The final Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) meeting of 2020 took place December 5-6, 2020. This virtual session marks the first formal meeting of the PCMNO since the 2020 Annual General Assembly (AGA) in November, and followed up on key items raised at the October meeting. The agenda featured updates from MNO leadership and consultants; which included reports from finance, a review of new MNO programs and services, an overview of MNO’s organizational structure, information about the Métis Government Recognition and Self Government Agreement, Interim Fiscal Financing Agreement (IFFA), and Registry Review Report.
In addition to discussing legal and self-government updates, the PCMNO also appointed the Negotiations Team to represent the MNO and oversee negotiations in advancing Self-Government and the Framework Agreements with Canada.
Following the PCMNO meeting, a Town Hall with MNO leadership was held on December 9, 2020.
“We have some important next steps to carry out as we continue strengthening our governance, our internal structures, and our capacity within the MNO,” stated MNO President Margaret Froh in opening remarks. “We’ve achieved a lot over the course of the last 28 years and we are making great progress. The work that needs to take place across the MNO in every region and community at our negotiation tables needs our absolute attention and commitment moving forward.”
The President’s Update highlighted recent achievements, including the first ever virtual AGA; an update from legal counsel on the Self-Government Agreement’s Terms of Reference; and the MNO’s influence in shaping the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) draft legislation, which incorporates several recommendations by the MNO.
In the update, President Froh commented on on-going national matters and concerns expressed by the MNO along with the Governments of Métis Nation of Alberta and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan about the lack of respect and accountability that persists within the Métis National Council (MNC). Reference was made to the MNO’s recent statement: “Open Letter to Métis Nation Citizens and Leadership.” The MNO’s position also received media coverage, including an interview with President Froh on APTN’s Nation To Nation program, and Windspeaker. More information on these issues can be found on The Facts section on the MNO website.
The Secretary Treasurer and MNO Director of Finance outlined the recent work being done by the Finance and Audit Committee, which last met on November 26, 2020:
- Approval of the financial audit and statements for 2019-20 at the 2020 AGA
- MNO’s debt (on the books since 2004) has been completely repaid
- Appointment of Baker Tilly LLP as auditor for 2020-21 fiscal year
- Métis Nation of Ontario Cultural Commission (MNOCC) will meet to approve draft financial statements, discuss potential by-law revisions and broadening the MNOCC Board to include Citizens
- Detailed update from MNO Director of Finance for the Second Quarter
- Program Budget of $83M for 2020-21; including $17M for Housing, and additional funds for Covid-19 relief, and other programming.
- Work to build capacity and develop new MNO Branches: Housing & Infrastructure and Self-Government
- Hiring of new staff (ex. two Accounts Payable Officers)
- Overview of MNO “core functions” and financial status; including MNO program status, budgets and spending
Progress continues to be made on the 2021-22 budget and timeline; a fully searchable matrix of MNO Record of Decisions for improved Governance Documentation Management; and updated MNO Financial Policies and Procedures. The Secretary-Treasurer also discussed ongoing consultations with MNO Community Councils on their Financial Reporting, and recommendations to support Councils and improve efficiencies.
Métis Child, Youth, and Family Services Project
MNO has launched a project to improve the Children, Youth, and Family Services System (CYFS) for Métis communities. Key areas of the project include:
- Improving the current system by clarifying the role of the MNO in current child welfare cases
- Build a Métis-specific system and identify opportunities through community engagement
Annual funding has been committed to this project by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS). The MNO continues to look for ways to engage Children Aid Societies and similar institutions. President Froh applauded all those that put their names forward to serve on the Children, Youth and Family Services Project Advisory Group (CYFS-PAG) and acknowledged the following appointments made by PCMNO:
- Senator: Gwen Lindsay
- Citizens: Colleen Brunelle, Liliane Dupuis-Ethier, Mary-Jane Buttenham and Laura Verdin
- PCMNO Members: Hank Rowlinson and Jordyn Playne
- Youth Representative: to be nominated by the MNO Youth Council
Housing Program Updates
The MNO Director of Housing & Infrastructure provided an update on the new branch, which continues to develop capacity and has doubled its staff since May 2020.
