For the first time, the Government of Canada has moved toward recognizing the constitutionally protected Indigenous rights of Metis people in Saskatchewan.
Carolyn Bennet, Minister of Indigenous-Crown Relations, signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday in Ottawa with Glen McCallum, president of the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S), on recognition of Metis Indigenous rights and self determination.
The signing is only the beginning of a process. It establishes an “exploratory table” that will hammer out a framework agreement for more formal discussions leading toward a final agreement.
“I feel wonderful. It’s been a long time coming, this relationship with the federal government and the recognition of Metis,” McCallum said in an interview.
He has high hopes for a framework agreement by June or July and then, if all goes well, he would love to see an agreement in place before the 2021 end of his current four-year term as president, he said. Metis Nation-Saskatchewan President Glen McCallum, Minister Carolyn Bennett of Indigenous-Crown Relations and MN-S Vice President Gerald Morin give thumbs up after signing a memorandum of understanding on recognition of Indigenous rights and self determination, Feb. 22, 2018 in Ottawa. (Arash Rasekhi-Nejad) “The door is open for us to begin. The initiative between the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan and Canada at the highest level is in furtherance of reconciliation, of coming to an understanding of how both governments are going to work together,” said lawyer Thomas Isaac, who represents the MN-S.
“So that’s historic. It’s a big deal and its appropriate. It’s evidence of the Crown trying to do the right thing.”
McCallum said the document commits the parties to advance reconciliation in a government-to-government relationship.
Reconciliation must address the effect of the Sixties Scoop on Metis children and families, the Ile a la Crosse boarding school that was left out of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, lack of recognition for Metis veterans, and lack of Metis specific programming, he said.
“I’m excited to be able to now sit at the table and talk about Metis land claims and programs. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
McCallum commended the Liberal government for acting on the report, which was commissioned by the former Harper Conservative administration.
“It’s only when the Liberals and (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau made an effort to strengthen the relationship with the Metis that we saw the beginning of the relationship … but (the Harper Conservative government) hired Tom Isaac and he did a real good job.”
Prior to working for the MN-S, Isaac was appointed as the INAC Minister’s Special Representative on Metis Section 35 rights and authored a report recommending Canada change its policies to addresses Métis constitutional rights, according to legal principles of reconciliation and the honour of the Crown.
He also recommended that Canada work with the provinces and territories to develop joint processes to address unresolved Métis constitutional rights claims. Play Video
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