Fort McKay Métis feeling 'forgotten' by Alberta government

Métis in Fort McKay say they've been ignored by the Alberta government over a key study about air quality in the region. When the study was released last week, the Fort McKay Métis were excluded, they say.

‘We thought there would be more inclusion,' says Métis president Ron Quintal

Ron Quintal, president of Fort McKay Métis, says his community was snubbed by the Alberta government last week. (CBC News)

The president of the Métis community in Fort McKay has fired off a letter to the Alberta government complaining the group was left out of a recent announcement about air quality in the region.

In his Sept. 23 letter, Ron Quintal said Métis who live in the area north of Fort McMurray feel ignored by Rachel Notley's government, which has promised a new relationship with Indigenous people.

"Forgetting one key Aboriginal community in the heart of the oilsands is in my mind negligent," said Quintal, adding he's demanding to meet with Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

Last week, Hoffman was joined by Jim Boucher, chief of the Fort McKay First Nation, when the government released a study looking at ways to improve air quality.

"Government officials literally drove through our community to get to the announcement," Quintal said in his letter. "An announcement about our air quality."

He said not being invited to the news conference was especially frustrating since people from his community breathe the same air as the nearby First Nation and have complained about the impact of oilsands operations on the air quality for many years.

"We were excluded from something that affects us so near and dear to the core of our community's health," he said.

This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray, Alta. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Quintal said it was baffling that the province had gathered data for the air-quality study from monitoring stations that are jointly managed by the Fort McKay Métis, yet the community only got one day's notice there was going to be a news conference about the results.

"We thought there would be more inclusion and that's the frustration that we have," said Quintal.

In the letter, he said Métis in Alberta are not seeing evidence that the government is living up to its commitment to improve relations and consultations with them.

Government taking concerns seriously

Alberta Health said it takes the concerns raised by Quintal seriously but is not making any apologies.

The ministry explained that the reason the Fort McKay First Nation was involved in the announcement was because it made the initial request that a study be done through Alberta's Energy Regulator and Alberta Health.

A spokesperson said staff for Minister Sarah Hoffman have been working at setting up a meeting with Quintal since receiving his letter.

"My office is reaching out to president Quintal so we can hear the concerns of Fort McKay Métis firsthand, and discuss their role going forward," a statement from Hoffman said.


Gareth Hampshire is an award-winning journalist who began his career with CBC News in 1998. He has worked as a reporter in Edmonton and is now based in Halifax.