Prior to Canada’s crystallization as a nation, a new Indigenous people emerged out of the relations of First Nations women and European men. While the initial offspring of these unions were individuals who simply possessed mixed ancestry, subsequent intermarriages between these mixed ancestry children resulted in the genesis of a new Indigenous people with a distinct identity, culture and consciousness in west central North America – the Métis Nation.
These Métis people were connected through the highly mobile fur trade network, seasonal rounds, extensive kinship connections and a collective identity (i.e., common culture, language, way of life, etc.). Distinct Métis settlements emerged throughout what was then called “the Northwest”. In Ontario, historic Métis settlements emerged along the rivers and watersheds of the province, surrounding the Great Lakes and throughout to the northwest of the province. These settlements formed regional Métis communities in Ontario that are an indivisible part of the Métis Nation.
In 1993, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) was established through the will of Métis people and Métis communities coming together throughout Ontario to create a Métis-specific governance structure. Prior to 1993, Métis had been involved in pan-Aboriginal lobby groups and organizations. The MNO was not created to represent all individuals and communities that claim to be Métis, but those individuals and communities that are a part of the Métis Nation.
At its original meetings, Métis representatives from communities throughout the province set out the foundational vision for the MNO. This vision is encapsulated in the MNO Statement of Prime Purpose.
The statement is a seminal document for the MNO and it sets out why the MNO was formed, who MNO represents, and what the MNO wants to achieve. The statement has been central to the MNO’s success over the last 27 years.
The statement also affirms that the MNO was created to represent Métis people and communities in Ontario that are a part of the Métis Nation. Specifically, the document states:
“We, the Métis are a people of the lands which gave rise to our history and tradition and culture. We call these lands the Métis Homelands. The Homelands stretch from the lakes and rivers of Ontario; cross the wide prairies; traverse the mountains into British Columbia and into the far reaches of the Northwest Territories. They include the hills and valleys of the north-central American States. These are our lands. They are Métis lands. They are the lands of our past which nurture us today and which we value as the precious foundation of our future.”
Some of the goals set out in the MNO Statement of Prime Purpose include:
- Creating a Métis-specific governance structure for the implementation of the nation’s inherent right to self-government in the province;
- Establishing a credible and recognized identification system for Métis people within the province;
- Focusing on ‘nation building’ through working together as a collective in order to support Métis citizens and communities;
- Pursuing a rights-based agenda and proudly asserting the Métis existence as a distinct Aboriginal people within Ontario;
- Protecting and preserving the distinct culture and heritage of the Métis Nation in the province; and,
- Improving the social and economic well-being of Métis children, families and communities throughout the province.
Today, based on the pursuit of the above mentioned vision and principles, MNO has built a province-wide governance structure which includes: an objectively verifiable, centralized registry of over 20,000 Métis citizens; approximately 31 Chartered Community Councils across the province which represent Métis citizens at the local level; a provincial governing body that is elected by ballot box every four years; an Annual General Assembly where regional and provincial Métis leaders are required to report back to Métis citizens yearly between elections; a charitable foundation which promotes and support Métis culture and heritage (Métis Nation of Ontario Cultural Commission); and an economic development arm (Métis Voyageur Development Fund).
In addition, the MNO has built an accountable, results-based provincial delivery structure to meet the socio-economic needs of its citizens and communities. Currently, the MNO delivers programs and services to its citizens through these branches: Healing and Wellness; Education and Training; Housing; Lands, Resources and Consultation; and Housing and Infrastructure. Through these various branches, the MNO maintains 30+ service delivery access points across the province, administers over $50 million annually and employs over 250 personnel across the province.