoba is part of the broader Métis nation and I believe MMF will continue its advocacy, as well the Métis National Council and our respective Métis governments.
“I think we’ve got a lot of work to do in our respective jurisdictions.”
Over the last few years, both MMF president David Chartrand and Chartier have been warning that the MNO is opening the floodgates to an “eastern invasion” and granting Métis citizenship to thousands of people living in eastern Ontario.
“I think MNC has lost its legitimacy, period, by allowing Ontario in,” Chartrand says in an interview with APTN News the day after announcing MMF was leaving MNC.
However, Froh believes MNO is the one preventing the so-called eastern invasion.
“We have long served as that eastern wall, protecting against those in Quebec or into the Maritimes claiming identity but we are seeing this more and more and I think it’s incredibly harmful when people falsely claim Indigenous identity,” says Froh, adding, “it’s harmful to the Métis, to our governments, to the work that we’ve been doing to assert rights and to build awareness around our history. Our identity.”
MNO has been working out so-called “legacy issues” with its registry, a process that continues. An independent registry review was completed in 2021. It found 80 per cent of citizenship files satisfied the requirements for MNO citizenship.
Froh says a plebiscite on how to process will likely be held later this year.
A lengthy resolution was presented to MNC delegates at the court-ordered assembly that called for the establishment of an expert panel with a mandate to review the history of seven Ontario communities that have been in question and the MNOs ongoing registry review process. However, Froh says more discussion is needed on the matter.
MNO is also working away on the development of a constitution, moving forward with a self-government agreement signed with Canada in 2019, and an upcoming trip to the Vatican.
The delegation of survivors, elders, youth and community members, “will deliver a united message to the Pope on behalf of the Métis Nation,” says a statement released by MNC, on Tuesday.
Froh says the group of eight delegates will bring forward the voice of Métis survivors who attended residential schools and day schools.
According to the MNC press release, the delegation will also share the Métis Nation’s expectations for the Pope’s upcoming visit to Canada, which must include “an apology to survivors and their families as called for in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.”
“The significance of a papal apology on the very soil that residential school atrocities occurred cannot be stressed enough. It must be done here, in Canada, and in the spirit of reconciliation,” says President Cassidy Caron, in the press release.