Alberta government grants funding to Fort McKay, Willow Lake Métis Nations to challenge tanker ban

·2 min read

The Fort McKay and Willow Lake Métis nations have received provincial funding to legally challenge Bill C-48, the federal government’s ban on oil tankers north of Vancouver Island.

The $372,000 funds come from the Alberta government’s Indigenous Litigation Fund. Both Métis groups say the ban challenges their economic prosperity.

“Bill C-48 constrains Alberta’s ability to access international markets, which in turn negatively impacts our economy, our prosperity and our ability to provide, protect and progress our people,” said Justin Bourque, vice-president and CEO of Willow Lake Métis Nation. “The federal government did this without engaging or consulting or incorporating our views. This is not honourable, or in keeping with reconciliation.”

Bill C-48, better known as the oil tanker ban, passed in 2018 and prohibits tankers carrying crude oil as cargo from stopping or unloading at ports or along British Columbia’s north coast. It stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Canada’s border with Alaska.

Premier Jason Kenney said at a Monday press conference the funding was a step towards reconciliation. He called the legal challenge a “credible legal claim.”

“We took this approach because the vast majority of Indigenous groups are pro-responsible development but too often those have been forgotten, ignored and sidelined in the debate about resource development in Canada,” said Kenney.

The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) rejected the Alberta government’s decision to provide financial support to the Fort McKay and Willow Lake Métis Nations.

The two community groups are not recognized by the MNA. A Monday statement from MNA president Audrey Poitras called them “unaccountable, undemocratic and illegitimate organizations.” She objected to the two groups claiming to represent the interests of Métis people.

“This is a bad decision by the premier and represents a clear misuse of public money,” said Poitras. “These organizations are not elected or accountable to anyone and are made up of non-Métis individuals. These organizations do not speak for the Métis Nation, the Métis people or Métis communities in Alberta.”

Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis Nation, ignored the statement at the press conference.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to be able to condemn anything. When they better look in the mirror, if they’re going to be condemning any type of malfeasance or inappropriate behavior,” says Quintal.

The Alberta Government recognized the Fort McKay Métis as an autonomous Indigenous community in early 2020. The MNA is disputing the Alberta government’s decision in court.

The MNA has more than 51,000 registered citizens. An agreement with the federal government recognizes them as the only democratically elected government of Métis citizens in Alberta.

jehamilton@postmedia.com

Jenna Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today

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