Federal Court orders changes to agreement between Ottawa and Alberta Metis

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EDMONTON – Ottawa must make changes to a self-government agreement it signed with the Métis Nation of Alberta, according to a Federal Court ruling.

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

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“The only practical remedy is to annul the offending provisions of the agreement and refer the matter to the minister for reconsideration,” wrote Judge Sebastien Grammond.

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The agreement 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 footing with First Nations and opened the door to future negotiations, such as compensation for the lost lands.

It gave the groups control over who is a Métis citizen, the selection of leaders and government operations. And it subjected them to federal legislation that gives indigenous governments control over family and child welfare.

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

The Fort McKay Metis Nation and the Metis General Settlement Council, which own the only Metis land bases in the province, wanted the court to throw out the entire agreement.

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While Grammond agreed with their complaint, the judge ruled that rejecting the general sections of the agreement and requiring Ottawa to come to the table with the two dissident groups was sufficient remedy.

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

“Those provisions were overly broad and included an exclusivity in representation (of) the Métis Nation of Alberta. There are clear instructions from the court on how to address those offensive provisions,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Our more than 65,000 citizens and our communities will continue to advance our vision of self-government that we have been promoting for 200 years,” he said in a statement. “Today’s decisions only strengthen our resolve to fully implement our nation-to-nation and government-to-government relationship with Canada.”

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