EDMONTON, Feb. 13, 2020 /CNW/ - The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) is shocked and appalled to learn that the Government of Alberta has decided to conduct Crown consultations with the Fort McKay Métis Community Association (FMMCA) as the purported representative of a rights-bearing Métis community. The FMMCA is not a Métis government, and it does not represent a rights-bearing Métis community.
The FMMCA only exists to serve a small number of self-interested individuals. The MNA, as the recognized Indigenous government of the Métis Nation within Alberta, is reviewing every available option to challenge Alberta's decision.
"We will not allow the Alberta Government to unilaterally divide the Métis Nation for its own agenda. The MNA is the government for the Métis Nation within Alberta. We will not let governments divide and conquer our Nation. What is happening in British Columbia right now demonstrates that governments must engage with the legitimate governments of Indigenous peoples, not others," said MNA President Audrey Poitras.
Alberta refers to its approach to decisions regarding Métis consultation as the "credible assertion" process. The process is deeply flawed. Any group claiming to represent Métis people in the province for the purpose of consultation can apply, even undemocratic and unaccountable organizations like the FMMCA.
Alberta's process has been in place for over a decade and, to date, Alberta had never determined that any Métis group was owed a duty to consult. This amounted to an unjustifiable failure on the province's part to discharge its constitutional duties to the Métis Nation within Alberta.
Even the province acknowledged that the credible assertion process is flawed. Alberta agreed to negotiate with the MNA to develop a Métis consultation policy to replace it. These negotiations went on for years and were productive. Last September, however, Alberta walked away from the table. The promise of a meaningful Métis consultation policy was broken.
"Alberta's decision to recognize the FMMCA as the representative of a rights-bearing Métis community for the purposes of consultation highlights just how broken Alberta's system is," said Métis lawyer Jason Madden who has represented rights-bearing Métis communities in the courts from Ontario westward and its recognized as a leading expert in Métis law.
"This decision cannot be reconciled with repeated Supreme Court of Canada and Alberta court decisions on Métis rights or Alberta's constitutional duties owing to the Métis. It will not discharge the Crown's duty to consult, and it will not provide regulatory certainty. Alberta has just opened a can of worms for short term gain, but it will have long-term negative consequences for Métis rights."
The FMMCA cannot represent a rights-bearing Métis community. The courts have been clear: rights-bearing Métis communities are large and regional. Even Alberta recognizes this: the province recognizes a regional, rights-bearing Métis community spanning all of northeastern Alberta throughout which Métis community members can hunt, fish, and trap to feed their families. This is the community the Crown owes a duty to consult. The FMMCA, in contrast, represents a few dozen people, some living in the hamlet of Fort McKay, some not living in northeastern Alberta at all.
The MNA is the government of the Métis Nation within Alberta. For over 90 years, our government has been built by our people, for our people. The MNA has the only objectively verifiable registry of Métis Nation citizens and legitimate Métis rights-holders in Alberta. We have over 42,000 registered MNA citizens, including over 3,000 living in northeastern Alberta. Every four years, we hold province-wide democratic elections. Annually, our citizens gather at an assembly to give their leadership direction. This is how the MNA ensure it is accountable to the Métis citizens from across the province.
"The FMMCA is accountable to no one. It is a privately incorporated entity beyond the scrutiny of the larger Métis population," explained MNA Region 1 President Jimmy Cardinal, who was elected by the over 3000 Métis citizens living in northeastern Alberta. "The FMMCA's purpose is to hide assets that properly belong to the MNA Local in Fort McKay, the true representative of Métis in the area. I am very disappointed that Alberta does not see the FMMCA for what it really is."
The FMMCA's President, Ron Quintal, ran for the MNA presidency in 2018 and lost. He ended up at the FMMCA because the Métis in the province at large do not support him. Just last year, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench rejected the Fort McKay Métis Community Association's attempt to stop the MNA from engaging with the Crown and industry on consultation and accommodation issues. The FMMCA is a disgruntled splinter group, not the legitimate representative of aboriginal rights holders.
In July 2019, the MNA signed a Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement (MGRSA) with Canada, the level of government recognized in the Daniels case as having constitutional responsibility to engage in government-to-government negotiations with Indigenous peoples. The MGRSA provided the MNA with immediate recognition of our right to self-government here in Alberta. It also sets out a clear process to finally have our self-government recognized on our own terms.
"The MNA is developing a constitution to serve as the foundation for the legitimate Indigenous self-government of the Métis Nation within Alberta. This constitution will be subject to extensive consultations and a province wide referendum. That is how recognition ought to proceed: democratically and transparently. We are committed to that process."
President Poitras concluded, "We will only get reconciliation right if we get recognition. Alberta's decision gets recognition all wrong, and it is the Métis citizens in the province who will suffer. We are reviewing every available option to challenge Alberta's decision."
SOURCE Metis Nation of Alberta
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