Federal Court orders revisions to deal between Ottawa and Métis Nation of Alberta

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Ottawa must make changes to a self-government deal it struck with the Métis Nation of Alberta, says a Federal Court ruling.

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The ruling, released last Thursday, March 28, says the deal is too broad in its definition of who it covers and it was made without consulting two other Métis groups in the province.

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“The only practical remedy is to quash the offending provisions of the agreement and to remit the matter to the minister for reconsideration,” wrote Justice Sébastien Grammond.

The deal was one of three signed by Métis groups in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario in February, 2023, that recognized them as Indigenous governments, put them on equal constitutional standing with First Nations and opened the door to further negotiations, such as compensation for land lost.

It gave the groups control over who is a Métis citizen, leadership selection and government operations. And it brought them under federal legislation that gives Indigenous governments control over family and child welfare.

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Two independent Alberta Métis groups complained that the agreement subsumed them under the Métis Nation of Alberta and did so without consulting them. They argued it gave the Métis Nation of Alberta exclusive ability to assert Métis rights in the province, something they had not consented to.

The Fort McKay Métis Nation and the Métis Settlements General Council, which hold the only Métis land bases in the province, wanted the court to throw out the entire agreement.

While Justice Grammond agreed with their complaint, the judge ruled that disallowing the broad sections of the deal and requiring Ottawa to come to the table with the two dissenting groups was remedy enough.

“The agreement remains in place,” said Jason Madden, lawyer for the Métis Nation of Alberta.

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“Those provisions were overly broad and do include an exclusivity in representation [for] the Métis Nation of Alberta. There’s clear direction from the court on how to address those offending provisions,” he said.

Lawyer Jeff Langlois, who represents Fort McKay, said the decision allows his client to pursue its own path to self-government outside the control of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

“For our constituency, there is a different path. And we want to make sure Canada has room to manoeuvre.”

He said his client plans to seek some form of self-government in talks the court has ordered Ottawa to open.

“That certainly would be my client’s goal,” he said.

Andrea Sandmaier, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, said the group is examining the decision.

“Our over 65,000 citizens and our communities will continue to move forward on our vision for self-government that we have been advancing over 200 years,” she said in a statement. “Today’s decisions only strengthen our resolve to fully implement our nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship with Canada.”

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