History came full circle on July 6, 2021, with the signing of the Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement by the leader of the Manitoba Métis and a representative of the Canadian government.
David Chartrand, President of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations signed the Agreement affirming the MMF as the existing and exclusive government of the Manitoba Métis.
The historic signing took place at Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park, located in what is now downtown Winnipeg. The Fort was where Louis Riel’s Provisional Government created the terms by which the postage stamp province of Manitoba joined Canada’s Confederation, 151 years ago.
The Agreement provides that Canada recognizes that the MMF is already the democratically-elected government of the Manitoba Métis and has the responsibility for providing responsible and accountable self-government.
The Manitoba Métis were historically known as the Red River Métis and collectively hold the rights and freedoms referred to in sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 as a result of direct ancestral connection to the Red River Métis. These rights include the inherent right of self-government.
The Agreement recognizes that Manitoba Métis Citizens and individuals entitled to become Citizens may live in Manitoba or elsewhere inside and outside of Canada.
All four Liberal MPs from Manitoba, Hon. Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre), Terry Duguid (Winnipeg South), Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North), and Hon. Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface – Saint Vital) were in attendance, as was Métis National Council (MNC) President Clément Chartier, along with the MMF Cabinet, with Minister Leah LaPlante acting as witness to the Agreement for the MMF.
Kicking off his speech, President Chartrand said that, after decades of discussions with the federal government, he was impressed that the Trudeau government was not only willing to negotiate regarding Manitoba Métis self-government and land claims, but that Minister Bennett proactively contacted him to spark the discussions.
President Chartrand said during the ceremony that while the Agreement won’t change how the MMF operates, it is key to have such a relationship with the federal government.
“This country is built on the concept of its laws and its processes, and it only makes it easier when a federal government comes on board to say, ‘We recognize the self-government.’”
Minister Bennett, acknowledging the context of the discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country in recent weeks, said she hopes the Agreement marks a step forward in relations between Indigenous peoples and the federal government.
“Canada has a long way to go to end the legacy of colonial violence still being felt today, recognizing its current consequences and working in partnership with Indigenous peoples on the path to healing,” Minister Bennett said. “Our government is committed to building a new type of relationship with Métis by advancing reconciliation, providing opportunities, and respecting your traditions, language and culture.”
“The Agreement we’re signing today is the result of a genuine co-development process in true partnership with your Nation.”
It would not have been possible to have this event without acknowledging the importance of Louis Riel and his Provisional Government. The Provisional Government drafted the List of Rights which were enshrined in the Manitoba Act, 1870. The Manitoba Act, as described in correspondence between Riel and Sir. John A. Macdonald, was a Treaty that allowed Canada access to what was then called the North-West Territory.
“Even though Louis Riel created this beautiful province, helped build this beautiful country of Canada we all love, they would not recognize his government,” President Chartrand said. “In fact, they went against his government and argued vigorously for over a century that his government had no standing, had no right to be a government in the Prairies, had no right to be standing and speaking for those people that were clearly the majority.”
President Chartier, an MNC founder, stressed that the reasons for its creation in 1983 were to secure a land base and self-government. He was proud to see progress made on both with the July 6 announcement.
“I am very, very honoured to be here today to witness your government, your president signing this significant self-government recognition agreement, which is going to lead us – and I say us meaning the Métis Nation in Western Canada – forward because from this day forward, we can say the Métis National Council has got us here, but it’s now up to our government to lead us forward into the future as a people, as a Nation, impact on our citizenship, impact on our Homeland, and impact where our future will be taking us,” President Chartier said. “Your government is going to be not only the catalyst but the protector of the Métis Nation.”
Vandal, the Minister of Northern Affairs and a Manitoba Métis Citizen, credited the MMF for its work on several fronts in advancing Métis interests.
“You have fought for the recognition and the rights of Métis in Manitoba. You have worked hard to create the space for Métis in the realm of politics, in society and in the economy and in doing so, you have enabled people to thrive,” he said. “You have brought Métis culture to the national stage, and helped connect Métis across the province, bringing them together as a community.”
The Agreement provides for Canada and the MMF to enter into a nearly completed Modern Day Treaty which will then be the subject of Implementation Legislation by Parliament. This will solidify the federal recognition of the MMF as the government of the Manitoba Métis and provide Constitutional certainty of rights.
The MMF and the federal government are still working out some finer details of the Modern Day Treaty, including the provisions of the Agreement and points such as the relationship of laws, enforcement and adjudication, a tax treatment agreement, and Supplementary Self-Government Agreements for expanded MMF jurisdictions. Negotiations regarding the MMF land claim in Section 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870 will also continue.
“This agreement and the Modern Day Treaty that is coming really give us control of our own future and our own destiny,” said President Chartrand. “We won’t have bureaucrats from Ottawa telling us what to do and how to do it – our programs and services can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the Manitoba Métis.”
Ultimately, (MMF) President (David) Chartrand stressed that the Agreement symbolizes Métis resilience. After decades or, in some cases, well over a century of digging in for the Nation’s rights, those efforts were rewarded. He pledged to not only continue fighting for more rights, but the importance of defending what has already been won.
“We will not give up to anyone,” he said. “We will not give up our rights or our place in Confederation. It is ours. We earned it. We bled for it, and we died for it.”