The Métis National Council Crown-Métis Nation Summit which concluded on June 1 From left to right: Minister Dan Vandal | Melanie Omeniho, President of Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak/Women of the Métis Nation | Audrey Poitras, MNA President | Elder Angie Crerar, MNA | Margaret Froh, MNO President | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau | Cassidy Caron, MNC President | Minister Patty Hajdu | Minister Marc Miller | Glen McCallum, MN-S President | Elder Bruce Dumont, MNBC | Lissa Dawn Smith, MNBC President | Minister Pablo Rodriguez

The Métis Nation, known for its resilience, is advancing self-government legislation to affirm Métis rights and foster reconciliation.

Once known as “Canada’s forgotten people,” the story of the Métis people is one of resistance and resilience. In recent years, the Métis have been writing a new chapter in our story with Canada based on recognition, respect, and reconciliation.

For generations, the Métis have come together to protect and fight for our rights, and ongoing existence as a distinct Indigenous people and nation. The Métis National Council (MNC) was formed in 1983 as a national organization bringing together regional Métis governments to champion Métis rights with Parliament, including the right to self-determination and self-government. For decades, the denial of Métis rights and the legal gap in federal policies and programs related to the Métis directly impacted our people and our governance structures. But we have continued to persevere by coming together to fight to have our rights recognized.

Since our founding in 1993, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) has always been clear: we are a Métis government. But at the time, Métis rights from Ontario-westward were completely denied, impeding our ability to exercise our way of life. Métis harvesters looking to provide food for their families were charged with poaching and illegal fishing. In the face of these injustices, Métis leaders and harvesters turned to the courts and began the Métis Nation’s hunt for justice.

As part of the hunt for justice, the MNO supported Steve and Roddy Powley — two Métis harvesters from the historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis community — after they were charged with illegally hunting a moose for sustenance in 1993. The Powley Case was advanced based on Métis rights and the promise in the Constitution to the Métis as a distinct Indigenous people.

After ten years, four levels of court, and fourteen judges, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed in 2003 that, as members of the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, the Powleys held Section 35 Métis rights to harvest for food. Through this decision, the Supreme Court established the legal test, commonly referred to as the Powley Test, to determine Métis rights and affirmed that these rights are not “less than” those of other Indigenous peoples, confirming “the status of Métis people as full-fledged rights-bearers.” Subsequently, the Supreme Court urged governments to negotiate with the Métis. The Powley Case was a victory for all Métis from Ontario-westward, but we have had to continue to push for rights recognition with other governments.

This February, Canada and the MNO signed a Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement, building on a previous agreement signed in 2019 and formal negotiations that began in 2017. Our 2019 Self-Government Agreement immediately recognized our self-government rights and set out a process for how our current governance structures would transition to a Métis Government formally recognized in federal law. This included a commitment by Canada to pass upfront implementation legislation.

In 2023, when we signed the updated Self-Government Implementation Agreement with Canada, we ensured that it included a renewed commitment — this time legally binding — for Canada to introduce this legislation “as soon as possible” after the agreement was signed.

Federal recognition legislation establishes a legal framework for recognizing and affirming the rights, jurisdiction, and self-determination of Métis governments, including the MNO. Achieving this is essential for Métis people as it formally acknowledges our distinct identity and establishes a mechanism for Métis governments to exercise our inherent rights on our own terms. Our Self-Government Agreement and legislation only impact Métis people, they do not have any impacts on First Nations, Inuit, or any other Canadians. This is legislation for us, that we have been working towards for generations.

The swift introduction and passage of this legislation will provide a clear path for the MNO to transform into a recognized Indigenous government. This means regaining control of matters that directly affect Métis communities, such as child protective services, and co-developing federal policies, programs, and legislation. This is instrumental to addressing historical injustices, promoting reconciliation, and fostering stronger, more equitable nation-to-nation relationships with the Métis.

2023 marks the 40th anniversary of the MNC, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the MNO, and the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the landmark Métis rights case, R. v. Powley. Collectively, these milestones have contributed to the ongoing journey of the Métis people toward self-determination, cultural preservation, and the recognition of our unique role within the Canadian fabric. But there is one more milestone we need to meet to celebrate this year. Federal recognition legislation is a critical next step for our people. We are calling on the Parliament of Canada to swiftly introduce and pass Métis self-government recognition and implementation legislation.

This MNO sponsored content was published in the National Post on June 21, 2023