Alberta Métis push for self-government agreement by 2019

The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) says it hopes to settle outstanding and inherent issues concerning their people’s rights to harvest and govern themselves by 2019.

The MNA updated members on the progress done to achieve this during its annual general assembly in Lac La Biche Friday. Leadership urged its citizens to support the creation of a constitution when it comes to a vote Saturday.

“We are a nation. We know what we need to fully express our rights to self-government. We need our own constitution,” MNA President Audrey Poitras said Friday.

Self-government for the Alberta Métis could mean managing their own healthcare, education and child welfare systems.

But self-government and harvesting rights have been prickly topics among Métis and the federal and provincial governments.

At least one of those issues reached a boiling point last September when wildlife officers swooped into a cultural harvesting camp in the Métis community of Conklin and seized smoked fish. Officers alleged the fish were obtained without a licence.

It caused an uproar after the community posted about the officers’ actions on social media.

Alberta’s Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan later apologized.

WARNING: Video contains language some might find offensive. Viewer discretion is advised. Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers seize fish from a Métis camp outside Conklin, just south of Fort McMurray. Video supplied by Roxy Power. 1:56

Since the ruckus, MNA’s legal counsel Jason Madden said the Métis Nation has been in discussions with the province about hunting and fishing concerns.

And he hopes Alberta’s provincial cabinet will approve a Métis provincial consultation and harvesting policy soon.

When it comes to self-government, Madden said talks began with the federal government in January. They hope to settle on an agreement-in-principle in 2019.

Already the MNA, Madden said, has achieved interim steps toward Canada recognizing Métis rights and nationhood.

The federal government has agreed to a consultation policy and Parks Canada has given Métis free admission.

The Métis Nation of Alberta held its 2018 annual general assembly in Lac La Biche on August 9 to 12. (David Thurton/ CBC)

But before an agreement-in-principle is inked, the MNA needs a constitution, Madden said.

Like any sovereign government, a constitution would outline the priorities and governance structures of the Alberta Métis Nation and it would replace the organization’s bylaws.

“We’re hoping through the work of this assembly that Métis will be developing a constitution moving towards self-government in the very near term,” Madden said.

Jason Madden is the Métis Nation of Alberta’s legal counsel. (David Thurton/ CBC)

MNA president Audrey Poitras urged the Nation’s citizens to approve the parameters of a Métis constitution, which will be drafted after the three-day general meeting ending Sunday.

Poitras and Madden both said the time is right for Alberta’s Métis and the Crown to arrive at a self-government agreement.

Recent court decisions and the political will, they said, exists to get the work done.

“It is because of those court cases,” Madden said. “Combined with the federal government’s approach to these issues that we are at this unique moment in time.”

Connect with David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 



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