STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE
For over 30 years, the Manitoba Metis Federation has been actively pressing for compensation by the Crown for lands that the Métis people were entitled to but never received. But since Justin Trudeau’s government came to power, negotiations have been progressing well and the Métis are looking forward to a brighter future.
“The Métis claims are rooted in the Canadian Constitution,” said MMF Chief of Staff Al Benoit. “According to the Manitoba Act, part of the Canadian Constitution, the Métis, as the Founders of Manitoba, were to receive 1.4 million acres in land grants to give our children a be er start in life, in exchange for pu ing down our arms. Eventually, the process became so corrupt that virtually no land was ever transferred to the Métis.”
In the 1970s, the MMF began looking into what was one of the darkest chapters of Canadian history to be er understand what had really happened. In the early 1980s, the MMF went to court to set the record straight about Métis history and seek restitution for the wrongs that had been done to them.
“MMF President David Chartrand had promised the Métis that we would go all the way to the Supreme Court, which is what he did in 2013,” said Benoit. “The Supreme Court of Canada then released its decision declaring that Canada had not kept its promise to the Manitoba Métis.”
Time for Negotiations
Despite the Supreme Court decision, the Conservative government under Stephen Harper showed no interest in negotiating with the MMF. In contrast, Justin Trudeau promised before and during his election campaign to negotiate with the MMF if he was elected. He kept his word. “In nine months, a record time, we were able to get a Memorandum of
Understanding to negotiate a framework agreement,” said MMF President David Chartrand.
This framework agreement, which sets out the rules and topics for negotiation, was signed in November 2016. As disclosed by Al Benoit: “We are now in the midst of serious negotiations with the federal government and anticipate announcing some very positive first results.” These results will include most importantly opportunities such as funding for programs and services to improve the quality of life of the Métis people.
Daniels vs. Canada
Concurrently, the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 ruling in Daniels vs. Canada strengthened the MMF’s negotiations with the federal government.
The Supreme Court made it clear that the federal government’s responsibilities are identical towards both Métis and First Nations people. This decision will also result in government support for social programs and services designed to give back to the Métis of current and future generations.
“We have already undertaken initiatives in housing, education, training, economic development and early childhood,” said David Chartrand. “For example, we received $500 million for housing.” Prior to this decision, the Province and the federal government were passing the buck in terms of who should be providing services to the Métis, with the result that they weren’t receiving their rightful share of services “even though we pay $2.6 billion in taxes per year across Canada,” noted the president.
“This is a great practical victory for us,” said Al Benoit. “With the support of the Supreme Court in the Daniels case and in our land claims, and thanks to the federal government’s willingness to move forward in cooperation with us, we have finally laid two solid stepping stones to build a be er future for generations of Métis to come.”