Thank you, honourable Chair.
Members of the committee, I am pleased to be here representing the MMF, the national government of the Red River Métis. I appear as the ambassador responsible for inter-nation and international relations, appointed as such by President Chartrand and the MMF cabinet.
On previous occasions, I have appeared as president of the Métis National Council, which we once belonged to. It was a position I held from October 2003 until the end of September last year, 2021.
The Manitoba Métis Federation formally withdrew its membership in the MNC organization on September 29, 2021. On July 6, 2021, the Manitoba Métis Federation executed the Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement with Canada, copies of which I believe you have. By this agreement, the MMF's inherent right to self-government is recognized and affirmed. We are the only Métis nation government recognized as having such by the federal government since President Louis Riel brought the Métis nation into Confederation through the Manitoba Act, 1870. The agreement clearly states that the MMF represents the Red River Métis wherever they may live, whether inside or outside of Manitoba and, for that matter, whether inside or outside of Canada. In this connection, Red River Métis is synonymous with the historic Métis nation and its citizens.
The MMF general assembly in 2014 adopted a resolution that opened its citizenship application process to Red River Métis living outside of the geographic borders of the province of Manitoba. At its general assembly held this past weekend, the MMF adopted a resolution declaring the MMF to be the national government of the Red River Métis. Between June and September of this year, a beyond-borders task force, of which I was the lead, visited 14 cities within the homeland in western Canada and the northern United States as well as cities outside of the homeland, in British Columbia and the cities of Ottawa and Toronto, which are places to which a number of our citizens have relocated for employment and other purposes, although they are still registered citizens of the national government of the Red River Métis.
My government is prepared to support Bill C‑29 even though there is still unfinished business in connection with reconciliation and the Métis nation experience in day schools and residential schools, in particular in the Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School, which I attended for 10 years, followed by a year and a half at the Charlebois Residence in La Pas, Manitoba.
My government is pleased with the legislation enacted by the federal government over the past several years. This includes the legislation creating the two departments that have replaced the Department of Indian Affairs as well as legislation aimed at the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In particular, both the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act and the Department of Indigenous Services Act, in their definition sections, state that “Indigenous governing body means a council, government or other entity that is authorized to act on behalf of an Indigenous group, community or people that holds rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”
In their respective preambles, both state that “the Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with...the Métis...through renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government...relationships based on affirmation and implementation of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.”
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act of 2011, in the preamble, refers to the “Métis Nation” and other indigenous peoples, which, “throughout [our] history...lived in the lands that are now [in] Canada, with their distinct identities, cultures and ways of life;” and says that “Canada rejects all forms of colonialism”.
We remain concerned, however, that the federal government has not kept pace with the reconciliation process, in particular the nation-to-nation, government-to-government and reconstituting of indigenous nations initiatives—in our case, the Métis nation.
With the establishment of the section 35 rights reconciliation tables for indigenous peoples in 2016, the federal government, in relation to the Métis nation, chose only to have four tables with only the then governing members of the Métis National Council, and refused to establish one with the Métis National Council itself, the then national body representing the Métis nation, and I underscore “the then body representing the Métis nation”. This has led to the further consolidation of the colonial boundaries established in 1905 with the creation of the Province of Saskatchewan and the Province of Alberta and the dismemberment of the historic Métis nation homeland in western Canada.
Nevertheless, today we are moving toward one nation, one people, which accords with the federal government's reconstituting indigenous nations initiatives—in our case, the historic Métis nation. In this connection, we are opposed to and will oppose any federal legislation that attempts to further divide or dismember our homeland and, in particular, legislation that purports to give provincial Métis organizations self-government recognition under section 35.
Not only are we, the Red River Métis, facing threats from within; we are also facing threats from without our nation, from outside of our nation, with hundreds of thousands of individuals of mixed ancestry in Ontario, Quebec and the maritime provinces claiming to be Métis and perpetrating cultural and identity theft.
In order to prevent further injustice to the Métis nation, the MMF—the national government of the Red River Métis—must be included in the proposed council, unless the act is meant to deal only with indigenous organizations and not governments. This, however, cannot be the intent, as it would exclude the sole and legitimate government, the sole and legitimate representative of the historic Métis nation: the Red River Métis and its national government.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.