Ottawa didn't verify disputed Métis communities covered by federal bill: official

OTTAWA — A high-ranking federal official says Ottawa has not verified the legitimacy of disputed Métis communities in Ontario that have been at the centre of heated debate over a government bill.

Martin Reiher, a senior assistant deputy minister in the Crown-Indigenous Relations Department, said Bill C-53 only recognizes provincial Métis organizations that govern and the government isn't required to dig into the legitimacy of specific communities.

He made the comments at a parliamentary committee, where Indigenous leaders have been hotly debating legislation that would recognize Métis self-governance in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Chiefs of Ontario and other First Nations groups have argued that six new communities within the Métis Nation of Ontario, which the provincial government recognized in 2017, have no historical basis to exist.

Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod says the official's comments are yet another example of the federal government not doing its due diligence, and the passing of the bill would be a slippery slope that could harm First Nations rights.

But the leaders of Métis organizations affected by the bill have said the legislation would unlock opportunities and foster a new relationship with Ottawa, without affecting other Indigenous groups.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press