MNO releases results of its Registry Review

The Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”) has now publicly released the results of its multi-year review of its centralized Métis citizenship registration system. This process is known as the “MNO Registry and Self-Government Readiness Review” (“RSRP” or “Registry Review”). The Registry Review marks an important milestone in the MNO’s ongoing self-government journey as a Métis government. 
 
Background on the MNO and the Powley Case
 
In 1993, after years of Ontario Métis being represented through pan-Aboriginal organizations, the MNO was created to be a Métis-specific, self-government structure for Ontario Métis, including, the descendants of historic Métis communities that emerged in Ontario as well as the descendants from other Métis communities from Western Canada who are also a part of the Métis Nation and now live in Ontario.
 
In the late 1990s, as a part of its agenda to advance Métis rights, the MNO advanced the first—and only—Métis harvesting rights case to be considered by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2003, in R. v. Powley (“Powley”), the highest court in Canada unanimously confirmed that the Métis are a full-fledged, rights-bearing people. The Court also confirmed that:
 
a distinctive Métis community emerged in the Upper Great Lakes region in the mid-17th century … [and that] “[t]he settlement at Sault Ste. Marie was one of the oldest and most important [Métis settlements] in the upper lakes area”.
 
Steve Powley at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003
Steve Powley at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003

Today, Powley remains the only Supreme Court of Canada decision to confirm the existence of Métis rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Based on Powley as well as other developments within the Métis Nation–including, the adoption of a National Definition for Métis Nation Citizenship in 2002 and the adoption of the MNO Registry Policy in 2009 (interim) and 2014 (final)–the MNO’s citizenship requirements have evolved over its 28-year history. 

 
Over the last 18 years, Powley has also been relied upon by Métis governments in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories to establish Métis rights in the courts as well as to support the negotiation of Métis rights with other governments.
 
Within Ontario, Powley as well as various collaborative processes have led to the joint recognition of six additional historic Ontario Métis communities by the Ontario Government in August 2017, the completion of an Independent Review of the MNO’s Harvesters Card system in late 2017, and the signing of an MNO-Ontario Harvesting Agreement in April 2018. 
 
The Purpose of the Registry Review and the Process
 
In October 2017, based on the MNO’s foundational goal to secure the recognition of the MNO’s self-government from Canada, the Registry Review was initiated at the direction of the democratically-elected Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (“PCMNO”) by Resolution PC171022-08. The objectives of the Registry Review included:
 
      • assessing the “completeness” of all citizenship files based on the MNO’s current definition of Métis and the requirements of the MNO Registry Policy first adopted in 2014;
      • providing the MNO with a clear understanding of “who” it represents for the purposes of self-government negotiations and Métis rights claims as well as the number of its citizenship who descend from Ontario Métis communities or other Métis communities in the Métis Nation Homeland from Ontario westward; and
      • ensuring that MNO citizens who hold elected leadership roles and represent Métis communities with respect to Métis rights, have completed citizenship files and are rights-holders themselves.
 
Based on a review of the MNO’s approximately 24,000 citizenship files conducted by independent firm Know History, each citizenship file was determined to be either:
 
      1. “Complete”: These files included all necessary documentation required to meet the MNO’s current definition for citizenship and the MNO Registry Policy
      2. “Missing Documentation”: These files included an identified Métis Ancestor pursuant to the MNO’s current definition for citizenship and the MNO Registry Policy, but were missing supporting genealogical documents linking the MNO citizen to that Métis Ancestor and/or was missing a signed Oath of Allegiance; or
      3. “Incomplete”: These files did not include an identified Métis Ancestor pursuant to the MNO’s current definition for citizenship and the MNO Registry Policy.

Following the completion of the assessment of an MNO citizen’s file, the individual was sent a letter informing them of the status of their file. If a file was determined to be “Missing Documentation” or “Incomplete”, this letter also included information and potential solutions to help the MNO citizen “Complete” their citizenship file. Individuals with “Complete” files were issued a new MNO citizenship card verifying their status as a Métis rights-holder.

Throughout the course of the Registry Review, the MNO also provided citizens with regular updates and additional information through direct correspondence, the Métis Voyageur newspaper, and other MNO communications.
 
Key Findings and Results of the Registry Review
 
Of the 23,978 MNO citizenship files reviewed during the Registry Review, the final report concluded that:
 
