November 16, 2022
Aboriginal Rights and Title
Louis Riel Day is a time to celebrate Métis culture and perseverance
Audrey Poitras is the President of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
The Globe and Mail: The first thing you need to know about Louis Riel is that he believed that the West had the right to control its own destiny. He fought and died for that dream.
As Riel came of age, Canada was born. It only included the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. At the time, the vast territory known as Rupert’s Land stretched from Ontario to the Rocky Mountains. It was “claimed” by the Hudson’s Bay Company under a 1670 Royal Charter, over 120 years before any European would set foot in what is now Alberta. But the land’s true owners were its Indigenous peoples – First Nations and the Métis. By the 1850s, in response to sustained pressure from our Métis ancestors, the HBC gave up any pretense of its trade monopoly. In 1869, the HBC agreed to sell our territory to Canada.
Métis saw the purchase as a power grab by Ottawa. As Canada began surveying the land, our people, led by Louis Riel, formed mounted patrols to stop the surveyors. What began as Canada’s refusal to respect Métis rights grew into the Red River Resistance. In 1870, led by Riel, our people established a provisional government of what is now Manitoba and adopted a “List of Rights.” Under Riel’s leadership, the Manitoba Act, 1870, was negotiated, setting out terms of a union with Canada guaranteeing Métis rights to lands, religion and language.
But Métis successes had been hard won, and left deep wounds. As the provisional government negotiated with Canada, Thomas Scott, an English-speaking Canadian colonist who led several attempts to overthrow Riel’s government, was tried, convicted and executed. In the years that followed, Riel would be elected as a Member of Parliament three times, but each time the majority of MPs would vote to oust him for his involvement in Scott’s death. In 1875, Riel was granted amnesty on the condition that he accept banishment for five years.
While in exile in Montana, Riel’s vision for our people grew more ardent. Regrettably, during this same period, Métis in Manitoba suffered a military reign of terror perpetrated by the Canadian expeditionary force. Métis families hid or fled to join existing Métis communities further west and north. Between 1870 and 1885, Métis in present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan organized and petitioned Canada to respect our lands and rights. As Canada ignored us, settlers flooded the prairies.
At the behest of Métis, leaders such as Gabriel Dumont, Moïse Ouellette, Michel Dumas and James Isbister asked Riel to lead his people again. Riel ultimately returned to Canada to speak for us once more. During this period, Métis repeatedly petitioned Ottawa. Canada responded by merely promising to appoint a commission to conduct a census, ignoring our ancestors’ demands for recognition of our autonomy and rights in western Canada.
Métis again declared a provisional government to represent the West and negotiate with Ottawa. But tensions rose and several small skirmishes broke out. Canada responded by sending thousands of troops, rejecting negotiations. Métis men and women stood bravely against Ottawa and its encroachment on our rights, but at the Battle of Batoche we were surrounded, exhausted and defeated. Riel surrendered.
Riel’s subsequent conviction for treason and execution in 1885 remains a red stain on Canadian history. Our ancestors became further dispossessed from our lands through Canada’s fraudulent scrip system and were forced to live in makeshift communities on road allowances at the edges of prairie towns and reserves. Many had to publicly hide their culture and heritage, but we always kept our identity, language and way of life alive, and passed it on through the generations.
Nov. 16 marks the anniversary of Riel’s execution. While it commemorates one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, it is also a day to celebrate Métis culture, perseverance and the important role our people played in the formation of Canada. This year, we honour Riel’s memory in the best way I can imagine. Throughout the month of November, Métis Nation of Alberta citizens are voting on a constitution that – if ratified – will support Métis self-government in Alberta for generations to come.
With our new constitution, we take another crucial step toward fulfilling Riel’s goal of Métis self-determination in the West. While we cannot change the past, we can create a better future by making Métis self-governance a reality through working together.
October 3, 2022
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Canada take a step toward reconciliation with partial settlement of historic claim dating from 1837
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada: Today, Chief R. Donald Maracle with the Council of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown−Indigenous Relations, announced the conclusion of a partial settlement agreement regarding the Culbertson Tract Specific Claim.
The specific claim arises from the unlawful 1837 alienation of 923.4 acres of unsurrendered land, known as the Culbertson Tract, which breached the Simcoe Deed, which the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte recognize as a treaty. Canada and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte have reached a full and final settlement of a 299.43-acre portion of the Culbertson Tract Specific Claim. Through an arrangement with the fee simple owner on a willing buyer/willing seller basis, this land will be confirmed as reserve land.
Today’s partial settlement agreement is without prejudice to the balance of the Culbertson Tract Specific Claim. Canada and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte look forward to continuing those negotiations.
Achieved through dialogue and cooperation, this historic settlement agreement will help address the government’s past. The Government of Canada is committed to working with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte in the spirit of partnership and reconciliation.
