MMF seeks to advance Indigenous rights in new agreement signed with feds

The Manitoba Metis Federation’s new deal with the federal government has brought backlash from the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, but MMF President David Chartrand says he seeks unity – not division with the deal.

The deal called the Manitoba Metis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement was signed at Upper Fort Garry in downtown Winnipeg, the site where Louis Riel and his government once sat over 150 years ago.

The agreement recognizes the MMF’s jurisdiction over citizenship, leadership selection, elections and the operations of their government

Canada will also recognize the MMF’s existing institutions, such as its constitution and general assembly.

Chartrand said the signing is a historic moment for the Métis people of Manitoba.

“We will not be treated like a corporation, we will no longer be treated like an organization, and we will be treated as any government would be treated,” he said during the signing ceremony on July 6.

“Really what it sets is that it’s a new modern day treaty is what it really is. It sets the foundation that we have a province wide self government on behalf of all of our people. The government will not in any way go to court against us on our positions of who we stand for, our definitions, our government structures, our processes moving forward, they will always respect that we are the government of the people.”

Not everyone is happy with the agreement however. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) released a statement expressing their “disappointment” in the decision.

“As the original treaty partners to the crown, First Nations have yet to be given the right to self-governance matters such as citizenship, elections, and the unencumbered operations of their own governments. With the signing of this agreement, Canada has now clearly signalled it prioritizes the Metis over First Nations as the Liberal party seeks a majority with another federal election looming nearer,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas in the statement.

When asked for a response, in an emailed statement to APTN News, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said the agreement focuses on internal matters within the Manitoba Metis Federation.

“The Government of Canada works with all Indigenous partners to implement their right to self-determination, advance reconciliation and renew our relationship based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. The focus of this self-government agreement is on governance matters internal to Manitoba Metis Federation,” said the emailed statement.

In response to AMC, President Chartrand said in a news release that this agreement will not affect the rights of First Nations.

“This Agreement cannot unilaterally affect the rights of the First Nations, nor would we ever wish it to. Since the times of Cuthbert Grant, we have supported our First Nation neighbours, relatives, partners, colleagues, and friends,” Chartrand said.

Métis National Council President Clement Chartier, Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett who joined virtually were also at the event signing on July 6.

Bennett said this agreement demonstrates a new way of governments working together.

“The signing today is the result of a genuine co-development process in true partnership with your nation. We are proud of this demonstration of a new way of working together government to government. The agreement is historic and represents a critical step in the Manitoba Metis Federation’s path towards self government,” Bennett said from her home in Ontario.

This agreement follows a $154 million agreement signed in 2018 between the MMF and the federal government, which saw both parties working towards a self governing agreement.

The signed agreement sets out the steps to formally recognize the federation as an Indigenous government in Canadian law.

“This actually sets the foundation now of the future of where our government will be treated like provincial governments. We will have our own fiscal transfers, we’re working on the taxation issues right now with Canada. We’re working on this next phase which is the treaty that goes into parliament but really what it begins to mean is we govern ourselves. We have authorities as a government to make decisions on our future,” Chartrand said.

The next steps for the Manitoba Metis Federation include negotiating what they call a modern day treaty and getting implementation legislation passed in federal parliament.

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