Manitoba Metis Federation signs self-government agreement with feds

An agreement signed with the Canadian government brings the Manitoba Metis Federation one step closer to its long-sought recognition as a government, according to president David Chartrand.

Agreement recognizes federation's constitution, governance structures

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand holds up an agreement with the federal government that recognizes the federation's jurisdiction over its citizens, elections and operations of Métis government. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

An agreement signed with the Canadian government brings the Manitoba Metis Federation one step closer to its long-sought formal recognition as a government under Canadian law, according to president David Chartrand.

Chartrand and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett signed the Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement Tuesday during a ceremony at Upper Fort Garry, in downtown Winnipeg, where Louis Riel's provisional government sat during the Red River Resistance more than 150 years ago.

The agreement sets out steps to formally recognize the Manitoba Metis Federation's jurisdiction over its citizens, elections and operations of Métis government. It also recognizes the federation's constitution and general assembly, the federation said in a news release. 

"Whether it's any party in this country — even Liberals — we will not give up, to no one, our rights and our place in Confederation," said Chartrand.

"It is ours, we earned it, we bled for it and we die for it. This is a country we built, a province we had built as a people and we will defend it with everything we've got." 

Chartrand said the agreement applies to all Manitoba Métis, regardless of where they live.

The deal builds off a $154-million funding agreement signed in 2018.

Tuesday's announcement took place at Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park in downtown Winnipeg. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Some of the money was to be invested to improve the social and economic well-being of Métis people in Manitoba, in areas like housing, health, child care and early learning.

The plan also began a process of working toward a self-government agreement, which would recognize the federation as a Métis government. 

At the time, Chartrand said the Metis Federation was forced to structure itself as a corporation due to federal and provincial laws, which meant that other governments do not recognize its authority.

The agreements follow a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that found the federal government failed to follow through on a promise made to the Métis people when Manitoba entered Confederation in 1870.

In a 6-2 ruling, Canada's highest court declared that "the Federal Crown failed to implement the land grant provision set out in s.31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870 in accordance with the honour of the Crown."

That section promised to set aside 5,565 square kilometres of land — including what is now the city of Winnipeg — for 7,000 children of the Red River Métis. 

While the federation celebrated its agreement on Tuesday, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas criticized the deal.

In a news release, Dumas expressed "alarm" that the federal government had signed a deal with the Manitoba Metis Federation without considering the implications for Manitoba First Nations, who are also negotiating their own self-government agreements, and who have claims to much of the same territory as the Métis.

Next steps following the agreement with the Metis Federation include negotiating a treaty and passing implementation legislation in Parliament.