Faced with a spirited challenge from Métis Nation of Alberta Regional Director Bev New, Chartier gets mandate to head Métis Nation into talks with Trudeau Government under recently signed Canada-Métis Nation Accord.
As the Métis Nation heads into an intensive process of negotiations with the Trudeau government on priorities under the recently signed Canada-Métis Nation Accord, President Chartier was re-elected at the Métis Nation General Assembly in Winnipeg on April 28, 2017.
In the State of the Nation address at the outset of the Assembly, Chartier provided delegates with a thorough review of the work undertaken by the Métis National Council in advance of the recent Métis Nation-Crown Summit with the Prime Minister and his Ministers. He also set out the ways in which the Métis Nation governments must mobilize their resources in order to engage effectively in the permanent bilateral process with the Prime Minister and his Ministers.
See State of Nation address: (click here to download)
STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
April 28, 2017
At last year’s General Assembly in Winnipeg, our keynote speaker at the dinner banquet, Minister of Indigenous Affairs Dr. Carolyn Bennett, reaffirmed the developing nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship between Canada and the Métis Nation.
The roots of that relationship had first surfaced during the federal election campaign in 2015 when Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party unveiled a bold and unprecedented Métis Nation Policy.
A Nation-to-Nation relationship between Canada and the Métis Nation…
The words and the concept certainly marked a sharp and welcomed break from the past.
The question, which was then on many of our minds, was whether and how this nation-to-nation relationship would unfold and what the practical implications would be.
In other words, what’s in it for our people?
How will it impact our lives?
How will it change things and will that be for the better?
Today, as we move toward the mid-term mark of the Trudeau government’s first term in office, we are getting much closer to answers to what the Nation-to-Nation relationship means.
Let’s take a look at the results to date.
Regarding settlement of our unique rights and claims which the Trudeau government had stated from the beginning was essential for establishing the new relationship and advancing reconciliation with the Métis Nation, there has definitely been progress.
The federal government has established a negotiation process between Canada and the Manitoba Metis Federation in order to settle the outstanding land claim of the Manitoba Métis community upheld by by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013.
It has established, or is establishing, exploratory tables with the Governing Members to address Métis Section 35 rights including Métis self-government with a clear timeframe for the parties to reach an agreement to move into formal negotiations.
The Trudeau government has also applied the Nation-to-Nation relationship to its intergovernmental relations policy, making a sharp break with governments of the past.
In its work with the provinces and territories on climate change and a new health accord, it decided to involve the Indigenous peoples but restricted that involvement to the national representative bodies of the Métis Nation, the First Nations and the Inuit.
It was clearly signaling that Indigenous governments or representatives of those governments, not advocacy bodies like CAP and NWAC, should be engaged with the federal, provincial and territorial governments in addressing matters of critical national importance.
Our involvement in the development of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and meeting with the First Ministers in Ottawa on December 9, 2016 is indicative of this approach.
In our joint statement on December 9, the Prime Minister and I agreed to move forward to ensure the Métis are full and effective partners in advancing clean growth and addressing climate change and this approach would be based on renewing Canada’s nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship with the Métis Nation.
So far, so good.
The next question was how would the Nation-to-Nation relationship affect federal social, economic and cultural policies and programs affecting the Métis and, more to the point, the way in which the federal government and its administrative machinery relate to the Métis and address our needs in the federal budget?
Our experience with Budget 2016 had been mixed.
It had provided $25 million for the development of a Métis Nation Economic Development Strategy which was a set aside for the Métis Nation.
During the past year our Governing Members have been able to work out the distribution of these funds in a manner consistent with their priorities and under their control and management.
This has strengthened their capital corporations, is leading to the creation of a new capital corporation in BC, and has also enabled our Governing Members to make broader-based, innovative investments in economic development.
While it was an unprecedented recognition of the Métis Nation in a federal budget, the $25 million was a drop in the bucket of the record $8.4 billion additional spend on Indigenous peoples in the 2016 budget, almost all of which was devoted to First Nations.
What was particularly troubling was the apparent belief of the Prime Minister and his Ministers, including his Finance Minister, that the Métis were participating in that larger spend.
They clearly had not been properly advised by officials. For Budget 2017, however, we could expect better things we were told.
On December 15, 2016, the Prime Minister met with the MNC, AFN and ITK to announce permanent bilateral mechanisms with First Nations, the Métis Nation and the Inuit.
