Agreement represents important milestone in ongoing Métis hunt for justice
May 3, 2018 (Toronto, ON) — Today, the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”) is pleased to announce that MNO President Margaret Froh and the Honourable Nathalie Des Rosiers, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (“MNRF”), have signed a Framework Agreement on Métis Harvesting (the “Framework Agreement”) that advances the recognition of Métis rights in the province. A copy of the Framework Agreement, along with a summary of the agreement, is available at www.metisnation.org.
The Framework Agreement replaces a previous MNO-MNRF interim agreement from July 2004 as well as consolidates the collaborative work that the MNO and Ontario have undertaken over the last decade with respect to advancing the recognition of Métis rights, including the identification of seven historic Métis communities in August 2017 and the completion of an independent review of the MNO Harvester Card system in January 2018(the “Independent Review”) that confirmed the MNO has a reliable system to identify Métis rights-holders.
The Framework Agreement continues to provide for the MNRF’s recognition of the MNO Harvesting Policy, along with MNO Harvesters Cards that are issued under this policy within the MNO’s identified Harvesting Areas based on the collaborative work outlined above, as well as the parties ongoing participation in the processes and negotiations established under the Framework Agreement. The MNO Harvesting Policy has been in place since 1995 and it is rooted in Métis law and traditions that value conservation, safety and sustainable harvesting.
Unlike the 2004 MNO-MNRF interim agreement, the Framework Agreement does not include a cap on the number of Harvester Cards that can be issued by the MNO. However, the Framework Agreement confirms that MNO citizens who are issued a Harvesters Card must meet the criteria set out in the MNO Harvesting Policy, which is consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada’s criteria for the identification of Métis rights-holders in R. v. Powley. As referenced above, the Independent Review of the MNO Harvesters Card system confirmed that MNO has a reliable system to identify Métis rights-holders.
Significantly, the Framework Agreement commits the MNO to sharing data collected about the Métis harvest with MNRF in order to assist and improve provincial management of natural resources. This unique information and data sharing protocol is the ‘first-of-its-kind’ with an Indigenous community in Ontario and is consistent with the MNO’s longstanding recognition that with rights come responsibilities to protect natural resources for the generations to come.
The Framework Agreement also sets out various collaborative processes and timelines for future discussions and negotiations on issues of priority for the MNO and its harvesters, including arriving at a new, mutually agreeable map identifying the Métis harvesting territories, dealing with Métis harvester mobility between the MNO’s Harvesting Areas as well as incidental cabins. In addition, the Framework Agreement contemplates arriving at a long-term and substantive agreement between the parties.
“As the home of the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in R. v. Powley, which remains as the high court’s only consideration of Métis rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, it is gratifying for the MNO that we have been able to achieve this precedent-setting agreement on Métis harvesting rights with the Ontario Government,” said MNO President Margaret Froh.
President Froh added, “I want to acknowledge the efforts of the MNO’s elected leadership both past and present, the patience and contributions of our citizens and harvesters, our negotiation team and staff as well as the leadership shown across the table at MNRF. This Framework Agreement demonstrates that reconciliation can be achieved—outside of the courtroom—if parties are committed to working together.”
The MNO was created in 1993 and represents its citizens and rights-bearing Métis communities throughout the province.
- Métis communities emerged in various areas surrounding the Upper Great Lakes as well as along the waterways and fur trade routes of what is now known as Ontario prior to the Crown effecting legal and political control in those regions.
- These historic Métis communities developed their own shared customs, traditions, and collective identities that are rooted in kinship, their special Indigenous relationship to the land and a distinctive culture and way of life that persist today.
- The MNO was created to represent and advocate on behalf of a distinct group of Métis in Ontario based on the democratic mandate it receives from its registered citizens and the communities comprised of those citizens, with respect to protecting and advancing collectively-held Métis rights within Ontario.
- Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides for the recognition and protection of the “aboriginal and treaty rights” of the “aboriginal peoples of Canada” and Aboriginal peoples of Canada includes the Métis peoples of Canada.
- In the 2003 Powley decision, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Métis rights exist in and around Sault Ste. Marie. Powley also provided the framework for the recognition of Métis rights that may exist in other areas of Ontario and the country. This framework was used by the MNO and Ontario to jointly identify six other historic Métis communities in Ontario in 2018.
- The MNO and the Manitoba Métis Federation are the only Métis governments to currently have negotiated harvesting agreements with provincial governments based on the Powley decision.
“I am pleased to have signed an agreement with MNO that includes processes for sustainable resource management, harvest information sharing and the development of harvest management plans. Any long-term harvesting agreement with MNO will prioritize conservation and the sustainable management of fish and wildlife resources, in light of the rights and interests of other Indigenous Communities.”
Honourable Nathalie Des Rosiers,
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
“The signing of the Framework Agreement on Métis Harvesting shows some real progress towards reconciliation between Ontario and the Métis. We look forward to continuing this important work together.”
“This is a moment that I have waited for a very long time. I reflect on the road we’ve had to travel to get to this point and it’s been a lot of hard work and dedication. This is an important step in our goal of self-government.”
“I am very excited that Ontario and the MNO were able to reach this agreement. It is a step forward for Métis rights and I am hopeful that further conversations can be had to move forward on specific issues relating to Northwestern Ontario.”
Region 1 PCMNO Councilor
Posted: May 3, 2018