- Housing Stabilization Project – Served 25 Métis Citizens to date; additional Covid-19 provincial funding will help expand services to community
- Housing Programs – Continues growing team capacity; will be introducing Home Improvements Pilot Program; Métis Home Buyer Contribution program; and programs to address seniors in isolation or struggling to make rent payments. A long term housing strategy is being developed and more info will be provided in the new year
- Infinity Property Services – is growing its operational capacity and efficiency; continues seeking new agreements to optimize revenues and best support Métis Citizens and families. A renewed five-year property management agreement will bring in an additional revenue of $100,000
Early Leaning and Childcare Update
The Director of Education and Training provided an update on the MNO Early Learning and Childcare program, supported by the Canada-Métis Nation Accord and Early Learning and Childcare Sub-Accord. Additional funding (~$3.7M) has also been secured to expand Covid-19 specific programs.
- Investments have allowed for expansive growth and building of team capacity in past year
- Developed a series of programs to support families and children, including: Childcare Subsidy Pilot Program; Covid-19 Childcare Support Program; Back-to-School Kits; Early Learning Book Program; Early Learning Family Culture Camps; and more
- Finalizing curricula for ELCC Education Kits to be shared with educators and service providers
- Future engagement sessions with MNO citizens to identify community needs and strategic planning to improve existing programs
Branch Reviews and Organizational Design Implementation Plan
As the MNO continues to grow, new strategies are needed to strengthen and support the MNO Secretariat, PCMNO, MNO communities, and programs and services. Analysis and discussion took place concerning the 1) status of the various recent MNO branch reviews and 2) the organizational structure at the Senior Management level.
Addressed existing branch structures (and roles); and how structures can be improved. Current models were shared as well as design principles to be considered in the structures.
Senior Management Roles
In 2019, the MNO consulted with the Mercer Group on recommendations to improve the organizational design of Senior staff within the Secretariat: 1) President/CEO 2) Chief Operating Officer and 3) Chief Strategy Officer.
Self-Government Terms of Reference and Negotiations Update
Terms of Reference for Implementing MGRSA & Advancing Framework Negotiations – The MNO Terms of Reference (TOR) sets out an accountable and efficient process to implement the Self-Government Agreement and advance the Framework Agreement; as well as advance claims-related negotiations, including the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community Agreement negotiations.
MNO Negotiating Team Appointments – As set out in Article 5 of the adopted Terms of Reference, the MNO Negotiating Team is accountable to the PCMNO and therefore will not be making decisions on behalf of the MNO. Rather, these representatives will oversee and drive the negotiations process and provide timely and detailed updates to PCMNO so that it can make informed decisions. A number of PCMNO representatives put their names forward and the PCMNO appointed the following individuals to the MNO Negotiating Team:
- Hank Rowlinson
- Mitch Case
- Rene Gravelle
- Karen Derocher
- President Margaret Froh (ex-officio, voting)
- Youth Representative (alternating, ex‑officio, non-voting)
Interim Fiscal Financing Agreement (IFFA)
It was noted that the IFFA is intended to provide temporary funding and capacity to support the MNO until full self-government is achieved, and a permanent fiscal financing agreement is settled.
- The interim funding is intended to support the MNO’s work to develop a Constitution and various Métis Government Laws, to prepare for ratification of the Constitution and the core Métis Self-Government Agreement and a self-government implementation date.
- The IFFA template was developed as part of the multilateral process with Canada and the Tri-Council (Métis Nation Alberta and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan)
- The IFFA template must now be tailored to reflect the realities of the MNO
- No IFFA funding has flowed to the MNO as of yet.
- While IFFA funding will not flow to MNO until the IFFA is finalized and signed, the PCMNO believes it is important to provide in the interim further funding to MNO’s regional communities that have concluded Regional Implementation Agreements (RIAs) to help support them in developing RIA Work Plans and begin implementing those work plans.
