Federal land claims report 'day of victory' for North Slave Métis Alliance, says prez

Federal committee to hear from 9 N.W.T. groups today about Indigenous land claims

The North Slave Métis Alliance is ecstatic over a new federal report regarding the progress of land claims in the Northwest Territories.

While the alliance does not have a seat at any of the land claim negotiations, the report suggests its members rights need to be protected.

"This is our vindication day, this is our day of victory," said Bill Enge, president of the North Slave Métis Alliance.

The report, authored by Thomas Isaac, recommends changing the language used in an agreement-in-principle between the N.W.T. government, federal government, and NWT Métis Nation so as not to affect the Indigenous rights of North Slave Métis Alliance members.

Isaac found that members of the North Slave Métis Alliance are not represented by the NWT Métis Nation, but the language used in the eligibility section of the agreement could still allow alliance members to be grouped within the claim.

The claim does not include harvesting rights north of Great Slave lake — a serious concern for Enge.

"The NWT Métis Nation did agree to relinquish their Aboriginal harvesting rights on the north side of Great Slave lake when they signed that agreement-in-principle," Enge said.

"They were claiming that Bill Enge, and the rest of the members like us, were automatically included in their claim. So, they agreed to strip me of my section 35 Aboriginal rights to harvest on the north side of Great Slave Lake without my consent to do so."

The report also suggest including a clause that would allow the Métis group to opt into the claim, if appropriate.

"This is a day for the first time in 20 years that somebody with a strong voice, and expert voice, has told the Crown what they are doing is wrong and to bring us in from the cold," Enge said.

Isaac also suggested it would be in the interest of both Métis groups to work together towards a final agreement. He recommended in the report that the territorial and federal governments help foster that relationship.