He described the work with each Indigenous people as a Kelowna-like process, in which he would meet with us to develop policy on shared priorities, and monitor our progress going forward.
Similar meetings with key Cabinet Ministers would take place at least twice each year and between these meetings, senior officials from the Métis Nation and the federal government would be working on the priorities and developing policies that could meaningfully address them.
This bilateral process of engagement with the Métis Nation struck me as holding great potential for a number of reasons.
In the past, we had managed to negotiate strong agreements-in-principle with federal governments – the Métis Nation Accord with the Mulroney government and the Kelowna Accord with the Martin government – but the first depended on the approval of the Charlottetown Accord in a national referendum and the second depended on the survival of the Martin government which was about to go to the polls.
We all know what the outcome of each was.
This time, we had a Prime Minister, only a year into his term, launching and heading up a permanent ongoing process of intensive work on our priorities, with himself and the Métis Nation leadership at the top of the oversight and accountability chain of command.
Those regular meetings with the Prime Minister measuring progress on our priorities seemed an effective way to hold his Ministers’ and their officials’ feet to the fire.
A series of events would quickly put the Prime Minister’s new process to the test.
In advance of the first Métis Nation – Crown Summit scheduled for January 30, 2017, our officials encountered resistance from federal officials to the wording of a draft accord that was expected to be signed at the Summit and would identify the priorities for the Métis Nation and how they could be implemented.
There appeared to be a disconnect between what the Prime Minister and his Ministers were saying and what their senior officials were doing.
The Summit had to be postponed due to the shooting at a Quebec City mosque but the Board of Governors did meet on January 30 with most of the Ministers who had been scheduled to participate in the Summit in what amounted to a test run.
At that time, Board members expressed their disappointment over the turn of events and federal and Métis Nation officials were instructed to renew their efforts to come up with a consensus document.
The federal Budget 2017, tabled on March 22 this year, took another turn for the worse.
It did include an investment of $84.9 million over the next five years, and $28.3 million per year ongoing after that, to build the governance capacity of the Métis National Council and the Governing Members and support the registries.
But in other areas of the $3.4 billion Indigenous spend, the document went silent on the Métis Nation.
Again, federal Ministers expressed surprise at our disappointment because they had been led to believe that much of the funding for “off-reserve” programs was actually meant for the Métis Nation.
Métis set-asides could be expected in areas like housing and early learning and childcare, we were assured.
But when we asked – “Where in the budget does it say that?” – they had no answer.
Budget 2017 raised real concerns that, notwithstanding the good intentions of the Prime Minster and his Ministers, there was still a systemic failure to crack the deeply entrenched barriers we face as Métis people within the federal system to meaningful action and spending on our needs.
The extent of those barriers had been highlighted in the report of the Minister’s own Special Representative on reconciliation with the Métis Nation, Tom Isaac, who addressed last year’s Assembly shortly before the release of his report.
Based on interviews with federal civil servants, he reported on their attitudes that Métis rights were lesser or subservient to those of other Indigenous peoples or that treaty rights “trump” Métis rights, even though there was no law supporting these propositions.
He reported on their preference to avoid dealing with the Métis, stating bluntly that INAC’s Regional Offices didn’t even see Métis-related issues as a part of their day-to-day mandate.
When called upon to do something for Métis, Mr. Isaac reported the preference of these officials was to lump the Métis in with non-status Indians and offer programs under a general “Aboriginal” or “off-reserve” framework.
Anyone reading his report and his observation that almost the entire amount of Canada’s resources for Indigenous peoples is devoted exclusively to First Nations and Inuit would understand that the reason for this, to a large extent, is the prevailing attitude of the federal bureaucracy that this is what the Métis deserve.
In fact, the very first recommendation of the Isaac Report was for Canada to educate federal employees involved with Indigenous-related matters about the Métis Nation, our history, culture and rights.
Tom Isaac confirmed what we have known for a long time through long and bitter experience.
The attitudes of indifference if not outright hostility to the Métis are deeply engrained in the federal system from the lowest levels in the Department of Indigenous Affairs right up to the highest echelons of the federal civil service.
I, and the Board of Governors, were quite concerned over the language in the budget, the apparent backsliding into referencing the Métis as one of many groups that would be eligible for participation in off-reserve programs rather than set-asides for the Métis Nation under our control and management.
Budget 2017 seemed to be signaling that, despite the Trudeau government and despite the Daniels decision on federal responsibilities toward Métis, the invisible hand of the bureaucrats was still hard at work.
