Alberta Métis celebrate breakthrough accord with Ottawa

The Métis in Alberta hope to move quickly to negotiate rights with Ottawa after signing an agreement to move forward on key issues.

Self-government, land claims, access to federal programs all part of negotiations

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations Carolyn Bennett, left, Métis Nation of Alberta President Audrey Poitras, centre, and Métis Nation of Alberta Co-Minister for Métis Rights Bev New at the signing ceremony. (Supplied)

The Métis Nation of Alberta is one step closer to negotiating rights its people have sought for generations.

President Audrey Poitras was on Parliament Hill on Monday to sign an official memorandum of understanding to advance reconciliation with the Government of Canada.

"For many years at the federal level, we have been on the outside looking in," said Poitras, who described the agreement as "a long time coming."

The agreement finally opens the door to allow a government-to-government relationship Poitras has long pushed for.

It establishes a goal of having a new framework in place by September 2017.

There are many priorities the Métis want addressed in that final framework, from outstanding federal land claims to new consultation guidelines, from hunting and fishing rights to access to federal health and education programs, to name a few.

"For the last 50 years, Métis have been excluded from the federal claims processes that have been in place for Ìnuit and First Nations," said Métis Nation of Alberta lawyer Jason Madden.

It's been such a fight to get to this stage that Madden admits the hard part will be the actual negotiations, once the pencils are sharpened and all parties are at the table.

Members of Métis Nation of Alberta provincial council and Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett after signing of the memorandum of understanding on reconciliation in Ottawa Monday. (Supplied)

The difference this time, he said, is there is actually a table for the Métis to sit at.

"Métis fall through the cracks when it comes to health services that are available to First Nations, when it comes to employment and training, education supports that are available to First Nations," said Madden.

Those disparities, he said, must be dealt with under the new agreement.

The fact there is now an acknowledgement that talks must happen in a government-to-government manner means there is less chance the Métis will continue to be a "forgotten people," Madden said.

The announcement is also timely given that it's happening on the year of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

"The reality for Métis is, they've always wanted to find their space within the Canadian federation," he said.

The Métis Nation and the Alberta Métis settlements will be part of the talks.