Critics say that new federal government legislation regarding Métis recognition in Ontario will greatly affect First Nations even though they haven’t been consulted on the bill.
Ontario chiefs discussed the issue at their annual assembly in Thunder Bay June 13-15. A consensus emerged to encourage all Chiefs, First Nation members and the public to express their opposition to the Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement to their local members of Parliament. The Chiefs of Ontario represents 133 First Nations in the province.
Wabun Tribal Council (WTC) is taking Canada to court to challenge the government’s unilateral move to grant Métis recognition in northern Ontario.
“It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but these questionable claims to lands and rights have to stop,” said WTC Executive Director Jason Batise. “This issue cannot be politely stated anymore because there comes a point when we have to say something because people are claiming our First Nation culture, our land and who we are as the original Indigenous inhabitants of this land. It has to stop.”
The WTC argues that Ottawa has not consulted with First Nations on an issue that will severely affect their treaty rights. The WTC represents the six First Nations of Chapleau Ojibwe, Brunswick House, Beaverhouse, Flying Post, Matachewan and Mattagami.
“Our view is that this will have serious and everlasting impacts on First Nation treaty rights,” said Batise. “This is not just a decision that affects our Wabun territory, it will also have far-reaching effects for First Nations across the province and the country.”
Batise argues that the Métis Nation of Ontario’s demand for recognition of new historic Métis communities in northeastern Ontario that are within the territories of the WTC is deeply flawed.
The council says these new communities do not meet established standards for recognition. This evidence was compiled in a paper last year by Darryl Leroux, a visiting professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa and a leading scholar on the dynamics of racism and colonialism. Another report supporting this view was published by Robinson-Huron Waawiindamaagewin First Nation early this year.
“As Indigenous people we have had to deal with the horrific history of colonization that oppressed peoples, terrorized our children and families with the residential schools, did its best to destroy our culture and traditions and disenfranchised us on our own lands with systematic racism,” said Chief Chad Boissoneau of Mattagami First Nation.
“Now after fighting to have our treaties honoured, we are faced with changes that we had no participation in, and we were not consulted with to simply legislate an entirely new development in giving the Métis Nation of Ontario a claim to our lands. We have to stand together as Indigenous peoples across this country to fight back on this move by the government that smacks of colonial sentiment.”