The same hand that had assured so many Ministers and governments before that Métis were eligible for anything not reserved for First Nations and Inuit.
Like the Urban Aboriginal Strategy or UAS which had allocated less than $1 million of its $53 million annual budget to Métis governments even though the Métis are the majority of the Indigenous population in the largest centres served by the UAS.
On March 27, 2017, I wrote to the Prime Minister to express the disappointment of the Métis Nation over a budget that, while providing some additional funding for the governance capacity of the MNC and Governing Members, had neglected the needs of the people they serve by failing to ensure distinctions-based set-asides for the Métis Nation in critical program areas.
Lumping us in with a wide array of groups competing for the limited amount of funding available for “off-reserve” programs represented a total negation of a nation-to-nation relationship.
With the Métis Nation – Crown Summit now set for April 13, we expected the agenda to enable us to have an honest discussion with him and his Ministers on ways of ensuring that the federal budget works for the citizens of the Métis Nation.
In the weeks leading up to the Summit, I and my officials had many meetings and discussions with federal ministers and senior officials to turn things around.
At the commencement of the much-awaited Summit on April 13, Prime Minister Trudeau, I, and the Presidents of the Governing Members signed the Canada – Métis Nation Accord that sets out the terms and priorities of the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism.
Once the ceremony concluded and the media left the room, the Prime Minister got right down to business and confronted the issue of the budget.
He acknowledged the disappointment of the Métis Nation with the language in the Budget and his understanding that “words matter”.
He stated that his government is sincerely committed to a distinctions-based approach to Indigenous communities, including the Métis Nation, and acknowledged that this promise was not reflected in the Budget.
To use his words: “This will be corrected, starting today.”
On that note, he thanked me for my letter of March 27, 2017 and for the willingness to speak the truth to commence a frank and open dialogue.
The relationship between Canada and the Métis Nation must be grounded, he said, both in words and in deeds, in the recognition that the Métis Nation is a unique, distinct, rights-bearing community.
In response to the letter of March 27 which is in your kits, the Prime Minister had instructed his Ministers who are part of the ongoing bilateral process to prepare letters elaborating on those significant commitments.
The Ministers had an opportunity to go through them at the Summit.
Minister Bennett from Indigenous Affairs confirmed that out of the $118 million allocated in the budget for the new Urban Indigenous Strategy over five years, there will be a Métis Nation specific allocation of $36,350,000 or $7.27 million annually to be managed by the Métis National Council and Governing Members.
She also committed to the Métis Nation’s fair share of the $5 million in the budget over the next two years that was set aside for the Métis Nation, First Nations and Inuit to participate in their respective bilateral processes.
In a joint letter, Minister Duclos from Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Hajdu from Employment, Workforce Development and Labour noted that the federal government was collaborating with the Métis Nation toward a renewed and expanded ASETS beyond 2018 including a Métis Nation specific approach.
They committed to providing us soon with the Métis Nation share of the additional $50 million per year in ASETS funding.
They also committed to work with us in developing Métis Nation specific components of two large federal initiatives, the National Housing Strategy and the Early Learning and Child Care Framework.
The Prime Minister’s statements at the outset of the Summit indicated to me, and I believe to other Board members, that this process we were entering into that day was definitely something new.
Our Finance Minister David Chartrand captured that sentiment well in his critique of Budget 2017 at the Summit.
While reiterating our disappointment that the Budget did not reflect the Prime Minister’s vision that the Métis do matter, Minister Chartrand expressed support for the bilateral process as it will provide regular opportunities for the Prime Minister and the Métis Nation leadership to meet and to hold each other accountable and this will result in real change.
The Prime Minister made two other particularly important statements that day which we should reflect on as we plan our way of moving forward with his government, one on the issue of our rights, particularly self-government, the other on accountability.
On the first issue, he recognized that the federal government has not been a good partner to the Métis Nation for a long time and wishes to change this situation.
The Métis Nation has fought for a long time to be recognized and to be treated as a legitimate government to serve its people, he said, but now, having won, it is not necessary to continue fighting.
The Federal Government wishes to move forward on the joint goal of building a strong and prosperous Métis Nation and to ensure that the recognition of the Métis Nation is established for the future.
He said the new challenge will be to determine the correct approach to work together to ensure that funds flow in the right way, by deferring to the expertise of the Métis Nation to determine the needs of its citizens, and to ensure that the Métis Nation is delivering those services.
