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Fort McKay Métis receives right of consultation

Last Updated Feb 14, 2020 at 9:55 am MDT

PHOTO. An aerial view of Fort McKay, Alta., from 2011. The Fort McKay First Nation met with the Alberta Court of Appeal in Edmonton asking them to overturn the Alberta Energy Regulator's approval of Prosper's Rigel project near Moose Lake. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Fort McKay Métis (FMMCA) is another step closer to self-governance.

The community association became the first in the province to receive a credible assertion.

Alberta would consult with the FMMCA on issues of Crown land management or development, which could impact Métis Aboriginal rights.

In a statement, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said this is an important milestone for the industry, the Métis people of Fort McKay and Alberta.

“Credible assertion is a legal test that creates clarity for industry and Indigenous communities on who needs to be consulted during proposed natural resource developments and Crown or land management decisions.”

Wilson added the distinction provides assurances on with whom to consult, which leads to increased confidence among investors.

Fort McKay Métis President Ron Quintal called it a transformative announcement.

“The Government of Alberta deserves tremendous credit for doing the right thing to recognize us as a legitimate Aboriginal community.  This means that we control our future. We control our dealings with other governments. This means that we are who we always knew we were – a community of Indigenous people who have our future in our hands.”

FMMCA and Métis lawyer Dwayne Roth agreed and said that third-party groups could no longer claim to represent the Fort McKay Métis.

“This validates our community governance model.  It’s a model that refutes organizations who claim to represent us. This is a critical precedent for other Métis communities.  Granted, this took a lot of hard work, homework and fieldwork, but we did it, and so can other Métis in Alberta.  We will offer our expertise to any community that wants to follow our lead and exert their independence.”

Roth said the credible assertion was long overdue.

However, there was a dissenting opinion of the move by the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA).

Flawed process

However, the MNA said they disagree with the Alberta government’s move to hold Crown consultations with the FMMCA.

They hold the association is not a Métis government and doesn’t represent a rights-bearing Métis community.

In a statement, President Audrey Poitras said the MNA would review all options to challenge the decision as the FMMCA serves a small number of “self-interested individuals”.

“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.”

Speaking on the credible assertion process, Poitras called it flawed.

She said Alberta and the MNA are in talks to replace it with a new Métis consultation policy.

However, as negotiations continued, Poitras said Alberta walked away and the goal of a meaningful policy fell through.

Métis lawyer Jason Madden said the province’s decision to grant the FMMCA the right of consultation proves the process’ shortcomings.

“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. Alberta has just opened a can of worms for short term gain, but it will have long-term negative consequences for Métis rights.”

A leading expert in Métis law, Madden represented Métis communities in the courts as far east as Ontario.

MNA Region 1 President Jimmy Cardinal said he is also upset with the Alberta government’s decision.

Cardinal added 3000 Métis members voted for him while the FMMCA doesn’t represent his people living in northeastern Alberta.

“The FMMCA is accountable to no one. It is a privately incorporated entity beyond the scrutiny of the larger Métis population. 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.”

Cardinal and the MNA recalled the 2018 election, which saw FMMCA President Ron Quintal lose his bid to become MNA President.

He also referenced how the Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed an attempt by the FMMCA to interfere with talks between the MNA and Alberta on consultation and accommodation.

President Audrey Poitras said the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement (MGRSA) signed with Canada in July 2019 recognized their right of self-governance in the province.

She said reconciliation comes with recognition, and Alberta’s credible assertion process is wrong.

“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.”

Poitras said they would challenge the province’s decision.