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Sovereignty

British Columbia’s largest Indigenous nation votes for Métis self-government

Opinion: Our ultimate goal is to improve the education, health and economic outcomes of our Métis people while supporting the work to preserve and perpetuate Métis culture, language and heritage for future generations.

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Three weeks ago, a historic milestone in British Columbia’s Indigenous history was reached when British Columbia’s Métis citizens, one-third of British Columbia’s Indigenous population, voted overwhelmingly to declare the self-government and make the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) the official Métis government of the Métis community of British Columbia

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This vote, taken at the MNBC’s (virtual) annual general meeting, can in many ways be compared to the formation of the Métis Provisional Government in 1869, under the leadership of esteemed Métis leader Louis Riel.

His words a few years later, in 1885, ring just as true today: “When the Government of Canada came to our doors, it found us at peace. He found that the Métis people of the Northwest[…]had its own government, free, peaceful, functioning well, contributing to the work of civilization. … It was a government with an organized constitution whose junction was more legitimate and worthy of respect, because it was exercised over a country which belonged to it.

The Métis have been in British Columbia since the late 1700s, and this declaration spanned several decades. It was born out of the constant efforts of thousands of Métis people at the local level and anchors the core MNBC principle that the foundation of our government is our 38 Métis chartered communities.

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The Métis were recognized as one of the three distinct Aboriginal peoples of Canada under s. 35 of the Constitution Act in 1982, and since 1996 the MNBC has served as the de facto government for the Métis of British Columbia. its ability to be recognized by the provincial and federal governments.

This non-recognition not only weakened the MNBC’s ability to defend the inherent rights of the Métis people, but also resulted in significant gaps in our ability to create and deliver direct, and most importantly, culturally-steeped programs and services. , for the Métis.

The negative consequences have been numerous. Among them, although Métis children are the most numerous in British Columbia, the MNBC has no formal agreement with the Province of British Columbia to care for these children. While the Michif language of the Métis people is considered endangered, the MNBC has received little support to preserve the nation’s culture and heritage.

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British Columbia’s adoption of the Indigenous Peoples Bill of Rights in 2019 marked the start of a new era in the province’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. One of the principles created by the province to guide this new relationship states that “all relations with Indigenous peoples must be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self-determination, including the inherent right to self-determination. ‘self-government’.

The vote for self-government through the MNBC was a message from our citizens to the government that our nation, the largest Indigenous nation in British Columbia, is ready to renew the existing agreement on relations between Métis Nation and British Columbia and enter into a formal government agreement. relations with government, guided by the principles of DRIPA.

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As a nation, we look forward to new self-government agreements with the provincial and federal governments that establish “the fiscal arrangements and other transitional requirements to assist the Métis community of British Columbia to exercise its inherent rights, its powers. and its competences, and in the maintenance, strengthening and development of its distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, structures and processes of self-government.

Our ultimate goal is to improve the education, health and economic outcomes of our Métis people while supporting our chartered communities as they strive to preserve and perpetuate Métis culture, language and heritage for the future generations.

Patrick Harriott is Minister of Culture, Language and Heritage for the MNBC and Minister of Community and Citizen Services.

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera