Dear Métis Nation Leaders and Citizens,
As the President of the Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”), I am writing to each of you directly because the Métis National Council (“MNC”) has become dysfunctional and is essentially controlled by a few individuals and consultants.
The MNC also now regularly circulates misinformation, falsehoods, and outright lies about the MNO. Fortunately, the MNC’s antics have not affected or harmed the MNO’s growth in any way. However, we don’t want our restraint to be interpreted that the MNO has anything to hide or that what the MNC is saying is true in any way.
We are publicly releasing this letter and a series of fact sheets to set the record straight. We are doing this because the MNC will not allow our perspective or these facts to be shared through MNC communications. We will not be engaging in a subsequent back-and-forth with the MNC on this letter. We want people to have facts and then they can make their own informed decisions. The truths in these documents may be politically inconvenient for the MNC’s current leadership, but they are a part of facts of history of the MNC and the Métis Nation.
The untruths, hypocrisy, and contradictions of the MNC’s current national leadership
There is likely no one within the Métis Nation who has not heard about the ground-breaking Métis harvesting rights test case that the MNO advanced: R v Powley (“Powley”). Powley was—and remains—the only Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) decision affirming Métis rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The Powley case has been used by Métis communities across the Métis Nation Homeland to advance their rights in the courts and through negotiations. The MNO is proud of this fact. Here are some other facts:
- The Powley case is about the Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie as a part of the Great Lakes Métis. This Métis community is not in northwestern Ontario and it has never been in northwestern Ontario.
- The Powleys have Métis rights because they ancestrally connect to the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community as a part of the Great Lakes Métis. The Powleys will never lose their constitutionally-protected Métis rights, nor will other Métis lose their rights, because of the MNC’s arbitrarily drawn 2018 map.
- Since its creation in 1993, the MNO has represented the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, the Great Lakes Métis, and other Métis communities in Ontario that are outside of northwestern Ontario. The MNO has not hidden this from the MNC. Our rights assertion maps (attached) have been public for decades now.
- The Crown has constitutional duties owing to the Sault Ste. Métis community because it holds Métis rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, not because the MNO is a governing member of the MNC. The Crown cannot exclude this rights-bearing Métis community or others from federal funding and benefits because the MNC says so.
So, now let us apply some common sense to these facts.
The MNO joins the MNC representing the Powley community and others in Ontario (1993)
If, back in 1993, the Métis Nation Homeland was limited to northwestern Ontario, and, the MNO’s acceptance into the MNC was on that premise, wouldn’t someone have objected to the MNO advancing the Powley case—which was based on a rights-bearing Métis community located outside of northwestern Ontario—as a Métis rights test case?
Moreover, if, back in 1993, the Métis Nation was limited to “Western Canada,” wouldn’t someone have objected to the MNO’s well-known and very public Statement of Prime Purpose that states our Homeland “stretch[es] from the lakes and rivers of Ontario” westward?
Let’s be clear: the MNO has always said our Homeland encompasses the “lakes and rivers of Ontario,” extending further than just northwestern Ontario. This does not include all of Ontario, however, since its creation the MNO has always represented rights-bearing Métis communities, like the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, that are well outside of northwestern Ontario.
The legitimacy of our Métis claims here in Ontario are validated by the facts of history, including, historic recognition from other Indigenous peoples as well as consistent and repeated modern day recognition by the Crown, the courts, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (“RCAP”), and the MNC (until very recently).
Let’s also be clear: the MNO has always agreed with the MNC that the Métis Nation Homeland does not include Quebec and the East Coast. Our 1993 Statement of Prime Purpose confirms this. We share the concerns of the MNC and other Indigenous nations in Quebec and the East Coast about “self-Indigenization” and frivolous “Métis” claims being made in the traditional territories of other nations. However, that is not the MNO.
By denigrating the MNO and the Métis community recognized in Powley, the MNC is actually emboldening and opening the door to these fake “Métis” groups. The MNO is the eastern wall of the Métis Nation. We should be working together on these issues.
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognizes Métis communities in Ontario (1996)
If not in 1993, why not object in 1996, when RCAP concluded, “[a]ncestors of today’s Métis Nation established communities in parts of what is called the Métis Nation homeland in north central North America. The better-known settlements were at Sault Ste. Marie in present-day Ontario…”. RCAP also concluded that it was “indisputable” that there were “distinct Métis communities of Ontario.” The MNC never objected to this very public report.
The courts first recognize the Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie (1998)
If people were sleeping at the switch in 1993 and 1996, then shouldn’t they have objected in 1998, when the courts delivered their first victory to the MNO in the Powley case? In 1998, instead of declaring “the Métis Nation was under attack” because of the court’s recognition there was a Métis community outside of northwestern Ontario, we all celebrated—together.
The Supreme Court of Canada and the MNC recognize the Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie (2003)
By the time the Powley case got to the SCC in 2003, and received massive national media attention, you would assume someone within the MNC would be raising concerns if the Powley community “threatened the territorial integrity of the Métis Nation”.
On the contrary, the Powley case—and the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community—was embraced and repeatedly celebrated by the MNC. On September 19, 2003, Métis Nation citizens proudly watched MNC Interim President Audrey Poitras declare: “We won! We won!” on national TV, not “the eastern invaders won! The eastern invaders won!”
Moreover, current MNC President Clem Chartier acted as the lawyer for the MNC and MNO in Powley at the SCC. In the MNC/MNO written argument, the following statements were made:
The Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie is a part of the Métis Nation. … The Intervener submits these factors demonstrate the Sault Ste. Marie community’s connection to the territory, existence and history of the Métis Nation.
The SCC confirmed the existence of the Great Lakes and the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community:
The trial judge found that a distinctive Métis community emerged in the Upper Great Lakes region in the mid-17th century, and peaked around 1850. We find no reviewable error in the trial judge’s findings on this matter … The trial judge’s finding of a contemporary Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie is supported by the evidence and must be upheld.
The MNC celebrates and benefits from the Powley case (2003 Onward)
Following 2003, Clem Chartier participated in many, many press conferences, press releases, and photo ops about the Powley case. In fact, it could be argued, Mr. Chartier leveraged his role in the Powley case to secure the MNC presidency in 2004.
MMF President David Chartrand, who has been a member of the MNC Board of Governors since 1997, also celebrated the Powley case and presented the Powleys and MNO’s leadership with an engraved rifle that thanked the MNO for its contributions to Métis Nation rights.
From 2003 to the present, Canada has provided well over $150 million dollars to the MNC and its Governing Members because of the Powley case to support Métis registries, Métis harvesting laws and policies, and research on other Métis Nation communities.
Political amnesia and the start of the MNC misinformation campaign (2018)
So, you may ask how the exact same people and community who were once heralded, celebrated, and assisted in advancing Métis Nation rights are now being disparaged, called “mongrels” by some, and being accused of threatening the very existence of the Métis Nation?
We ask the same questions. The location of Sault Ste. Marie or the Great Lakes have not changed. The MNO’s positions on the Métis communities in Ontario that it represents has not changed.
What did happen is a newly drawn MNC map, accompanied by a preposterous “report” completely lacking in credibility prepared by Clem Chartier, was tabled and passed at the MNC General Assembly in November 2018 without any opportunity for discussion.
No one had a chance to thoroughly review the “report,” ask questions, or discuss its implications. Instead, the map and the “report” passed by the narrowest of margins. Entire Métis governments, such as the MNA, voted against what happened.
It is apparent to the MNO that the current MNC leadership’s next steps will be to suggest that funding to the MNO and the Great Lakes Métis, including the Powley community, be cut off because of this new MNC map.
Let’s be clear: the MNO and Canada won’t allow for these types of crass political games, which disregard the Crown’s constitutional duties owing to the Powley community and other Ontario Métis communities, to happen.
What is more troubling, however, is that the MNC’s current leadership think it’s acceptable to take what they need from people and then kick them aside while hurling insults at them. This is exactly what those running the MNC are doing.
The MNO does not believe the Métis Nation or its citizens agree with this type of crass politics, but this is exactly what those currently running the MNC are doing for reasons that are clearly not supported by facts.
These unfortunate actions are a distraction from what is really happening at the MNC and the current reality that three of the five Métis governments who make up the MNC are being completely ignored, while the MNC receives and spends millions of dollars from Canada in the name of the Métis Nation without any oversight from the MNC Board of Governors or General Assembly. What is happening is wrong, shameful, and stalls our ability to make progress—together.
Attempting to find a way forward — together
We are releasing this public letter now because there is no place within the MNC at present that will allow for these issues to be respectfully discussed. Instead, divisive tactics and baseless statements about Métis leaders being “traitors” and the “territorial integrity of the Métis Nation being under attack” are dangerously thrown around.
We want to be clear: the MNO respects the Métis Nation’s inherent right of self-government and self-determination to determine who is a part of it. There needs to be a safe, honest, respectful, and transparent space where this discussion and debate amongst Métis Nation citizens and their governments can be had. That is not the MNC right now.
We also want to be clear: the MNO will continue to represent, defend, and stand up for the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, the Great Lakes Métis, as well as the other Métis communities it represents within Ontario as it has for the last 28 years. We will also continue to represent our many citizens who ancestrally connect to western Canada. Our citizens and communities are not going anywhere. Neither is the MNO.
Despite the MNC’s efforts to undermine and tear down the MNO, these attacks have failed. In fact, our citizens and communities are more united. We continue to grow as a Métis government and fight for Metis rights, as we always have. These attacks have also allowed us to build better relationships with other Métis governments in Alberta and Saskatchewan, including, forming a Métis Government Tri-Council that advances Métis self-government.
In closing, we look forward to the day when the MNC stops spreading misinformation and begins to work with and represent all of the five Governing Members that create it. Despite the unilateral and illegitimate actions of the MNC’s current leadership, the MNO continues to be a part of the MNC as well as the legal and necessary self-government representative of the Métis Nation within Ontario, as we always have been and will continue to be.
We hope this letter assists Métis Nation citizens in cutting through the MNC’s misinformation and falsehoods. For additional facts and key documents we invite you to visit www.metisnation.org/TheFacts. We will also be circulating the fact sheets and key documents from that site throughout the Métis Nation. If you have any questions about this letter or other issues, please email TheFacts@metisnation.org.
In Métis Nationhood,
Métis Nation of Ontario