On the issue of accountability, the Prime Minister acknowledged that his government’s goal of arriving at a place where the expenditure of the funds is decided by the Métis Nation and delivers tangible benefits to all its citizens is frightening, as both the federal government and the Métis Nation have raised expectations of the Métis people.
He said this underscores the importance of working together to develop strategies to determine what needs to be done first, what needs to be done now and what can continue to be moved forward as the Métis Nation develops capacities of strength.
He also stated a number of times that the new relationship based on a recognition of rights also comes with responsibilities for both the federal government and the Métis Nation to work together in the most productive way for the benefit of the Métis people.
I believe the Prime Minister demonstrated strong leadership by taking responsibility for the mishandling of the Budget as it pertains to the Métis Nation and taking steps to set the course right.
And by advising everybody in the Summit room that day that the “buck stops here” – that is with him and the leadership of the Métis Nation – on matters of importance in Canada – Métis Nation relations.
And that is a message which I believe can be appreciated by all the delegates of the Métis Nation General Assembly here today who collectively make up the leadership of the Métis Nation.
How can we ensure that we are up to the challenge of meeting the high expectations of our people for real change through our work with the Trudeau government?
The permanent bilateral process with Canada truly is an immense opportunity and challenge at the same time and we must prepare for it.
Just as the Prime Minister is committed to a whole of government approach in which multiple ministers would work with us as seamlessly as possible, I believe so too the Métis Nation and its governments should be prepared to adopt our own whole-of-government approach to meet this challenge.
Three ways come to mind.
The first is through the legislative and policy development work of this General Assembly through which the Métis Nation as a whole can deliberate on issues of common concern to all its citizens and Governing Members and adopt resolutions that will shape the positions that can then be taken forward to be discussed and negotiated with federal government.
In the past year, additional resources have made it possible for this Assembly to meet more often in special sittings and policy forums and undertake discussion of important policy matters leading to the adoption of these resolutions.
Our Métis Nation working groups and committees from the MNC and Governing Members have informed this work at the General Assembly.
For example, the joint work on a new federal urban strategy by senior officials from MNC and Governing Members and the Deputy Minister of INAC and her officials, and the resolutions adopted by this General Assembly on the issue, contributed greatly to the Métis Nation set-aside in the new Urban Indigenous Strategy.
Climate change and the Métis Nation Economic Development Strategy were the subject matter at two of the policy forums held in the past year and have resulted in resolutions that have been adopted or will be considered tomorrow for adoption.
There can be no doubt that when the Métis Nation speaks as a whole through these resolutions, our hand is strengthened in dealing with the federal government on these issues.
With the new governance funding, I believe we can move toward regular sittings of the General Assembly three or four times a year, in order to provide leadership with a strong mandate to pursue joint policy development with the federal government on priority issues identified in the Canada – Métis Nation Accord.
Which brings me to the second way in which we can use a whole-of-government approach to meet the challenges of the new bilateral process.
That would be through mobilizing all the resources of the MNC, the Governing Members and their affiliated institutions to collaborate on the groundwork required on policy priorities in advance of the meeting with the Prime Minister and the additional two meetings with multiple Ministers each year.
There is no doubt that at the Summit the Governing Member Presidents impressed upon the Prime Minister and his Ministers just how desperate is the need for resources to address the needs of the Métis for housing, health care, and child care resources .
And that they will be expecting and demanding results in our annual stock-taking session with the Prime Minister.
At the same time, in order to expect results, they must be armed with the best evidence-based research and policy work in order to make the case for funding and how best to deploy resources.
This requires us to ensure the working groups on priority issues that we establish with the federal government can draw upon the expertise we have at the MNC and Governing Members, their ASETS teams, economic development corporations, housing agencies, educational institutes, family and child service agencies, health branches, amongst others.
In some areas like ASETS, health and environment, we have committees in place for some time to undertake this work.
In other areas, we will have to formalize our own internal collaborative efforts to deal with the priorities under the Accord on a sustained ongoing basis.
A third way of pursuing a whole-of-government approach to meet the challenges of the new bilateral process will be in the area of constitutional reform.
This issue will take on increased importance for each Governing Member as each works toward s. 35 rights agreements with Canada, including self-government.
A constitution will serve as the cornerstone of each agreement from which the respective Métis Nation government will draw its authority to represent and adopt laws and policies for its citizens.
At the same time, there will be a need for a national constitution to determine how the citizens and governments of the Métis Nation will relate to each other.
