Legislation Represents "Significant Step Forward" from Métis Recognition and Reconciliation in Province
TORONTO, Dec. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - Today, Métis citizens and communities throughout Ontario celebrated the passage of the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act, 2015 (the "MNO Act") by the Ontario legislature with the unanimous consent of the Ontario government and all opposition parties. A copy of the MNO Act as well as additional information about the legislation is available on the MNO's website at www.metisnation.org.
"This is truly a historic day for Ontario Métis. Less than two decades ago, we struggled to have the existence of the Métis people and our communities acknowledged by the government of the day, which led to us turning to the courts for recognition and justice. Now, in partnership with the Ontario government, we are witness to this type of recognition legislation being unanimously passed by a legislature that once put a $5,000.00 bounty on Louis Riel's head," said MNO President Gary Lipinski.
President Lipinski added, "While we still have much to do to advance reconciliation between the Crown and the Métis Nation, this legislation represents a significant step forward that Métis and all Ontarians can be proud of. On behalf of the MNO, I want to thank Premier Wynne as well as Ministers Zimmer and Orazietti and Government House Leader Naqvi in making this long held aspiration become a reality for Ontario Métis. I also want to acknowledge the support of the leaders of the Progressive Conservatives (Patrick Brown) and the NDP (Andrea Horwath) and their house leaders in making this happen."
The MNO Act is a special purpose piece of legislation that deals with the MNO Secretariat― the MNO's corporate and administrative arm―which has been incorporated under Ontario law since 1994. The MNO Act does not deal with or interfere with the Métis Nation's internal governance and institutions that are grounded on its inherent rights of self-government and self-determination, but it recognizes and accommodates the MNO Secretariat's unique status as the corporate arm of the Métis Nation.
In particular, the legislation exempts the MNO Secretariat from various sections of the Ontario Not-For-Profit Corporations Act ("ONCA"), which has already been passed by the Ontario legislature and will be given legal effect at a future date, that would create operational challenges for the MNO (e.g., the MNO elects its leadership through province-wide ballot box elections every four years whereas ONCA requires election be held at annual meetings).
While similar provincial legislation in relation to the Métis Nation's governance structures have been passed in Saskatchewan and Alberta (The Métis Act, SS 2001, c. M-14.01; The Métis Settlements Act, RSA 2000, c. M-14), this legislation represents a historic milestone for Ontario Métis―home of the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Powley―because:
- The MNO Act is the first piece of legislation passed by the Ontario legislature since 1867 that has dealt with Métis-specific issues or included the word "Métis" in it.
- The legislation recognizes the MNO's unique representative role on behalf of its citizens and Métis communities throughout the province flowing from its centralized registry.
- The legislation acknowledges that a distinct Aboriginal people―called the Métis Nation―emerged in west central North America, which includes Ontario Métis communities.
The legislation comes after repeated calls from Métis citizens, leaders, Community Councils and Annual General Assemblies for the MNO to work with the Ontario government to develop legislation to recognize the MNO Secretariat's unique status and role. Most recently, the 2015 MNO Annual General Assembly―the highest governing authority within the MNO―passed a unanimous resolution that directed the MNO attempt to "secure unanimous support within the legislature for this historic legislation."
MNO Chair France Picotte added, "I am pleased that so many of our citizens, leaders and Community Councils came forward to offer their support in order to see this MNO goal become a reality. This legislation demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of the Métis people within this province." «Je suis contente que autant de nos citoyens, dirigeants et Conseilles communautaire ont offert leur appuis pour encourager cet objectif de la NMO à devenir une réalité. Cette législation démontre la force et l'efficacité du peuple Métis de cette province.» Various quotes from Métis citizens, leaders and Community Councils are attached to this press release as Appendix A.
MNO President Lipinski concluded, "Now that this historic legislation has been passed, we will be beginning province-wide community consultations in early 2016 to engage all of our citizens on this historic legislation and discuss how we will work―together―to implement this new and exciting opportunity to advance Métis rights and self-government in Ontario."
Additional information about the MNO Act as well as FAQs for Métis citizens, media and the general public are available at www.metisnation.org.
Quotes and support from Ontario Métis citizens, leaders and Community Councils
"Bill 153 gives more power and options to our Métis communities in the province. It is another example of the positive work the MNO is doing to advance our shared goals."
Vice-Chair of the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) and Spokesperson for the Women's Secretariat of the Métis Nation of Ontario (WSMNO)
"What impressed me about Bill 153 is that it recognizes the distinctness of Métis government and provides structures that we can work within. It has been many years now that MNO citizens have been asking for this legislation."
Region 3 Councillor, Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO)
"As the regional councillor, I am very much looking forward to the opportunities that Bill 153 will give to communities in my area who are looking for a chance to expand their horizons and engage in new ventures."
Region 7 Councillor on the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO)
"At our Annual General Assemblies, MNO citizens and communities have been asking for a bill like this for many years, which we why we are moving forward as Métis in Ontario."
Region 1 Councillor on the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO)
"As President of the Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council and a youth representative on the Provisional Council—the MNO's provincial governing body—I am very pleased to see the Ontario government recognizing the vital role Métis youth play in the MNO. The MNO Act ensures that we can continue to make our voices heard and be active participants in the MNO's governance structures. "
Youth Representative, Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO)
"Just over 12 years ago, the Métis Nation of Ontario celebrated my father and brother's victory at the Supreme Court of Canada. The Powley case was the first time Ontario Métis were recognized by the courts as a rights bearing Aboriginal people under the Constitution. At the time, we had no choice but to go to court—the Ontario government steadfastly refused to recognize that we existed, much less that we had any rights. Today, we celebrate the Ontario government's recognition of the MNO's unique governance structure and representative role on behalf of its citizens."
President, Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council
"This legislation has great potential to help our community councils and the nation grow in ways we likely don't even realize yet. Thirty years ago no one had even heard of the Métis but it is through the efforts of the MNO that now we even have our own Act in the legislature. It is terrific example of how the MNO advances our rights, issues and culture."
President of the Niagara Region Métis Council
"Bill 153 is a milestone for Métis in this province as we see for the first time in legislation the recognition of our governance structure as unique and distinct. It is a real advance for Métis in Ontario."
President of the Kenora Métis Council
"It is great that all three parties supported our Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act. It shows how much change has taken place in the years since the MNO was founded. Bill 153 opens up the door for even more positive change."
Senator Gary Laframboise
Niagara Region Métis Council
SOURCE Métis Nation of Ontario
For further information: Mike Fedyk, MNO Director of Communications, Phone: 613-798-1488, E-mail: mikef@Métisnation.org