Métis Nation of Ontario President Margaret Froh said the Métis National Council is continuing its “ongoing dysfunction at the national level,” but the MNO is putting its Ontario Métis citizens first as it works toward self-government.
In the MNO’s virtual annual general assembly held this past Saturday, Froh used a portion of her 45-minute opening address to chastise the MNC for cancelling its annual general meetings; not holding board of governors meetings for two years; for President Clement Chartier’s decision to step “casually back in and out of the role” whenever it suited him; and Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand for occasionally assuming the role of national spokesperson, although such a position does not exist in MNC governance.
“So in spite of the politics and the dysfunction of the Métis National Council we will continue to call for change. But to be very clear, we, the Métis Nation of Ontario, will always stand up for and stand behind our historic communities and all of our Métis citizens here in Ontario,” said Froh.
What constitutes a historical Métis community and who constitutes a Métis citizen in Ontario has been an unresolved bone of contention between the MNC and MNO for a number of years.
In 2018, the MNC at its general assembly put MNO on a one-year probation for not applying the definition of Métis adopted by the general assembly in 2002 and for attempting to extend the boundaries of the Métis homeland.
Then this past January, Chartier sent a letter to MNO suspending it saying MNO had yet to bring its citizenship criteria into line. Froh declared Chartier could not make the decision on his own to suspend MNO.
The MNC and MNO intersect on only one historic Métis community in the province. That is the descendants of the Halfbreeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake, who collectively adhered to Treaty No. 3 in 1875.
Froh said that as of Sept. 30, the MNO registry had 23,161 citizens. A review had confirmed more than 75 per cent of those citizens can trace ancestry back to Metis roots as per MNO's citizenship criteria. There remains about 23 per cent of files that are not complete and therefore don’t yet meet MNO's citizenship criteria.
“The registry is at the heart of the MNO’s path to self-determination and self-government,” said Froh.
In 2019, the MNO signed a Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement (MGRSA) with the federal government.
That agreement mandates the MNO negotiate the implementation of its inherent rights with Canada on behalf of the Métis communities represented by the MNO, said MNO’s legal counsel Jason Madden in his AGA address.
The Métis Nation of Alberta and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan have also signed self-government agreements with Ottawa.
The MNO, the MNA, and the MN-S met in March in Edmonton as a tri-council to focus on Métis self-government in Canada.
“Do not underestimate the magnitude of that event. Not only was that event a celebration of our three governments signing the first ever and only Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government agreements … They are the only ones that exist with any Métis governments in Canada, in the world,” said Froh.
To further the MNO’s part in achieving self-government for the Métis citizens in Ontario, the MNO has hired a director of self-government strategy. Brian Black took on the position two months ago.
In a video, Black said implementation agreements with the nine MNO regions were being worked on and would result in regional implementation committees and regional work plans being formed. This work was all focused on moving the self-government agreement forward.
Part of that work, said Black, is the creation of the constitution, which “is the highest law of the government.”
The constitution is to be developed “by the citizens for the citizens” said Madden, and will be ratified by the citizens through a province-wide referendum.
The federal government has promised to introduce legislation to put the MNO self-government agreement into legal effect in the spring of 2021.
In a video message, Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller confirmed his government’s commitment to “work with you on issues that matter most to the Métis Nation of Ontario.”
Madden said legislation will go forward whether or not MNO has finished it self-government consultations or constitution work.
Madden said MNO deliberately negotiated for the legislation to be passed without the MNO completing its work in case there was an election or a change in federal government.
“… The honour of the Crown applies to the implementation of the MGRSA, so (the Liberal government) is going to do it eventually… (but) the legislation is more delayed than we hoped it was,” said Madden.
By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com