Métis leaders in the Northwest Territories say an agreement signed with Canada and the territorial government to negotiate their land claims marks a critical step towards self-government and management of their own finances, lands and member services.
On Wednesday, the Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories announced that it has signed an agreement with two Canadian governments that will guide their land claims negotiations, which have been underway for 25 years.
Garry Bailey, president of the Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories (NWTMN) said the deal was “a long time to come”.
“To date we have not been treated equally, so we expect a positive response and a positive outcome over the next three to five years. This should definitely be something to watch,” Bailey told CBC .
The signing of the self-government framework agreement is in line with the implementation of the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Bailey said.
He will “prepare the ground” to develop a constitution that will govern the relationship between the NWTMN, three Métis government councils, and Métis Aboriginal members.
Through self-government, the NWTMN and the councils will be recognized as legislative authorities with the capacity to deliver programs, he said.
“We are going to be recognized as a government, not just as a society – so this is a big step,” he said.
‘Lots of work to do’
Fort Resolution Métis Government Interim President Arthur Beck said self-government is “extremely important” as it empowers them to manage their own lands and finances, and deliver programs and services. to their aboriginal Métis members.
Beck said he is planning an agreement between Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories to develop a government-to-government relationship.
Trevor Beck, Chairman of the Hay River Métis Government Council, said in a written statement “after many years of perseverance and struggle, the Hay River Métis Government Council is pleased that we have come to an agreement,” he said. declared.
“We recognize that we have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Allan Heron, president of the Fort Smith Métis Council, said in a written statement that the agreement is a “symbolically important” step for Canada and the governments of the Northwest Territories to recognize the Métis Nation and its status as government.
The agreement will allow the council to design a government that reflects the distinct identity of the Métis peoples and their continued contributions to the Northwest Territories and Canada.
Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane said in the statement her government is “committed” to working with the Métis in the pursuit of their right to self-government.
“Achieving a self-government agreement will advance reconciliation and recognize and affirm the treaty rights of the Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories,” she said.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett praised the Métis leaders for their leadership and determination.
“Strong and self-sufficient Indigenous nations, able to govern effectively and exercise their right to self-determination, are essential to enhancing the well-being and economic prosperity of Indigenous communities in the North,” she said. declared.
Liberal MP Michael McLeod has said he looks forward to further progress with the deal.