As president of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before the standing committee on aboriginal peoples.
Here is some historic background on the indigenous Métis of the Northwest Territories.
We have a distinct history, culture and way of life separate and independent from the Dene people, with whom we share relations. Indigenous Métis helped establish Fort Resolution in 1786, which is the oldest community in the Northwest Territories, as well as other NWT communities. The Métis nation was the backbone of the Hudson Bay Company trading network throughout the NWT and beyond, including Fort Rae, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith, Hay River and area, Rocher River, Fort Reliance, Fort Fitzgerald, Salt River, etc. Languages spoken by the indigenous Métis include Chipewyan, Cree, French, Slavey and Michif.
The Métis nation has constitutionally protected aboriginal rights. Our aboriginal rights are based upon our inherent rights as indigenous people organized as sovereign nations prior to government control. The indigenous Métis, historically and continually today, harvest wildlife, fish, migratory birds, trees and plants, in harmony with other aboriginal people.
We have three Métis councils: Fort Resolution Métis government council, Hay River Métis government council and Fort Smith Métis government council. Members of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation comprise a significant portion of the communities of Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife. We estimate our membership throughout Canada to be over 3,000 members.
Regarding differential treatment in housing, our indigenous Métis members constitute a large percentage of the population in our three communities. We do not have reserve lands in our communities, thus we have never benefited from federal housing programs for first nations. We have a shortage of housing as well as overcrowding in all of our houses—particularly in affordable housing and elder housing—in our members' communities. Our neighbouring first nations cousins have benefited from ongoing annual funding from the federal government for housing. While our people are proud and have been self-sufficient, our members still have the right to be eligible for federal housing program funding.
The Northwest Territory Métis Nation is mandated to negotiate a land claim agreement and self-government agreement with the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, and to seek recognition of aboriginal rights. The Métis Nation is recognized by the GNWT and Canada as an aboriginal government. Despite this admission, the government does not provide core funding to the Métis nation as it does to other first nations. To date, Canada has not provided funding to the Northwest Territory Métis Nation in order to deliver programs and services, as mandated by the Daniels decision.
Regarding land claim and treaty negotiations, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation Land and Resources Agreement-in-Principle was signed in 2015. On May 19, 2021, our self-government framework agreement was signed, which includes a commitment to negotiate arrangements for housing programs. The Métis nation is actively negotiating a land claim and self-government agreement with the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Under article 21 of UNDRIP, the Métis nation has a right to the improvement of housing conditions. Article 21states:
(1) Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.
(2) States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions.
The Métis nation is still seeking to be involved in the implementation of the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Daniels v. Canada. To achieve reconciliation, the Northwest Territory Métis nation is requesting to engage in nation-to-nation discussions to address the implementation of the Daniels decision, including the provision of federal housing programs and several services for the benefit of our indigenous Métis members.
At a minimum, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation must be treated on an equitable basis with Indian bands and status Indians in respect to all aspects of federal housing programs and services and associated funding envelopes.
The Métis Nation does not receive annual or core funding for the delivery of housing programs and services to indigenous Métis members.
Last year, the Métis Nation did receive an initial amount of $6 million over four years to assist with distinction-based housing funding for our members. While this amount is appreciated, this does not adjust the gaps between our members' housing needs and the amounts appropriated annually for first nations.
We note that our membership population is at least 80% of the Akaitcho First Nation and other first nation populations in the region, yet we are receiving substantially less funding than the first nations on a per capita basis. This differential treatment must end.
The Northwest Territory—