First-ever National Conference on Métis Self-Government concludes with a commitment to progress
Métis leaders, citizens, federal government representatives, legal experts, academics, and First Nations advisors who have successfully negotiated modern day treaties and self-government agreements gathered in the National Capital Region, in the spirit of sharing and collaboration for the first-ever National Conference on Métis Self-Government on March 9-10, 2020.
Video from the Conference available now.
“This conference is born out of a relationship that our three governments, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S), have created as a means of moving forward in a positive way with advancing self-determination and self-government for our people,” said MNO President Margaret Froh.
On June 27, 2019, the Métis Governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta each signed Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreements with Canada. The Self-Government Agreements provide for Canada’s immediate recognition of the inherent right to self-government held by the Métis communities and citizens represented by each Métis Government. This is the first time that Canada has ever recognized an inherent right of self-government for Métis.
“We have always known and asserted that we are Métis governments,” said MNA President Audrey Poitras. “We do so based on many things: We have built credible and objectively verifiable registry systems to identify our citizens; we have established democratic processes and institutions at the provincial, the regional, and the local levels; we have advanced the rights of our citizens and our communities, whether it be through the courts, or through negotiations with other governments.”
Otipemisiwak is a Cree word which translates to “those that rule themselves.” MN-S President Glen McCallum referenced the conference name in his opening remarks. “Otipemisiwak. We own ourselves. And that means a lot, it means to be able to ownyourlife to be able to exercise our rights as Métis,” said President McCallum. “The traditional and democratic self-government structure of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan has been practiced and built since the days of Louis Riel in Batoche. This government structure needs to be understood, respected, and practiced. This conference represented an opportunity for our federal partners to hear directly from us, in our own words, about our Métis rights and self-government”.
The Otipemisiwak conference brought together a diversity of voices including: Representatives from the Tlicho Government (NWT) and Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h First Nations (BC) negotiation teams who shared their experiences negotiating modern day treaties and self-government. The invaluable voices of Métis Youth were also in the spotlight. “I believe that a sign that we have been successful is, if at a structural level, every citizen has an opportunity to participate and contribute to our government, to the fullest possible extent,” said panelist and MNO Youth Representative, Paul Robitaille.
“Our Métis young people have amazing gifts and talents, and are committed to moving forward for the betterment of all.” said Robitaille. “And we have made it our mission to find these youth, these doctors, teachers, social workers, lawyers, etc., and elevate their voices so they can lead the charge. We want to create a system that empowers young people to help everybody.” Otipemisiwak attendees also found time to celebrate their Métis culture and way of life. A reception was held Monday night, with fiddle music provided by Alicia Blore; followed by Métis dance group Prairie Fire; and a rousing rendition of the Métis Nation of Ontario’s song “We Aspire” by Juno Award-nominated singer songwriter and MNO citizen Amanda Rheaume.
“We’re hopeful this will be the first of many similar opportunities where we can bring our governments together, and we have already been discussing the concept of holding a conference on Constitution development as well as ensuring we are engaging in conversations about our traditional forms of governance. All three of our governments are looking forward to the dialogue that is and will continue to be had with citizens, families and communities as this work progresses,” stated President Froh. The MNO would like to extend gratitude to its many partners, and to all participating citizens who made the inaugural Otipemisiwak conference such a success.