The voice of Métis youth was heard in Parliament last night in a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. For the first time, the Senators sat amongst youth representatives from the three national Aboriginal organizations – the Métis National Council, Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The meeting was a chance for the Senators to hear what the priorities and challenges are for youth today and every word spoken was heard.
The Senate Committee meeting was attended by Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council Member Mitch Case and Métis National Council Communications Officer Adrian Mrdeza. An overview of the overall activities and youth involvement was provided to the Committee outlining the key priority of access to post-secondary funding and the need for the current primary funding source for Aboriginal youth to be examined and revised so the funds are more easily available for its intended purposes – to serve the youth and promote cultural engagement.
Senate Committee members questioned youth panellists on economic development issues, education and training initiatives, and what the reality of being a youth is like today. The Métis Nation stressed the importance of the ability to pursue post-secondary education and that the key barrier to higher learning is the lack of adequate funding. Currently the Métis National Council’s Governing Members have Endowment Funds set up but can only utilize the interest income on these funds to aid Métis students. The recommendation to have these endowment funds ‘topped-up’ was made so that more Metis will have the chance to achieve their educational goals.
Following the official meeting, the youth were invited to take a tour of the Senate Chamber and have one-on-one time with a handful of Senators to ask questions, share ideas and receive advice. It was an opportunity few have had and the Métis were there alongside the First Nations and Inuit youth representatives providing insight on the realities that youth face. It was a discussion that has opened the door to a broader dialogue to be had on Parliament Hill.
Métis National Council President Clément Chartier also presented to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples the priorities of the Métis Nation for their study during the current session. Foremost of these priorities was the need to include Métis land claims in the federal government’s land claims resolution processes.
President Chartier provided background to the epic court battle of the Manitoba Métis Federation over the unfulfilled promise of a 1,400,000 acre land grant for the children of the Métis heads of families in the original “postage stamp” province of Manitoba. That struggle for justice, launched in the courts 30 years ago, will reach the Supreme Court of Canada on December 13.
President Chartier also asked the Committee to study and support the search for justice of the thousands of Métis Residential, Boarding and Day School survivors who were not included in the Indian Residential School Settlement by the Government of Canada. The issue proved to be of considerable interest to the Senate Committee members who sought additional information on why the Métis have been denied compensation.
Finally, President Chartier briefed the Committee on the progress the MNC is making with the federal government under the Métis Nation Protocol in order to negotiate new accords on governance and economic development. He explained how the greater authorities and firmer fiscal arrangements in the proposed accords could be recognized in a new Métis Nation constitution that is being developed by the Métis Nation. He proposed that the Committee include in its study the potential of federal legislation that would recognize this constitution as the source of self-government for the Métis Nation.
Read the full remarks presented by President Clément Chartier and Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council Member Mitch Case to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples below.