Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations says new legislation formally recognizing Métis governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario is long overdue.
“These are people whose rights have been denied for centuries and so the very basic trappings of an ability to organize yourself is the ability to have control over self-governments and this is consistent with Article Four of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Marc Miller said.
Bill C-53 passed first and second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday just before Parliament adjourned for the summer.
The legislation will now head to the committee stage for discussion, debate and possible amendments.
The government has been quick to assure that the legislation does not include land or harvesting rights but this has not prevented organizations such as the Chiefs of Ontario and even the Manitoba Métis Federation from taking aim.
Both say the Métis Nation of Ontario is not a legitimate Indigenous organization and should not be granted section 35 Aboriginal rights under the constitution.
Earlier this week, the Chiefs of Ontario held a press conference in Ottawa to let their views be known.
“We have serious concerns about this legislation and its impact to our collective rights,” Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod said. “Mr. Marc Miller and the Liberals are trying to silence the legitimate concerns of First Nations about this proposed legislation by taking the unprecedented and undemocratic step of trying to force it to the House (of Commons) and the Senate without debate.”
MNO President Margaret Froh said she is saddened by what she calls continued “Métis denialism” and the legislation should be viewed as a positive for all Indigenous people.
“This is not a zero-sum gain,” she said. “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples talks about respecting the rights of all Indigenous peoples. Section 35 recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of Aboriginal peoples of Canada and that includes Métis, First Nations and Inuit. There is no hierarchy.”
Miller agrees and said there will be plenty of time to debate and analyze the bill when Parliament resumes in the fall.
“First Nations have been an ally to Métis and vice-versa. They have both been subject to the oppression of Canada and this should not be another process in Canada creating the rife conditions for lateral violence. So, if there’s anyone to blame here it should be Canada. First Nations should not blame Métis and Métis should not have to be in a position to blame First Nations.”