Dear Métis Citizens,
A few weeks ago, Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizens gathered in Toronto at our Annual General Assembly (AGA) to have their voices heard and celebrate our heritage and culture. We also took some time to discuss important updates to Métis rights assertions and the progress we have made in realizing Métis self-government within Ontario. Our Provisional Council of the MNO (PCMNO) also met with several levels of government.
I wanted to connect with you directly to ensure that you received this important information, as not all of our citizens were able to travel to the AGA.
In 2019, I had the honour of signing the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement (our self-government agreement) with the Government of Canada, alongside the entire PCMNO leadership. Canada recognized in this agreement, for the first time, that Métis communities represented by the MNO hold the inherent right to self-government and self-determination. It also provided a clear path for the MNO to transform into a recognized Métis government.
This year, the MNO welcomed 4,300 new Métis citizens and 485 new Harvesters. We provided 7,350 citizens with funding for MNO programs and services, and connected with over 11,000 applicants, citizens, and harvesters. We were able to do this because of our MNO Citizenship Registry, one of the most fundamental parts of our government. The Registry is integral to our collective path to realize self-government.
Today, our citizenship criteria are clear. Our government is one that has always been empowered to represent Métis citizens whose rights are protected by Section 35 of the Constitution, and rights-bearing Métis communities within Ontario. But we know and acknowledge that there are some legacy issues with our Registry. As we move forward, the integrity of our citizenship process is paramount.
The MNO has done the hard work of conducting a full, independent review of our Registry. To date, we are the only Métis government to have publicly released the results of a registry review. We believe that transparency is a critical part of good governance. As shown in a recent update, released in July 2022, the review found that 81.8% of citizenship files in the Registry are “Complete” or would be completed by providing final documentation or swearing the Oath of Allegiance. Despite this, some 5,000 files remain “Incomplete” and addressing what this means for the Registry and self-government is a critical next step for our government.
This past summer, after an extensive consultation process regarding our Registry Review, including a series of town halls and after reviewing feedback sent in via online forums, we released a What We Heard Report. Please read it on our website if you have not already done so.
But the next step is up to you and your VOTE.
At this year’s AGA, MNO citizens debated and passed a resolution which directed PCMNO to initiate a province-wide plebiscite in the Fall/Winter of 2022 to allow all MNO citizens (including those with “Incomplete” files) to vote on whether citizens with “Incomplete” files should be removed from the MNO Registry. The following plebiscite question was agreed to:
Should all existing members/citizens of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and the MNO Secretariat, whose files do not meet the current requirements for citizenship as set out in the MNO Bylaws and Registry Policy, be removed as members/citizens?
Answer Options: “Yes” or “No”
The results of this plebiscite will provide direction on whether MNO Bylaws should be amended at a future MNO Assembly.
I know this issue is a sensitive one. We acknowledge that prior to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Powley, the MNO had a different definition of Métis than what we use today. Even after 2003, we acknowledge that until we formally adopted our Registry Policy that provides clear direction to the MNO Registrar on citizenship requirements, inconsistent approaches were being applied. That is something we own as an evolving Métis government, which did not always have the funding it needed to implement the Registry we wanted.
Some of the individuals who previously registered as MNO citizens, and, who have been a part of building the MNO over the years, now have “incomplete” files. We understand that many may find this unfair. But the fact remains that we have made—as a Métis government—collective decisions about who we represent.
We have successfully advanced Métis rights in the courts, negotiated with other governments and demanded that we be treated as a Métis government, not a mere organization. This work is grounded in our MNO Statement of Prime Purpose from 1993. We have always been about advancing Métis rights and self-government and, working together as we have for generations, we are building the kind of government to which we all aspire. One that is culturally grounded, fully engaged, and accountable. A Métis government that our ancestors dreamed of and that our young people are proud to be part of.
In order to do this, we must represent and advance the interests of rights-holders to the best of our ability, with respect, transparency, and accountability. We are doing exactly that. The will of the 2022 AGA is to ensure that each and every MNO citizen has an opportunity to have their voice heard. This will be done through a province-wide plebiscite to be held this year.
In addition to strengthening our government, we continue to work and push our priorities with other governments. Earlier this year, I met with the federal government alongside the Presidents of the Métis Nation of Alberta and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan. We emphasized the following shared priorities:
- Developing mutually agreeable Federal Recognition Legislation for our self-government agreements that will give Canada the legal tools it needs to formally recognize our governments;
- Co-developing with Canada a Federal Métis Claims Policy to support our communities in their ongoing discussions and negotiations on breaches of federal Crown promises, and outstanding claims and commitments to the Métis; and
- Negotiating stable, long-term fiscal agreements to address the very real and pressing socio-economic needs of our citizens and communities.
- Just a few weeks ago, the PCMNO met with Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, to discuss renewing our relationship and moving forward collaboratively to advance on our shared priorities and to protect Métis rights.
We look forward to continuing to work with the federal and provincial governments, and our sister Métis governments, to achieve our priorities, implement our self-government agreements, and to see real and meaningful change for our people.
The past 2.5 years of the pandemic have been difficult for our citizens. The inability to gather and share in our culture and traditions has been painful. On behalf of the entire PCMNO, I want to thank each and every one of you for your resilience, dedication, commitment and resolve in getting through this challenging time. While we were at a distance, our spirits remained united, and we continue to work hard together to advance Métis rights.
We will not allow others to disrespect or to bring us down. We will never allow another government to define our path. We will stand together and raise our voices and move our Métis government forward. We will make a difference for our families today and our future generations tomorrow. And we will continue to support one another and lift each other up in our collective work to advance rights and self-government.
Finally, a personal note. I wish to thank the many MNO citizens who have sent kind messages of healing and support as I proceed on my breast cancer journey. I was very lucky to have caught it early, thanks to a routine mammogram. We know that Métis people experience higher incidences of cancer than the non-Indigenous population in Ontario. Yet more than half of Métis aged 50-74 have not had a recent cancer screening. Please, call your doctor to book yours today. If you do not have a family doctor, please call the MNO’s Healing and Wellness branch at 1-800-263-4889.
Merci, thank you, maarsii,
President, Métis Nation of Ontario