Honouring Canada’s legal obligations to First Nations and working collaboratively to renew relationships are key to righting historical wrongs and to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
“This is a significant day for our community and in our history. Our original Mohawk Tract has been greatly reduced by surrenders and other alienations, many of which are suspicious and, in this case, simply illegal. With the signing of the Culbertson Tract Partial Settlement Agreement, we have demonstrated that it is possible to reverse this trend and to reaffirm administration and control of our land illegally taken from us. We look forward to continuing the work on having the remaining 623.4 acres of the Culbertson Tract restored to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.”
R. Donald Maracle
Chief, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
“This historic settlement with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte shows what we can achieve when we work together to reach shared solutions guided by the values of respect and partnership. We acknowledge Canada’s failure to protect your community’s right to your land, and we reaffirm our commitment to addressing this wrong. This settlement is an important step forward to creating new opportunities for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte to advance their ongoing work to improve community well-being.”
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
- In 1793, the Mohawk Tract was granted to the ancestors of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte by the Simcoe Deed, which the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte assert to be a treaty. In recompense for the losses sustained by the Mohawks as a result of their ongoing loyalty to the British Crown during the American War of Independence. A particular procedure was specified for surrenders and sales of any of that tract.
- Since 1793 the original Mohawk Tract has been reduced to less than one-third of its original size.
- In 1995, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte submitted a specific claim alleging that the Crown, not having obtained a surrender for the Culbertson Tract, breached its fiduciary and treaty duties to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte by illegally transferring the Culbertson Tract in 1837 (the “Culbertson Tract Specific Claim”).
- In November 2003, Canada accepted the Culbertson Tract Specific Claim for negotiation under its Specific Claims Policy, though negotiations were paused in 2007 due to incompatible positions.
- In 2017, the parties resumed negotiations to settle a portion of the Culbertson Tract Specific Claim consisting of 299.43 acres without prejudice to negotiating a settlement for the balance of the Culbertson Tract Specific Claim.
- The membership approved the partial settlement agreement in a ratification vote certified on November 4, 2021, and no appeals on the ratification vote were received.
October 1, 2021
Métis Nations of Alberta and Ontario
Métis Nations of Alberta and Ontario – Métis Nation of Ontario and Métis Nation of Alberta were successful in their joint Intervention before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in City of Toronto v Ontario (Attorney General). This case was about the fairness of a municipal election in one city, but the decision also raised the issue of how Canada’s Constitution is to be interpreted and the role of unwritten constitutional principles in protecting the rights of all Canadian citizens, including the unique rights and interest of Indigenous peoples.
The Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”) and Métis Nation of Alberta (“MNA”) jointly intervened in the case to protect the unwritten constitutional principle of the honour of the Crown that is owed to Indigenous peoples. While the 5/4 majority of the Supreme Court held that “unwritten constitutional principles cannot serve as the basis for invalidating legislation,” the majority went on to recognize the unique nature of the honour of the Crown and held the following:
 The unwritten constitutional principle of the honour of the Crown is sui generis. As correctly noted in submissions of the interveners the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Métis Nation of Alberta, the honour of the Crown arises from the assertion of Crown sovereignty over pre-existing Aboriginal societies, and from the unique relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples. We need not decide here whether the principle is capable of grounding the constitutional invalidation of legislation, but if it is, it is unique in that regard.
The dissenting opinion, written by retiring Justice Rosalie Abella, went even farther, noting that “of course, the unwritten constitutional principle of the honour of the Crown has been affirmed by this Court and accorded full legal force.”
“We are pleased that the entirety of the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes the unique purpose of the honour of the Crown, as a constitutional principle, and that its full legal force has been once again confirmed and protected by the highest court in Canada,” concluded Métis lawyer Jason Madden Madden.
August 5, 2020
Indigenous Advisory Committee
NationTalk – For the first time ever, Canada’s federal energy regulator has an Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) who will advise the Board of Directors on how the Canada Energy Regulatort (CER) can build a new relationship with Indigenous peoples. Members of the IAC are leaders at the local, regional and national level, are respected voices of their communities, and bring deep experience in the energy and natural resources sector.
The committee is made up of nine members, three of whom are appointed directly by national Indigenous organizations: the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The IAC provides advice from the diversity of its members’ Indigenous perspectives and is an integral part of the CER’s formal governance structure. IAC Members:
- Contribute strategic advice and perspective on how the CER can make meaningful progress towards reconciliation in Canada;
- Promote opportunities for positive systemic change through building and strengthening new relationships with the Board and CER staff;
- Leverage their experience with the energy and/or natural resource sector in providing advice;
- Share Indigenous values and teachings as a respected voice of their communities, so the IAC and CER can learn from each other and integrate Indigenous perspectives in the CER’s strategies, plans and actions.