A constitution that fully respects the jurisdictions of the Métis governments in the provinces but also enables the Métis people to act collectively on matters of national and international importance.
Tomorrow, we will go into the Accord signed with Canada in greater depth but I wish to conclude my State of the Nation by identifying those federal commitment areas where I believe we must seize the opportunity to make giant strides quickly.
The first will be locking down a new Métis Nation ASETS agreement which our Minister of Social Development will address this afternoon.
The second is capitalizing on the federal commitment to a Métis Nation specific component of two important federal initiatives: a national housing strategy and a national early childhood and childcare framework.
The Trudeau government is dedicating enormous resources in these areas for all of Canada and it is absolutely essential that we stake our claim and begin the work on a set-aside as soon as possible.
The third commitment area is establishing new fiscal relations with the government of Canada.
As Minister Bennett stated at the Summit, the federal government wants out of the business of program funding and to self-determining nations through a long-term, stable, predictable and responsive approach to funding.
MNC and Governing Member senior officials have worked well together and with the INAC Deputy Minister to achieve the permanent and expanded registry and governance funding in Budget 2017.
I am confident that they can duplicate this success in forging a new approach to fiscal relations that capitalizes on the federal willingness to sit down and work out with us the financial transfer mechanisms that support government-to-government relationships.
The fourth area of commitment is the most challenging as it includes two Métis Nation priorities – education and health care – where federal resistance to dealing with us has always been and still is the strongest.
At the same time, there is a growing federal recognition that while we receive these services from the Provinces, they have failed to address our distinct needs and rights and are ill-equipped to tackle the gaps and deficits we face in education and health care.
The Trudeau government’s commitment in its Métis Nation policy to fulfill the Kelowna commitment to enhance and expand existing Métis Nation scholarships and bursaries remains unfulfilled.
Through the Canada – Métis Nation Accord tables, we must ensure this commitment is fulfilled through the expansion of our endowments while also securing federal support for enhancing and expanding Métis Nation educational institutes and for improving outcomes in the K-12 system.
We must also act quickly on the Health Minister’s commitment to a distinctions-based approach to the Head Start and health programs.
I should also note that in addition to these first year priorities in the Accord, the Métis Nation must muster its resources to work collectively on other related initiatives of the Trudeau government.
These includes the review of federal laws, policies and operational practices to ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional and international obligations with respect to Aboriginal rights as well as the upcoming Indigenous Languages Act, which will recognize and serve to preserve and promote Indigenous languages, including Michif.
Through bodies such as the Métis Rights Panel, the MNC and Governing Members can collaborate productively on these federal legislative initiatives and inform the work of this General Assembly in determining the Métis Nation positions.
The Prime Minister stated in the Summit that in his role as Minister of Youth, he looks forward to engaging with Métis Nation Youth.
I reminded him that Métis youth had once been vigorously engaged at the national level but this was discontinued when the funding was eliminated.
The Métis Nation is looking forward to reactivating and re-engaging with the National Youth Council.
The first year agenda of the Canada – Métis Nation Accord commits the Parties to examining the current array of supports available to Métis youth and identify best practices, programs or services that address the unique challenges of Métis Youth.
Métis Nation women’s issues are an integral part of the permanent agenda for the bilateral process.
(show Melanie at the Summit, and WMN meetings)
At the Summit, President Omeniho provided the Prime Minister and his Ministers with insight into those issues such as women’s physical and mental health, the Head Start Program and access to child care which must be addressed by the Accord and the federal budget.
We must ensure that new opportunities opening up through our work on the Accord, including new sources of funding, can be accessed by Métis women and men.
That is the only way that the Métis Nation as a whole and Métis families can make significant progress.
In closing, I call on all of you to join me in seizing the historic opportunities awaiting us through this new relationship with Canada.
At the same time, I encourage all of us to take a realistic look at our present situation.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to a permanent joint process to redress historical wrongs and improve contemporary conditions is indeed heartening and we sincerely commend him for that.
At the same time, we know that “permanent” may mean no more than the slightly more than two years and two budgets left in the Prime Minister’s current term of office.
We all remember the exuberant feelings we had with Kelowna and how those high hopes were crushed with the defeat of the Martin government, ushering in a lost decade with the Harper government.
So let’s hope for the best but be prepared for all contingencies in the next federal election.
In the meantime, let us roll up our sleeves and take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity that starts today.