Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
UPDATED with information from Crown-Indigenous Relations.
Laziness on the part of the federal government is what the Fort McKay Métis Nation says has led to its challenge in federal court of the implementation agreement signed between Crown-Indigenous Relations and the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA).
“It’s very lazy in terms of how (Canada) tried to approach this. They’re putting everybody into one bucket and hoping that they work out their Métis rights. The reality is, it’s not going to work,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis.
At question is the Feb. 24 Métis Nation Within Alberta Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement, which was signed by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller and MNA President Audrey Poitras. The implementation agreement followed months after MNA members voted to ratify the new Otipemisiwak Métis Government constitution.
Quintal says the implementation agreement is an over-reach by the federal government and the MNA.
Quintal points to the Otipemisiwak constitution, which has changed the Métis Nation of Alberta to now mean the “Métis Nation within Alberta” and defined it to include “all of its citizens, all Métis who live within Alberta, and the Métis communities of the territories of the Métis Nation within Alberta.”
The Fort McKay Métis Nation doesn’t stand alone in its opposition.
Last Friday, the Métis Settlements General Council, following a review of the implementation agreement by its legal counsel, filed a notice in the federal court for a judicial review.
“We believe that MNA has falsely promoted their position as a representative body for all Métis settlement people in Alberta or Métis people in Alberta. That’s a position we completely reject. We will continue to vigorously challenge that assertion,” said settlements council President Dave Lamouche.
The Otipemisiwak constitution lays claim to the eight Métis settlements, saying they “are an integral part of the Métis Nation within Alberta.” The Otipemisiwak Métis Government also sets out to “seek to secure the protection of Métis Settlement lands by the Constitution of Canada…”
Quintal says the implementation agreement is not consistent with either the 2017 framework agreement or the 2019 recognition and self-government agreement, in which the federal government and the MNA limited the scope and effect of their negotiations to the MNA and its members only.
In its own notice of application filed March 24 for a judicial review, the Fort McKay Métis argue that the implementation agreement recognizes the MNA as the “single Métis entity” authorized to represent and advance the rights, interests and claims for all Métis communities in the province.
The agreement, alleges the Fort McKay Métis application, “adopts and deploys the term “Métis Nation within Alberta” in order to assert a province-wide geographical scope of the MNA’s self-government that will, or has the potential to, subsume and/or supplant rights-bearing Métis Communities.”
Quintal says that Miller would have understood that Fort McKay and any of the other six Métis communities that broke away from the MNA to form the Alberta Métis Federation in 2020 wanted to assert their Sect. 35 rights themselves had Miller consulted with them.
Quintal also points out that none of those who broke away from the MNA were eligible to vote on the constitution.
“We’ve been sending correspondence (to Crown-Indigenous Relations) on this constitution, on the pre-development of the constitution for that matter, since 2019,” said Quintal. “They just chose not to reply or consult with us during the negotiations of that agreement.”
Quintal puts Fort McKay’s and correspondence from the Alberta Métis Federation at about a dozen letters.
As part of its legal action, the Fort McKay Métis Nation is requesting the government produce all materials received from non-MNA Métis communities relating to the assertion of their Sect. 35 rights.
Quintal says they received correspondence from Crown-Indigenous Relations after the MNA implementation agreement had been signed, saying the government would consult with Métis communities.
Fort McKay Métis Nation is looking for a declaration from the judge that Miller “failed to uphold the honour of the Crown by denying and ultimately breaching Canada’s duty to consult and accommodate Fort McKay prior to entering into the Implementation Agreement.”
The settlements council also contends that the Crown failed to consult.
“We’ve been working diligently and openly and in the spirit of trust with the Crown and we believe that government has not been doing the same. Signing this agreement without consultation or information or engagement with the Métis settlements corroded the trust we believe we were building,” said Lamouche.
Quintal says a “chat” took place with Miller about two weeks ago.
He views that brief discussion as Miller’s opportunity to “check a box.”
“Obviously, he did say, ‘The door is open for you guys to look at something down the line.’ But there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to go along with that…We said, ‘If you would have talked to us two years ago we could have brought you all this information so that you’re aware,’” said Quintal.
He takes little solace from a section in the implementation agreement which states the MNA must be authorized by a Métis community in order to represent, advance and deal with that community’s Métis rights.
“We spoke to this directly with the minister. There are some protections built into the agreement… but it’s not specific enough… They’re empowering the Otipemisiwak constitution,” said Quintal.
Lamouche stresses that since 1990, the settlements council has been the representative government for those who live on the Métis settlements.
“No one else has that right,” he said. “That responsibility falls on us or is on us and it’s our duty to have that jurisdiction. The MNA doesn’t have that jurisdiction.”
Quintal says he’s not opposed to the MNA’s constitution or its relationship with the federal government. However, he does want to see the implementation agreement limited so, as stated in the legal action, “it has no impact on Métis individuals that are not registered members of the MNA and no impact on Métis Communities that have not, by a majority vote of their registered members, consented to have their rights subsumed by the exclusive mandate granted to the MNA.”
Fort McKay is also looking for an order that restrains MNA from purporting to represent Fort McKay “or admit as members any citizens or potential citizens of Fort McKay.”
Quintal expects other Alberta Métis Federation communities to join Fort McKay’s legal action as interveners.
Crown-Indigenous Relations is aware of the notice of application filed by the Fort McKay Metis Nation, said ministry spokesperson Randy Legault-Rankin. Canada is reviewing the notice to determine the next steps in the court process for this litigation and as such, will not comment on it.
However, he said, they had not yet been made aware of the notice of application filed by the Métis Settlements General Council.
In the budget document tabled yesterday, the section on “advancing reconciliation” recognizes the implementation agreements signed with the Métis Nations of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario and states, “These agreements…formally recognize each Métis partner as the representative government of the Métis Nation in their respective provinces, with jurisdiction over core governance and other internal matters.”
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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.