In his overview at the beginning of the Forum, President Chartier noted the Liberals’ overarching response to MNC questions during the fall election campaign was full of promise:
Canada must complete the unfinished work of Confederation by establishing a renewed Nation-to-Nation relationship with the Métis Nation, based on trust, respect and cooperation for mutual benefit. A Liberal government will work in partnership with the Métis Nation, on a Nation-to-Nation basis, to further Métis self-government.
President Chartier provided an overview of the Liberal federal government’s commitments in its Métis Nation Policy that offer both opportunities and challenges for the Métis Nation to meet. He stated that the purpose of the Policy Forum was to identify what those opportunities are and how to respond to them in a most effective way, starting with a clear articulation of the territorial and social boundaries of the Métis Nation.
Métis lawyer and author Jean Teillet made a presentation on Métis Homeland Boundaries and Kathy Hodgson-Smith provided an update on the continuing development of the Métis Nation citizenship system. Métis elder Norman Fleury spoke on the central role of the Michif language in Métis history and culture and what is needed to protect and promote its use.
The Forum addressed the all-important rights issues which have taken on new meaning with the new federal government. Mr. Tom Isaac, the Ministerial Special Representative on Métis Engagement, spoke broadly on Métis section 35 rights reconciliation. Appointed by the previous federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Bernard Valcourt, Mr. Isaac had his mandate extended by current Minister of Indigenous Affairs, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, and his report is expected in the near future.
A key commitment in the new government’s Métis Nation Policy is “to immediately establish a negotiations process between Canada and the Manitoba Métis Federation in order to settle the outstanding land claim of the Manitoba Métis community, as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada (AG).” MMF President David Chartrand provided the Forum with an update on steps that have been taken with the new government toward settlement of the Manitoba Métis land claim.
The Forum addressed the new government’s commitment to advance on Métis self-government. MNC officials set out a proposed framework for proceeding on self-government including:
• an update on the Daniels case currently before the Supreme Court of Canada;
• the potential for federal legislation recognizing and empowering a Métis self-government system;
• the issues remaining to be resolved for the completion of a new Métis Nation constitution; and
• a new financial relationship with Canada.
The Forum also take a look at the commitments of the new government to the Métis Nation in the area of economic development. President Chartrand who is also the MNC Minister of Social Development spoke on the renewal and expansion of ASETS. He was followed by a panel on the Métis Nation Economic Development Strategy and its key components of business development, labor force development, education and major projects participation. In the recent federal budget, the Trudeau government allocated $25 million over five years to support the development and implementation of this Métis Nation Economic Development Strategy.
President Chartier briefed delegates on the participation of the MNC, Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit along with the federal and provincial governments in a number of intergovernmental forums which will be taking on considerable importance during the coming years. He and the AFN and Inuit leaders had impressed upon the Prime Minister that Indigenous representation at these forums should be limited to the governments or representatives of governments of the three constitutionally recognized Indigenous peoples and should not include advocacy groups like NWAC and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. As a result only the MNC, AFN and ITK were invited consistent with the new nation-to-nation relationship between Ottawa and Indigenous peoples.
The Forum concluded with a review of the work the MNC will be doing in these intergovernmental forums. The first involves the participation of the MNC, AFN and ITK in the planning of a new national Health Accord for the funding of Canada’s health care system going forward. The next important intergovernmental forum involving the three Indigenous peoples’ governments was a meeting with the Prime Minister and Premiers on Climate Change and Clean Growth on March 2.
Kathy Hodgson-Smith and Jude Daniels briefed the Forum on the key issues involved in climate change and clean energy and the important role that the Métis Nation can play in areas like environmental assessment and traditional knowledge. Women of the Métis Nation President Melanie Omeniho provided delegates with a report on the progress being made in the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the role being played by the Women of the Métis Nation in its important work.