Preserving the past for the future
Why Duty to Consult matters to youth
"These are our lands. They are the lands of our past which nurture us today and which we value as the precious foundation of our future.”- From the MNO Statement of Prime Purpose
The words of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Statement of Prime Purpose express the deeply rooted connection Métis people have to their natural environment. It is this connection that guides the need to protect Métis traditional land use, culture and rights for the future generations.
In accordance, the MNO established the Lands, Resources and Consultations (LRC) Branch in 2009. MNO staff work with community leadership to serve and respond to the diverse needs of Métis citizens, their communities and their regions while providing the necessary scientific and technical expertise required by the larger Métis collective.
“By aggregating resources and working together as a Nation,” said MNO President Gary Lipinski, “we can ensure that all Métis citizens and regional rights-bearing Métis communities can be more effectively engaged in meaningful consultations on issues, policies and projects that affect our rights, interests and way of life.”
The Métis Way of Life Framework (WOLF) is the MNO’s unique way of documenting Métis traditional knowledge acquired through time spent living on the land. Traditional knowledge is part of the collective memory of a community and it is passed down orally from one generation to the next through songs, stories, actions and observation. WOLF also encompasses all aspects of the Métis way of life including: biological, ecological, economic, social, cultural and spiritual.
“The goal of WOLF is to document the traditional knowledge of the MNO so that it cannot be lost, so that our history, stories and contributions will carry on for generations to come,” said President Lipinski.
These documentations are critical because it allows MNO communities to determine the potential effects of proposed development projects. It also assists MNO communities in their consultation activities and ensures that Métis culture is maintained in the future.
Each new road, mine, forestry operation and energy project has an impact on the surrounding habitat and the Métis way of life. In order to assess these changes, MNO communities, working together under MNO Regional Consultation Protocols, engage in consultations with project proponents.
An essential part of this consultation project is the incorporation of Métis traditional knowledge and land use information into the project assessment phase.
“The overarching goal of the protocols is to ensure that all MNO citizens who are members of regional rights-bearing Métis communities have an opportunity to be consulted on policies, plans, projects, and developments that have the potential to impact the collective rights and interests of the Métis,” stated President Lipinski.
Each protocol includes a regional consultation committee comprised of the MNO’s regional councillor, a representative from each community council in a given traditional territory and the Captain of the Hunt. The committees work in collaboration with the MNO staff to ensure that consultations are inclusive, transparent and meaningful.
Since the creation of the LRC Branch, the MNO has made great strides toward ensuring that proponents and all levels of government recognize the need for including Métis interests in planning and resource consultations throughout Ontario.
The MNO continues to build relationships with Ontario’s leading mineral developers and recently attended the 2013 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention. The MNO has also engaged with numerous proponents and organizations through traditional knowledge feasts and information exchanges. Consultation committee tours have been provided by the Ontario Power Generation, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Goldcorp Inc., Tembec and the Niagara Region Wind Corporation to name a few.
“The driving force behind the MNO consultation committees is to preserve the Métis way of life for our future generations,” said President Lipinski. “The decisions that happen today will affect the future children of the Métis Nation.”
With this in mind, the MNO encourages youth participation. Most recently, in Regions Seven and Eight, youth have been invited to join the consultation committees when meeting with proponents.
“The decisions made today are going to affect us in the future,” said Mitch Case, Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) Youth Representative. “We need to be present throughout consultations to bring the youth voice to the table. Ultimately it is our future they are fighting for and we should want to have a say.”
The MNO also provides opportunities for youth and “knowledge holders” to engage in knowledge exchanges. Through these exchanges youth are taught about the different aspects of traditional knowledge such as medicinal plants, fishing, trapping and the Métis way of life in general as a way to protect and preserve it. The Captains of the Hunt have also met with youth to teach them about traditional knowledge collection, in hopes they will soon be conducting it themselves.
“It is crucial for youth to be involved,” said Case. “We need to prepare ourselves to be ready to take on the responsibility that has been cared for by our elders and preserve the work that has been done through the generations on our behalf.”
The MNO is helping build capacity and preparing its communities for consultations by providing expertise and training. Over the past few weeks, the MNO has delivered training to Métis communities across the province on how to conduct effective and meaningful consults.
The training, funded by the New Relationship Fund (NRF), included a session on collaboration and an issues and opportunities analysis. Participants from all regions attended separate two-day training sessions where they gained knowledge that will enhance their communities’ ability to conduct meaningful consultations with proponents.
“Working together,” said President Lipinski, “we can ensure that our lands, culture and way of life are preserved into the future so that generations to come can share and rejoice in all things that make us proud to be Métis.”