The PCMNO directed that the template Interim Fiscal Financing Agreement (IFFA) be modified to reflect the MNO’s unique realities and that the proposed redraft be brought back to the next PCMNO meeting for review and consideration.
MNO Community Council Election Update, Other Business
As several MNO Community Council elections are upcoming, the PCMNO discussed the need to appoint a Chief Electoral Officer to oversee these elections, and to draft and circulate Expressions of Interest within the community for the role of Chief Electoral Officer (for appointments in January 2021).
The PCMNO also passed a resolution that approved the use of electronic and telephone voting for Community Council elections in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022.
It was resolved that due to complications caused by COVID-19 pandemic, the following requirements set out in MNO Electoral Code: Part B be temporarily waived for Community Council elections:
- The posting of election announcements, the Electoral Code, candidates lists and/or voters lists in Community Council offices, and
- Any requirements for signatures on nomination papers
President Froh also discussed updates concerning Covid-19 and the MNO’s latest responses to the pandemic. The MNO continues to follow guidelines set by public health officials, and urges Citizens to be vigilant and safe as we enter the holidays. Updates included:
- MNO staff in high-risk communities have been directed to work remotely for the near future.
- Canada has announced information about vaccines and has engaged MNO in conversations
- A call took place with Minister Marc Miller and Métis Nation leadership to discuss these important matters and more information will be forthcoming
- The MNO is participating in Indigenous Service Canada Vaccine Working Group to collect data on vaccine acceptability
- A survey will be circulated to Citizens in the new year
Questions from Leadership
Q1: I think it’s important Citizens hear what’s taking place in each Region, and to be able to understand the challenges and successes unique to them. Is it possible to have regional representatives present at Town Halls to update Citizens?
A1: All PCMNO Regional Councilors and leadership are encouraged to submit regular written reports prior to each PCMNO meeting. The PCMNO will look into ways to engage and circulate these reports to better keep Citizens informed on developments in each region.
Q2: Why was the MNO Women’s Council (MNOWC) or its members not represented on these new committees, such as Métis Child Youth and Family Services Project Advisory Group (CYFS-PAG) or Negotiating Team?
A2: When forming the CYFS-PAG, roles were not set aside for any individual Council, including the MNOWC. However, the PCMNO did identify the importance of having a Senator and Youth, multiple Citizens, and PCMNO members to serve the group. All Expressions of Interest were considered, which included several Women’s Reps and their appointments.
The Negotiations Team was kept intentionally small, and limited to 4 members. The PCMNO recognized the importance of having youth engaged and at the table, though they will not have decision making authority.
MNO President Froh acknowledged going forward it will be important to clarify and discuss the roles of Councils and groups in the MNO governance structure.
Q3: Métis Infinity Investments was created to gain funds to make available to Councils, are we still in capacity building stage or are we starting to see pay out communities?
A3: As an economic development arm for the MNO, Métis Infinity Investments has been very successful in both building new businesses and generating revenue. So far our investments have generated tens of millions in revenue from very little invested capital. We intend to let these funds continue to grow before it is distributed. However, funds are flowing as part of allocation process, which includes deals developed from community partnerships.
This topic will be revisited on future calls. For more info on Infinity Investments, refer back to the 2020 Annual Report.
Q4: When will we begin to see non-insured health benefits for Citizens?
A4: Healthcare was flagged by the MNO as a key priority early on, and is considered in the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism under Canada-Métis Nation Accord. At this time, there are no current commitments from the federal government, however the MNO continues to push for Canada to advance these priorities, and we anticipate future discussions on health benefits for non-insured, universal pharmacare, and resolving existing gaps.
Q5: Our Councils have corporations and individuals looking to donate but are requesting a tax receipt. Will this be available?
A5: The MNO Secretary Treasurer has also flagged this as something to be addressed. We are presently looking to better engage the Métis Nation of Ontario Cultural Committee (MNOCC), a registered charity able to issue tax receipts, but with certain limitations. We will be investigating options and communicating back with Councils on these requirements and potential opportunities.