Federal court orders government to revise parts of its agreement with the MNA

By Jeremy Appel

The Canadian government must amend the self-government agreement it signed with the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), a federal court ruled on March 28, arguing the deal is overly broad and failed to consult other Métis organizations in Alberta.

The Fort McKay Métis Nation Association and Métis Settlements General Council (MSGC) challenged the agreement in court, arguing that their Treaty rights were usurped by the federal government when they recognized the MNA as the sole legitimate representative of Métis people in Alberta.

Justice Sébastien Grammond agreed with Fort McKay and the MSGC that the agreement gives the MNA a “monopoly” over Métis Treaty rights in Alberta.

“What it exclusively grants to the MNA, it necessarily withholds from the applicants,” Grammond wrote in his decision. “It prevents the applicants from negotiating separately with Canada for the recognition of their rights, effectively forcing them to assert their rights before the courts.”

Noting the Crown’s “complete lack of consultation with the applicants,” Grammond ordered the feds to “quash” aspects of the deal that give the MNA exclusive sovereignty, and consult with the applicants on the revised agreement.

In his decision, the judge noted that Fort McKay and the MSGC were only given two weeks’ notice from the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations that it had entered into a self-determination agreement with the MNA.

Fort McKay and the MSGC, which represent the only Métis land bases in the province, wanted the entire deal thrown out.

In February 2023, the feds signed deals with the MNA, as well as Métis nations in Saskatchewan and Ontario, giving them authority as an order of government on par with those of First Nations.

It gave these Métis organizations control over determining who is a Métis citizen and how Métis governments are structured, in addition to incorporating them into federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare.

Jeff Langlois, a lawyer for the Fort McKay association, told The Canadian Press that Grammond’s decision allows his client to pursue self-determination outside the MNA’s control.

“For our constituency, there is a different path. And we want to make sure Canada has room to manoeuvre,” Langlois said.

In a March 28 statement, the MNA noted that the court “upheld the validity of the vast majority of the contents of the Agreement as negotiated between the MNA and Canada with only minor exceptions.”

President Andrea Sandmeier said the ruling “ only strengthen[s] our resolve to fully implement our nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship with Canada.”

In an interview with APTN, MNA lawyer Jason Madden likened the process of reaching a self-governance agreement with the feds to a recurring Peanuts cartoon, in which Lucy holds out a football for Charlie Brown to kick, only to remove it at the last moment, leading to him falling down.

“We are too far along now and Lucy isn’t going to get us this time,” Madden said, adding that it’s important for the MNA to have an agreement that excludes people it has no jurisdiction over.

Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News