Message from MNO President

Métis communities in Ontario, Métis rights and the MNO are not going anywhere

Dear MNO Citizens,

By now, some of you may have seen or read several deeply upsetting and offensive press releases coming from some First Nations Chiefs and the Chiefs of Ontario that attack the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and the Métis communities our Métis govermment represents in Ontario.

These unfounded and ill-informed attacks flow from some of our recent successes, including, the signing of our Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement with Canada as well as the upcoming introduction of federal Métis self-government implementation legislation to anchor that agreement, which our people have sought for generations.

In addition, these attacks attempt to undermine the landmark Powley case—as the first and only Supreme Court of Canada decision to recognize the existence of a Métis community with rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (i.e., the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community as a part of the Great Lakes Métis)—as well as the recognition of six other historic Métis communities in Ontario by the Government of Ontario in August 2017.

Why is this happening?

This is a coordinated media campaign led by some First Nation leaders because they have chosen to ignore the facts of history and they have not been able to convince the Government of Canada, nor the Government of Ontario, to go along with their false and absurd positions that Métis communities in Ontario don’t exist. Because they do not have the facts of history, the law or on-the-ground realities on their side, they have chosen to put out false political statements and are attempting to argue these issues in the press in an attempt to discredit the MNO and Ontario Métis communities.

Let me be clear: this misguided media strategy advanced by some First Nation leaders will not work in the long term. The MNO—as your Métis government—will stand up for our Métis communities, Métis rights-holders, and our existence as a distinct Indigenous people. We have the facts of history, the law, reality and common sense on our side. As we have proven in the past—by staying united and working together—we will overcome any challenge put in our way. We will do that again. The MNO and the Métis communities we represent in Ontario are not going anywhere.

While it is unfortunate that some media are choosing to print articles that deny the existence of Métis communities in Ontario, media articles—like feeding frenzies on social media—cannot change the facts of history, the law or the undeniable existence of Métis communities in Ontario. It is important to also note those leading these efforts want to have these arguments amplified in the press because the facts of history, the law and the realities on-the-ground are not on their side, and these complicated and nuanced issues cannot always be fully and fairly conveyed in a media article of a few hundred words.

Why is the MNO not attacking back in the media?

If the MNO were to ratchet up its media responses, we will only seem defensive and escalate the perceived conflict between Métis and First Nations in Ontario. The MNO will not fall into that trap. We have absolutely nothing to hide. The recognition we have secured with governments and through the courts is available for all to see, if they bother to look and do not ignore facts. And, while we have been defending ourselves and providing facts to media, we will not escalate the rhetoric, like some want.

Moreover, in many of our communities, we have relationships with our First Nation friends, relations and kin on-the-ground. Many have reached out to us already indicating that they do not hold the same positions as some Chiefs, paid consultants/academics or lawyers advancing divisions and false narratives. At the end of the day, we need to have dialogue, relationships and understanding. By excalating our responses, we will only delay getting to the place we need to get to.

Are these media stories affecting recognized Métis rights and our self-government?

No. These media stories and the efforts of some First Nation Chiefs and organizations are not affecting recognized Métis rights or our self-government in any way whatsoever. A press release and a “research report” produced by paid consultants/academics with agendas cannot overturn the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Powley. Nor can these overturn the facts of history or the recognition we have so rightly secured through our negotiations with other governments.

In fact, I was pleased to hear the continued resolve of the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister for Indigenous-Crown Relations, who reiterated the federal government’s commitment to Métis rights recognition this week. He said:

“We have a duty to recognize the legitimate right of Métis governments to govern themselves… This is their right to do so, and that will be enshrined in legislation.”

The Minister also said, and I couldn’t agree more, that the last thing anyone wants is to see Indigenous communities being pitted against one another because of Canada’s past actions

What is the MNO doing?

In the days ahead, you will be seeing and hearing more from myself and the PCMNO as we continue to move ahead on the priorities that matter most to our families and communities, and also address these issues in the way we have dealt with misinformation in the past.

For example, you will see responses from the MNO’s regional leadership who represent these Métis communities on-the-ground responding with facts and the histories of our communities. In December 2022, the PCMNO’s regional leadership already responded to attacks against the Métis community in the Abitibi Inland region. The PCMNO’s regional leadership for the Superior-Huron regional community has also issued a response today. We will be posting and circulating other responses in the days and week ahead.

In the same way we overcame the misinformation the Manitoba Metis Federation was spreading about the MNO previously, we will be issuing a series of facts sheets and “Telling Truths” statements about the existence of Métis communities in Ontario. It is worth noting that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs recently attacked the Manitoba Metis Federation in the same way the MNO is now being attacked.

The PCMNO will also be engaging in discussions with respect to how we reach out to First Nations that are willing to meet and undertake educational efforts with First Nations and the public-at-large with respect to our Métis communities, Métis rights and how the MNO’s Self-Government Agreement with Canada does not affect anyone else’s rights.

We will also be hosting a Town Hall in the weeks ahead to discuss this with you further. Please keep an eye out for an invitation.

What can I do?

First and foremost, you can hold your head up high and be proud to be Métis and a Métis rights-holder here in Ontario. While these press releases and media stories are insulting and disturbing, they will pass, and our communities and your Métis government—the MNO—is not going anywhere.

In order show your support for Métis rights and the upcoming federal Métis self-government legislation, send a letter to your local MP or an Ontario Senator who will be voting on this legislation in the next few months. The MNO has set up a webpage to do this that can be visited here.

I also encourage you to participate in our upcoming Special Assembly set for June 17, 2023. The special resolution being considered at this assembly will enable us to ensure that all of our citizens are verified as Métis rights-holders. The passage of this special resolution will strengthen the credibility of our Registry and the MNO as a Métis government.

In closing, we must all remember that this is not the first time we, as Ontario Métis, have faced the outright denial of our existence and our rights. As Métis, we have experienced many battles throughout our history. Within this province specifically, we battled previous Ontario governments who denied our very existence and rights all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. These current denials from some will also eventually subside.

As Ontario Métis, we will never go back to being the ‘forgotten’ Indigenous people. These challenges only make us stronger and more united for the generations to come. Métis communities in Ontario, Métis rights and the MNO are not going anywhere.

Merci, thank you, maarsii,

Margaret Froh
President, Métis Nation of Ontario