Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Almost five-and-a-half years after the signing of the Canada-Métis Nation Accord, representatives from the Métis National Council (MNC) and federal government met in Ottawa to discuss the permanent bilateral mechanism established in that accord.
The bilateral mechanism called for an annual meeting with the prime minister to “jointly establish policy priorities for the year ahead.”
However, Dec. 13 marked the first time in four years that such a meeting had been held and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not present.
Instead, ministers Marc Miller (Crown-Indigenous Relations), Patty Hajdu (Indigenous Services), David Lametti (Justice and Attorney General), Dan Vandal (Northern Affairs), Jonathan Wilkinson (Natural Resources), and Pablo Rodriguez (Heritage) were in attendance.
The bilateral mechanism also calls for semi-annual meetings of “key ministers” with MNC and its governing members to “refine and deliver” on the priorities that have been identified.
Miller said the bilateral mechanism provided a “structured way” to communicate.
Cassidy Caron, president of the MNC, said there was a “deep commitment” to the process and procedures set out in the bilateral mechanism.
“As we continue to move forward, both governing members and the Métis National Council intend to use the (permanent bilateral mechanism) to its fullest potential as we advance and recognize the inherent rights of the Métis Nation,” said Caron.
“Full recognition of who we are as Métis governments is what it will take to be able to really do what we need to do to support our citizens,” said President Audrey Poitras of the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA).
In November, the MNA held a month-long ratification vote for its constitution. With a 31 per cent turnout at the polls, 97 per cent voted in favour of ratification.
Poitras said the constitution would replace the MNA’s corporate bylaws and “serve as the foundation for Métis Nation self-government in Alberta for generations to come.”
Poitras said that along with the Métis Nations of Ontario and Saskatchewan, they hoped to finalize an updated version of their self-government agreement with Canada in the “very near future.”
Métis Nations of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario all signed self-government agreements with Canada in 2019.
“Our number one priority is working closely with Canada towards the introduction of federal legislation and continuing to move forward so we can support our citizens in the best way we possibly can,” said Poitras.
Michelle Leclerc, vice president for Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, and Walter Mineault, vice president for Métis Nation British Columbia, both stressed that their organizations were the recognized governments of the Métis people in their respective provinces.
Mineault added that MNBC had a mandate for its citizens for self-government and was in the process of negotiating with Canada to that end.
Hank Rollinson, chair for the Métis Nation of Ontario, also said that the MNO was looking forward to introducing draft recognition legislation.
The day’s discussions are targeted, said Miller about the sit down, with a number of elements that are “mostly about the relationship that does bind us and how it touches and concerns all of our relationship, particularly when we talk about co-developing principles.”
Miller did not publicly elaborate on what the agenda items were.
Earlier in the day, Métis Nation representatives signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Métis health and wellness with First Nations and Inuit Health Branch within Indigenous Services Canada. The MOU will guide the development of a sub-accord on Métis health and wellness.
Other sub-accords signed through the bilateral mechanism include skills and employment training; housing; early learning and child care; post-secondary education; and homelessness.
Although the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) is an original signatory of the Canada-Métis Nation Accord, the MMF is no longer affiliated with the MNC. After signing a self-government recognition and implementation agreement with Canada in July 2021, MMF broke away from the MNC in October 2021.
In Alberta, the federal government also signed a framework agreement with the Métis Settlements General Council in 2018 recognizing the MSGC as the “political governing body of the Métis Settlements, which is separate and apart from the Métis National Council and its affiliates…”
As well, a number of Métis Nation regions and locals broke away from the MNA, including Fort McKay Métis Nation, which is in the process of negotiating a self-government agreement with the federal government.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.