Métis Nation of Alberta Deeply Disturbed by Alberta Government's Actions on Métis Harvesting

    'Just Because Alberta's Current Politics Can't Accommodate Our Rights,
    Doesn't Mean We Will Not Exercise Our Rights'

    EDMONTON, June 28 /CNW/ - Today, Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis
Nation of Alberta (MNA) expressed her deep concern about the Alberta
Government's conduct in negotiations with the MNA as well as the government's
plans to implement a unilateral approach on Métis harvesting on July 1st,
    "The Alberta Government has not been negotiating in good faith with the
Métis people and does not plan to continue to accommodate Métis harvesting
practices throughout this province. Our trust in this government was
misplaced. Without question, this is a low point in the history of our
longstanding and productive relationship with the Alberta Government," said
    Over the last 10 months, the MNA and the Alberta Government have been
engaged in negotiations to arrive at a Longer Term Métis Harvesting Agreement.
This longer-term agreement was to replace the Interim Métis Harvesting
Agreement (IMHA) that has been effectively accommodating Métis harvesting in
Alberta since September 2004.
    The MNA was participating in these negotiations in good faith, even
though Ted Morton, the current Minister of Sustainable Resource Development,
made cancelling the IMHA one of his leadership campaign promises to the
Alberta Fish and Game Association. In April 2007, the Alberta Government
unilaterally terminated the IMHA. The IMHA is now set to expire on July 1st,
    On June 14th, the Alberta Government tabled a plan that bears no
resemblance to the negotiations or the law. The Alberta plan excludes Métis in
southern Alberta (even though Alberta's own research confirms Métis rights in
southern Alberta), unilaterally identifies 17 "Métis communities" and proposes
to draw arbitrary circles around these "Métis communities" with no factual
foundation. In response, the MNA requested that the IMHA be extended for
another 60 days in order for negotiations to continue. Yesterday, the Alberta
Government refused that request and indicated it will implement its own
unilateral policy effective July 1st.
    "These types of backroom and heavy-handed tactics are not consistent with
Alberta's constitutional obligations to consult and accommodate Métis rights.
The Métis Nation will not accept an approach that it has never seen before a
week ago and that arbitrarily carves up the province and leaves many of our
harvesters behind. We will stand united in support of Métis harvesting rights
throughout this province," said Poitras.
    Poitras added, "Our people must be aware that it is very likely that the
Alberta Government will begin charging legitimate Métis harvesters who are
trying to feed their families. This approach flies in the face of the Powley
case. This is also contrary to the recent Alberta Court of Queen's Bench
decision that held that Alberta is under a 'constitutional imperative' to
accommodate non-Settlement Métis harvesting rights. It is apparent that
politics have been driving these negotiations, rather than the law or the
honour of the Crown. This is disheartening and unacceptable," said Poitras.
    Cecil Bellrose, MNA Minister for Métis Rights, added, "All Albertans need
to know that this decision has nothing to do with conservation or safety. The
MNA was willing to implement a Harvesting Policy and collect information on
the number of harvesters, where they were harvesting and what was being
harvested. Sustainable Resource Development does not have this type of
information on any other Aboriginal peoples harvesting in this province. The
Métis were willing to work with the province on this. How does having no data
on the Métis harvest promote conservation?"
    Bellrose added, "While Mr. Morton will be able to say he delivered on his
leadership campaign promise to cancel the IMHA, he is doing a disservice to
Alberta's fish and wildlife. Métis will continue to exercise their rights
outside of an arbitrary regime that does not accommodate their rights. He is
also doing a disservice to all Albertans because it will be the taxpayer,
Métis and non-Métis alike, who will be footing the litigation bill over the
next few years for his leadership promise."
    President Poitras added, "We will bring this issue to our Annual General
Assembly in August. Alberta Métis will decide how we will move forward
together. We have many options available to us. Rest assured Alberta Métis
will not let unprincipled politics run roughshod over Métis rights. This issue
will not go away anytime soon for the Alberta Government."
    The MNA is encouraging Métis to contact and write their MLAs. Poitras
added, "Over the last few months, the MNA was encouraged by the amount of
support we received from rank-and-file MLAs on reaching an accommodation. We
are very interested to find out whether these recent developments reflect a
new approach in Alberta-Métis relations or whether it only represents the
politics of few."
    "We hold out hope that the positive partnerships we have had with the
Alberta Government are not things of the past. Premier Stelmach was chosen as
leader to build bridges and bring all Albertans together. The politics of
division and fear was rejected. If we move forward with honour, respect and
cooperation, the Métis Nation remains a willing partner to enable the Alberta
Government to fulfill its constitutional imperative on Métis rights. But,
Alberta's current approach shows anything but honour, respect and
cooperation," concluded Poitras.

For further information:

For further information: For background documents visit
www.albertametis.org or for interviews contact: Marilynn Underschultz, Cell:
(780) 920-1322, Email: munderschultz@metis.org

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