GaryMargaretBennettFederal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Dr. Carolyn
Bennett (centre) with MNO President Gary Lipinski (right) and MNO
Associate Chief Operating Officer Margaret Froh (left).

Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) President Gary Lipinski met on December 14 with the Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett, the recently appointed Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the new government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It is very encouraging that Minister Bennett met with us so quickly after assuming office. She is a Minister firmly committed to advancing relationships which is central to the process of reconciliation,” commented President Lipinski. This is the first time since 2008 that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (formerly Indian and Northern Affairs) has met with the MNO President for bilateral discussions.

President Lipinski requested the meeting in order to discuss the commitments made by the Trudeau Government in the recently published mandate letters to Cabinet and to establish a formal relationship with the Minister on a number of Ontario-specific Métis priorities.

Key among those priorities are the establishment of a federal claims process that sets out a framework to address Métis rights protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, recognizing Métis self-government, and resolving outstanding Métis claims against the Crown. “A Métis specific claims process is a critical concern for the Métis in Ontario given the outstanding commitments made to Ontario Métis by previous Canadian governments”, commented President Lipinski.

The health and well-being of Métis families and communities, in particular children and youth was discussed including the federal government’s commitment to undertaking a collaborative review, in partnership with Métis communities, of existing federal programs and services available to the Métis Nation, to identify gaps and areas where strategic investments are needed in order to improve Métis quality of life. The MNO has made important advancements in quality of life for Ontario Métis through its work with the Government of Ontario under the MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement and through other collaborative agreements with institutional partners, which the MNO seeks to build on in its engagement with the new federal government.

Another area discussed with the Minister is the need for a whole of government approach on a range of issues impacting Métis people, including the need for long term investments in the Aboriginal Skills Employment and Training Strategy (ASETS), including the continuation of nation-to-nation and distinctions-based approaches that respect the unique realities of First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation, in the delivery of these programs and services to their communities; and the enhancement of existing scholarships and bursaries available to Métis students at various colleges and universities across Canada, in partnership with the Métis Nation.

The MNO welcomes the federal government’s commitment to work with Métis communities and existing Métis financial institutions to develop a Métis Economic Development Strategy that identifies strategic federal investments that can be made to enhance Métis entrepreneurship, as well as Métis participation in business development and economic growth. “The Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF) has been extremely successful in supporting Métis entrepreneurs in Ontario, thanks to the commitments made by Ontario. Métis businesses accessing MVDF financial support have generated over 80 new jobs in Ontario. MVDF has been very successful with returns on investments and the lowest rate of arrears on loans made among Aboriginal financial institutions. We are looking to this new federal government to come to the table to help support our people in realizing their dreams as entrepreneurs”, added President Lipinski.

After the meeting President Lipinski commented, “We are grateful to Minister Bennett for today’s meeting. It was a very positive first step in developing a relationship between the MNO and this new federal government, and we are confident that we can build the same kind of positive relationship with the federal government that we currently enjoy with the Ontario government. It is only through working together that we can hope to achieve reconciliation and working for the betterment of Métis citizens in Ontario.”