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

Ottawa must make changes to the self-government agreement concluded with the Métis Nation of Alberta, according to a Federal Court judgment.

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

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

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

This allowed groups to control who is a mixed-race citizen, the selection of leaders, and government operations. And it made them subject to a federal law that gives indigenous governments control over family and child welfare.

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Two independent Métis groups in Alberta complained that the agreement subsumed them under the Métis Nation of Alberta without consulting them.

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They argued that this gave the Métis Nation of Alberta the exclusive ability to assert Métis rights in the province, to which they had not consented.

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

Even though Grammond agreed with their complaint, the judge ruled that rejecting large parts of the deal and requiring Ottawa to come to the table with the two splinter groups was a sufficient solution.

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

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“These provisions were too broad and include exclusivity in representation (for) the Métis Nation of Alberta. The court has given clear instructions on how to deal with these offending provisions,” he said.

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Lawyer Jeff Langlois, who represents Fort McKay, said the decision allows his client to pursue his 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 that Canada has room to maneuver.

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

“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.

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“Our more than 65,000 citizens and communities will continue to move forward in realizing our vision of self-government that we have been advancing for 200 years,” she 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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