MSGC Secures Commitment from Canada on Section 35 Engagement
Ottawa, ON – January 30th, 2017 – The Metis Settlements General Council (“MSGC”) has secured a commitment from Minister Carolyn Bennett, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (“INAC”), to negotiate a bilateral agreement in light of the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the Daniels case. While this is an exciting step forward, there is still a great deal of hard work ahead.
In a recent letter from INAC officials, MSGC was informed that Canada is working with the Metis Nation of Alberta (“MNA”) to address Section 35 rights and the interests of Alberta Metis. Given that MSGC and the Metis Settlements are separate, independent entities from the MNA, MSGC President Gerald Cunningham was directed by the MSGC Board of Directors to travel to Ottawa and make clear the MSGC’s position. President Cunningham was further instructed to prepare to take legal action and inform the media. On this issue, President Gerald Cunningham said:
“It is very important for us to make clear that it is unacceptable for any organization to claim to have the authority to speak for us or negotiate on our behalf. No one speaks for the Settlements but the representatives of the Metis Settlements. We were disappointed that the Government of Canada seemed to have taken the view that they would not engage with us directly and we sought to speak with Minister Bennett immediately on the issue.”
Upon arrival in Ottawa on Sunday, January 29th, the Ministry requested a meeting with President Cunningham and MSGC’s Director of Public Affairs, Blake Desjarlais, on January 30th at 9am. The Meeting lasted one hour and President Cunningham relayed the concerns and position of the Metis Settlements. The Ministry, in recognition of the confusion created by its mixed messages, offered an apology and Minister Bennett committed to a bi-lateral agreement between the Metis Settlements General Council and the Government of Canada. Minister Bennett also agreed to a formal visit to the Metis Settlements and to meet with the General Council Assembly. President Gerald Cunningham believes that this is the best possible outcome:
“For years, the Metis Settlements have fought to establish an open dialogue with Canada, and to receive full recognition as an independent stakeholder in discussion regarding Metis reconciliation. We are very pleased with the Minister’s commitments today. Our officials will work directly with Canada to establish a process for negotiations and meetings under the Federal mandate of reconciliation.”
In the coming weeks, MSGC officials will work closely with INAC officials to draft the bilateral engagement agreement for signing. MSGC will be coordinating with Minister Bennett’s office to arrange an official visit of the Metis Settlements and a meeting with the Metis Settlements General Council Assembly.