      • A total of 71% of all MNO citizenship files (17,014 MNO citizens) were confirmed as having “Complete” citizenship files (i.e., their file included all the necessary documentation required to meet the MNO’s current definition for citizenship and the MNO Registry Policy).
      • Another 1.4% of MNO citizenship files (330 MNO citizens) could “Complete” their file if they signed the MNO’s required Oath of Allegiance, and another 4.7% (1,132 MNO citizens) could “Complete” their file simply by providing missing genealogical documents. If these outstanding requirements were met, a total of 77% of MNO citizenship files (18,476 MNO citizens) would be confirmed as “Complete”.
      • A total of 22.5% of current MNO citizenship files (5,402 MNO citizens) were determined to have “Incomplete” files. In addition, as a part of the review, 1,061 MNO citizens’ files were determined to be inactive because of death, suspension, or withdrawal and were removed from the MNO Registry. At the end of the review, less than 1% of files reviewed remained “In Process”.
      • Of the MNO citizenship files that are “Complete” (17,014 MNO citizens), based on the primary documents provided to the MNO Registry, these files demonstrate the following:
          • A total of 23% of the MNO’s citizenship (3,904 MNO citizens) ancestrally connect to Métis communities in western Canada through Métis Scrip (2,470 MNO citizens), Métis land grants issued under the Manitoba Act, 1870 (768 MNO citizens), or other historical documentation from 1901 or earlier (666 MNO citizens).
          • A total of 9% of the MNO’s citizenship (1,522 MNO citizens) ancestrally connect to the historic Métis community in Northwestern Ontario, with 884 MNO citizens being descendants of the “Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River” who collectively adhered as a Métis community to Treaty 3 in 1875 and another 638 MNO citizens ancestrally connecting to other historic Métis families and settlements in the region. 
          • A total of 49% of the MNO’s citizenship (8,332 MNO citizens) ancestrally connect to the Great Lakes Métis community that was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Powley. This community includes well-known Métis populations and settlements at Fort William (present-day Thunder Bay), Michipicoten, Sault Ste. Marie, Killarney, and Georgian Bay/Penetanguishene.
          • A total of 6% of the MNO’s citizenship (1,045 MNO citizens) ancestrally connect to the historic Métis community in the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region. 
          • A total of 13% of the MNO’s citizenship (2,211 MNO citizens) ancestrally connect to the historic Métis community in the Mattawa region.
      • Collectively, the MNO’s current citizenship with “Complete” files can be broken down as having a Métis Ancestor from Western Canada (23%), Northwestern Ontario (9%), the Upper Great Lakes Region (49%), and Northeastern Ontario (19%).
      • In addition, many of the MNO’s citizens with “Complete” files have Métis Ancestors from two or more Métis communities within Ontario. For example, of the 17,014 MNO citizens with “Complete” citizenship files, 13,110 trace to one Ontario Métis community, with approximately 39% (5,082 MNO citizens) of that number ancestrally connecting to two or more historic Métis communities in Ontario.
      • Additional research will be undertaken in the future in order to assess further ancestral connections between historic Métis communities in Ontario as well as with those in Western Canada.
 
Additional Results and Successes from the Registry Review 
 
In addition to confirming that the overwhelming majority of MNO citizens have completed citizenship files and are objectively verified as Métis rights-holders, the Registry Review has created a “state-of-the-art” registry known as the Secure Archive Source Historical database (the “SASH database”).
 
The SASH database allows Registry staff to search and process files efficiently and avoids duplicating work for individuals who connect to the same historic Métis family. For example, applicants that link to citizens with “Complete” files need only provide documents to connect to the “Complete” file (i.e., the lineage to a Métis Ancestor is already built out and reviewed as “Complete”).
 
Further, based on the new systems the MNO has put in place through the Registry Review, the MNO currently has no backlog of MNO citizenship applications. Wait times have now been reduced from several years to 60 business days (or five business days for priority files).
 
NEXT STEPS: Province-Wide Consultations and a “What We Heard” Report
 
On May 28, 2021, the PCMNO passed Resolution PC210528-09 approving of and directing MNO administration to implement the following next steps related to the Registry Review:
 
      1. Develop and release a series of communication tools in order to engage with MNO citizens on the outcomes of the Registry Review;
      2. Undertake province-wide consultations with all MNO citizens through a series of virtual Town Hall meetings open to all MNO citizens during the summer of 2021;
      3. Develop a “What We Heard” report based on the province-wide consultations to be publicly released following review and consideration by the PCMNO; and 
      4. Based on the “What We Heard” report, look towards a province-wide vote (in Fall/Winter 2021) and/or Special Assembly on MNO citizenship (in Fall/Winter 2021 or early 2022, subject to public health and safety requirements) to guide further decision-making on next steps related to the Registry Review final report and/or potential amendments needed to the MNO Bylaws and MNO Registry Policy.
 
“This Registry Review is an important step in the MNO’s ongoing journey to self-government.  Our citizens—who come from our historic Métis communities here in Ontario as well as from other parts of the Métis Nation Homeland—can have faith in the registry system their Métis government has built. The hard work we have done now will serve us well for generations to come,” said MNO President Margaret Froh.
 
President Froh added, “Our collective successes to date have been grounded on the MNO’s credibility as a Métis government that represents Métis rights-holders. Now, we must extensively and deeply engage with all of our citizens about what we do next in order to further advance our self-government and Métis rights. I look forward to that discussion. I encourage all citizens to participate in this discussion.”
 
Beginning in June 2021, the MNO will begin a series of province-wide Town Halls as well as targeted meetings with all MNO constituencies.
 
For further information and questions on the Registry Review and upcoming engagement sessions, please see the MNO’s website and/or contact 613-798-1488 xt. 116 or email rsrp@metisnation.org

VIDEO: A Case Study in Excellence

Important Links