Crown Indigenous Relations signs self-government with three Métis Nations

President of the Métis Nation of Alberta and Minister Marc Miller sign agreement in Edmonton

Three Métis nations, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario signed self-governance deals with the federal government on Friday.

These agreements officially recognize these nations’ right to self-governance. This is formal recognition from the federal government for Metis elections and citizenship decisions.

In Alberta this builds on an original agreement in 2019.

President Audrey Poitras has been in charge of the Alberta Métis Nation for 26 years.

“For many years, we took a few steps forward and a few steps backward…over the last five years we have now had some amazing steps forward,” she said. “We are one step closer to what I believe our ancestors wanted 94 years ago…in getting to the recognition of who we are as one of the equal Indigenous peoples in this country.”

Minster for Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, was in Edmonton to sign the agreement. The minister wore a purple woman’s Métis sash he was given as a gift to commemorate the occasion.

“At least that way I have half the population with me,” Miller joked. “We have to keep our eye an on the ball on this one.

“There is still a process we have to get through…legislation to introduce in our spring session.”

Miller added that there is still important work for the federal government to do around land claim policies and a governance treaty.

The updated agreement

Poitras faced criticism from more than 14 of Alberta’s Métis settlements who were concerned about the centralization of power in Edmonton.

The Métis Settlements General Council filed a notice of application for judicial review against both Crown Indigenous Relations and the MNA in November of 2022.

Poitras says she is continuing to reach out and explain the MNA decision to include all Métis peoples in Alberta.

“Some responsibility does lie on the shoulders of the federal government… I had a chance to speak to people in the settlements this summer and we stated we are willing to recognize their Section 35 rights,” said Miller.

Métis fight for recognition

Since their emergence as a unique culture and the days of the Red River resistance, the Métis have sought government recognition as a group that has specific rights and responsibilities in Canada.

The Métis are one of the Indigenous peoples recognized in Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution.

“In addition to political advocacy and perseverance, Métis have successfully turned to the courts based on the promise of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 made to them 40 years ago,” said Métis lawyer Jason Madden who is legal counsel for the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Madden has been the lawyer for the MNA on many of the cases that have advanced Métis rights over the past two decades.

“By and large, Canada has historically resisted negotiating treaties with the Métis based on false assumptions that Métis do not collectively hold rights and interests that needed to be addressed in the process of nation-building,” said Madden.

Madden said unlike First Nations who have had the Indian Act imposed on them and has had to struggle to be out from under Indian affairs, the Métis have had their attempts at self-government undermined and ignored.

“The commitment to negotiating a self-government treaty with Métis Nation of Alberta and other Métis governments reverses that positioning,” said Madden.

Metis Nation of Alberta gathering
A gathering for the signing of an updated agreement between Crown Indigenous Relations and the Métis Nation of Alberta. Photo: Chris Stewart/ APTN

The MNA was established in 1928 under the Alberta Societies Act. At the time this was the way for the Métis to have a voice as a group.

“In the 1960s it was decided that in order to be able to really access some resources to help our citizens, that weren’t getting any help. We needed to find a way,” said Poitras.

A ruling from the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada case Alberta v. Cunningham noted “[t]he history of the Métis is one of struggle for recognition of their unique identity as mixed race descendants of Europeans and Indians.

This builds on a previous agreement between the MNA and the federal government. The feds have also signed self-government agreements with the Métis Nations of Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The MNA held a vote in November of 2022 where of the 50 per cent plus one were required to ratify the constitution. There are more than  50 0000 MNA citizens who were registered as members.

This Agreement, along with other such agreements signed with Métis governments, is a key part of Canada’s commitment to work with Indigenous partners to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Métis Nation of Ontario also signed a similar agreement today.

Watch Chris Stewart’s story here:

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