Alberta Government's Recent Changes to Subsistence Harvesting Licenses Misses Mark In Addressing Métis Harvesting Rights



    Métis Nation of Alberta encouraged by Minister Morton's new found 'good
    will' on Métis harvesting and requests meeting

    EDMONTON, Dec. 18 /CNW/ - Today, the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA)
officially responded to the announcement made last week by Ted Morton,
Alberta's Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Minister, in relation to
changes to Alberta's subsistence harvesting licenses.
    In September 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that Métis have
food harvesting rights that are protected by Canada's Constitution. Harvesting
is a practice that is central to Métis culture. It is a historic tradition
that has been a part of the Métis way of life since before Canada was formed.
The Métis people continue this practice today as a means of protecting their
distinct identity as an Aboriginal people, transmitting their culture to the
next generation, and, nurturing their special relationship to their
traditional territory. This is the underlying reason why Métis harvesting
rights received constitutional protection in 1982.
    Based on the Powley case, other Supreme Court of Canada decisions and a
recent Alberta Court of Queen's Bench decision (R. v. Kelley), the Alberta
Government is under a "constitutional imperative" to accommodate Métis
harvesting rights within its regulatory regime. This cannot be accomplished
through an arbitrary and discretionary regime that is unilaterally created by
the Alberta Government. Métis must be consulted on regimes that affect their
constitutional rights. In addition, Métis do not need to be poor or
handicapped in order to exercise their constitutionally protected harvesting
rights.
    The Alberta Government's recent changes to the subsistence food
harvesting licenses, do not fulfill its constitutional imperative to Métis
harvesters. These SRD changes are irrelevant to Métis exercising their
constitutional rights. Similar to how Minister Morton and SRD should not be
assessing or determining who is Métis, they should also not be asking Métis to
provide SRD with their income tax filings in order to assess whether Métis are
poor enough to hunt for food. This is insulting and no other Aboriginal people
are put in such a position when they are exercising their constitutional
rights. Métis harvesters do not need to participate in this demeaning and
paternalistic regime in order to exercise constitutional rights.
    Until the Alberta Government arrives at a mutually agreeable
accommodation with the MNA that fulfills its constitutional obligations to
Métis harvesting rights, the Alberta regulatory regime is inapplicable to
rights-bearing Métis harvesters. Based on the direction of the MNA Annual
General Assembly, Métis harvesters should continue to follow the MNA
Harvesting Policy. Métis harvesters do not have to apply for a SRD license
(unless they so desire), since the Alberta Government has not fulfilled its
constitutional responsibilities. The MNA will continue to support its
harvesters that are charged under Alberta's current unconstitutional regime.
    With that said, the MNA welcomes Minister Morton's new found "good will"
on Métis harvesting. In May 2007, the MNA President reached Points of
Agreement of a Final Métis Harvesting Agreement (Points of Agreement) with Guy
Boutilier, Alberta's Minister for International, Intergovernmental and
Aboriginal Relations (IIAR), as the Minister tasked to lead the Métis
harvesting negotiations for the Alberta Government. A copy of these Points of
Agreement can be found at www.albertametis.com. These Points of Agreement
would have moved the MNA and Alberta Government forward. These Points of
Agreement were not supported by Minister Morton and instead he implemented a
unilateral SRD Métis Harvesting Policy in July 2007.
    "Even though Minister Morton did not consult with the MNA on SRD's recent
changes and these changes completely miss the mark on Métis harvesting, I am
encouraged by his new tone and stated good will on this file," said Audrey
Poitras, President of the MNA.
    Poitras added, "Through this recent announcement Minister Morton has
clearly recognized that his unilateral 'Métis Harvesting Policy' is not
working and that any future accommodation needs to deal with Métis living
throughout all of Alberta. These are positive developments. Until proven
otherwise, I am willing to take Mr. Morton's new found good will at face
value."
    "This week I will be writing Minister Morton and requesting a meeting
with him and Minister Boutilier for the new year in order to discuss moving
forward on the Points of Agreement that Minister Boutilier and I continue to
support. I am optimistic that in the new year, the MNA and Alberta Government
will move forward in partnership on this file again. That would be a great
Christmas present for Alberta Métis," concluded President Poitras.





For further information:

For further information: Monique Devlin, MNA Communications, Ph: (780)
455-2200, Métis Nation of Alberta

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METIS NATION OF ALBERTA ASSOCIATION

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