Metis in northeastern Alberta form new federation; rescind memberships in MNA

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 4:33pm


Image Caption

Alberta Metis Federation Chair Dwayne Roth


“This is a decision that could start the ball rolling across the province. This is the start of the recognition of the authentic paradigm of the Metis identity and governance…” — Ron Quintal
By Shari Narine Contributor

Six northeastern Metis communities have rescinded their memberships in the Metis Nation of Alberta Association (MNA) and have formed the Alberta Metis Federation (AMF).

Joining forces are the Fort McKay, Willow Lake, Owl River, Athabasca, Lakeland and Chard Metis communities.

“The Alberta Metis Federation principles are ones that promote a community-based governance and allows for our people to work together and progress our communities collectively and positively,” said Willow Lake Metis Nation Vice-President Justin Bourque. The announcement of the new organization was made Feb. 27 in Fort McMurray.

Federation Chair Dwayne Roth helped organize a meeting held on Feb. 26 that created the organization. He said representatives from other Metis communities across Alberta were also present, as were about a dozen observers from Metis communities in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Since the Supreme Court of Canada delivered the Daniels decision in 2016, which recognized that Metis have the same rights as First Nations and Inuit, there has been a power struggle over the Metis governance structure and how programming and funding should be distributed, said Roth.

He singled out the MNA for having “made a bold claim that there can be only provincial associations that represent all Metis people … across Alberta and that all Metis funding should be diverted through their provincial head offices instead of the communities.

“In short these self-styled provincial organizations hope to interject themselves between levels of government and business and individual Metis communities to take advantage of the jobs, the money, the prosperity that is associated with the consultation, the reconciliation, and business ventures that are following from this decision. And that’s very prevalent in and around the oilsands of Alberta.”

The relationship between the MNA and the Fort McKay Metis Nation, of which Roth is a member, has long been contentious.

In 2019 the Fort McKay Metis Nation became self-governing with the Fort McKay Metis Community Association (FMMCA) created as the legal body. All members terminated their MNA memberships and signed declarations giving Fort McKay Metis association the right to consult on their behalf.

Recognizing that autonomy, the Alberta Ministry of Indigenous Relations announced on Feb. 13 that the FMMCA had been granted “credible assertion” of Aboriginal harvesting rights. This means industry is required to consult with the FMMCA when natural resource developments are being considered in their traditional territory.

Roth pointed out that an Alberta Court decision in 2018 ruled that the MNA is a club and not a government and had jurisdiction only over those who had membership in it.

Audrey Poitras, president of the MNA, noted at that time many Indigenous groups have used the Societies Act, Incorporations Act, or Not-for-Profit Societies Act to operate under as they pursued full recognition by the Crown.

In 2019, the federal government signed the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement with the MNA, committing Canada to deal with the MNA in a nation-to-nation, government-to-government manner.

Ron Quintal, who has led the fight on behalf of the FMMCA against the MNA, called the new Alberta Metis Federation “the greatest reform to date of Metis governance in Canada.”

The federation will provide an umbrella under which communities can share resources and information, but will not be the negotiator or recipient of any funding.

“The federation stands for the belief that individual Metis and their communities are the recipients of Sec. 35 rights under the Constitution. Metis can only cede that right to provincial organizations like MNA if we choose to. These communities choose not to. Yesterday we … took our own futures in our own hands,” said Quintal.

While Quintal did not hold back on his criticism of the MNA, he did stress that he wasn’t calling for the dismantling of the MNA.

“When you have communities who are taking care of their people, when you have communities who are delivering services locally to their people, when you have communities that get absolutely zero, absolutely zero support from the Metis Nation of Alberta outside of them coming in and dividing your community, I’m sorry, but we choose an alternative. We choose to be able to govern ourselves,” said Quintal.

Quintal is confident that what started in Alberta yesterday is just the beginning.

“This is a decision that could start the ball rolling across the province. This is the start of the recognition of the authentic paradigm of the Metis identity and governance, a local community model, one that is responsible, democratically-elected and accountable and it won’t stop here,” he said.