[Kenora, Ontario – NOVEMBER 3, 2020] Treaties Recognition Week serves as an opportunity to tell truths about the history of Ontario as well as respect the sacred agreements and relationships settler governments established with the various Indigenous peoples who occupied Ontario long before Canada became Canada and Ontario became Ontario.
Métis history, as a part of Ontario’s history with Indigenous peoples, remains poorly understood. Reconciliation with the Métis remains unfinished business in the Canadian federation generally and in particular within Ontario as the eastern boundary of the Métis Nation.
This week, as a part of Treaties Recognition Week, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) is raising awareness about the “Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River” who pressed their land and rights claims in and around the Fort Frances area in the 1870s and ultimately negotiated with Canada and collectively adhered to the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 in 1875.
The Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 is the only instance of a Métis community collectively adhering to one of the historic treaties negotiated with First Nations across Canada. While in other regions of Canada, Métis could be brought into treaties as individuals, the Treaty 3 Halfbreed Adhesion provides for the collective recognition and protection of the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River as a distinct group.
Following the signing of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 in 1875, Parliament passed the first Indian Act in 1876. With the passage of the Indian Act and the organization of the Department of Indian Affairs around this new legislation, federal officials refused to continue to recognize the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River as a distinct Métis group and uphold the Crown’s promises made to them as a collective, despite the expressed language and promises in Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3.
In effect, the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River were provided only two options: (1) become “Indians” under the Indian Act, or, (2) receive no benefits from their Treaty with the Crown. These government policies breached the promises made to the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River and the honour of the Crown. While some of the members of the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River decided to become “Indians” under the Indian Act and amalgamated Bands in the Fort Frances area, many did not.
Today, the descendants of the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River continue to exist as a distinct Métis community within Northwestern Ontario and are represented by the MNO, while some of these families are now members of the Couchiching First Nation as well as other First Nations in Northwestern Ontario.
In 2017, Canada and the Northwest Ontario Métis Community signed the MNO-Canada Agreement on Advancing Reconciliation with the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community. This agreement recognizes this unique history and commits the parties to negotiation on a “shared solution.” A copy of this agreement is available here.
“Our unique history and existence as a Métis community in Northwestern Ontario with Treaty rights and broken Crown promises towards us must also be told as a part of Treaties Recognition Week. Canada’s breach of the honour of the Crown through effectively defeating the very purpose of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 requires reconciliation,” said Theresa Stenlund, MNO Regional Councilor for the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community.
“We call upon all Ontarians to join us in solidarity to learn more about our Métis community as well as our unique place in the treaty-making process in Ontario. Through education, we hope our community and citizens will ultimately see justice in relation to our unique Métis Treaty with the Crown,” stated MNO President Margaret Froh.
President Margaret Froh concluded, “The Métis experience in treaty making—whether that be through exclusion to date or by breaches of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3—must be told. The MNO, as the government of the Métis in Ontario, is working hard to ensure this happens.”
This Treaties Recognition Week, MNO asks the public to educate themselves on all Treaties in Ontario, including, the unique, outstanding and unresolved rights and claims of the Northwest Ontario Métis community, including the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3, through this informative video and brochure.
For more information regarding please visit the MNO website.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Marc St. Germain
Director of Communications
Métis Nation of Ontario