N.W.T. Métis leaders doubt they'll be able to access $30M to honour Métis vets
Métis National Council says money will be available to all Métis, regardless of where they live
The leaders of the two Métis political organizations in the Northwest Territories say they have doubts portions of the $30 million meant to commemorate Métis veterans will reach the territory.
The Liberal government pledged the money in last week's federal budget to recognize and "commemorate" the contributions of Métis veterans to Canada in the Second World War.
Those veterans have long been denied the same recognition as non-Indigenous and First Nations veterans, and the money is expected to be used to set up a trust fund to benefit the survivors and their descendants.
Bill Enge, the president of the North Slave Métis Alliance, and Garry Bailey, the president of the N.W.T. Métis Nation, say they doubt they'll be able to access it for use in the Northwest Territories.
That's because neither the North Slave Métis Alliance or the N.W.T. Métis Nation are associated with the Métis National Council of Canada — the organization responsible for administering the $30 million.
"It's going to be a challenge for sure," said Bailey. "We're going to have to make a pitch to the Métis National Council rather than with the federal government on a nation-to-nation basis."
"I'm going to be optimistic and hope we can, based on the success we've had over the last couple years," he said. "But I doubt we'll get anything, and if we do, it won't be sufficient to do what needs to be done to recognize our veterans."
Enge, the president of the North Slave Métis Alliance, which represents Métis living north and east of Great Slave Lake, said he too would pitch for a share in the money to honour Métis veterans from the territory.
This has nothing to do with our governments.- Clément Chartier, Métis National Council
Based on past experience, he also doubts that request will go anywhere since the national council doesn't have an obligation to share any money it gets from Ottawa to non-affiliated Métis organizations, Enge said.
"There's no guarantee that the Métis National Council of Canada will be forthcoming with any of that funding," Enge said.
It's unclear how many Métis from the N.W.T. served in the Second World War and whether they are still living in the territory.
'They will be included'
For its part, the Métis National Council has been advocating for 20 years to earn compensation and recognition for the service of Métis soldiers who fought in the Second World War.
It's believed there are as few as five of those veterans still alive.
Clément Chartier, the president of the Métis National Council, sought to ease Bailey and Enge's fears.
The details have not yet been worked out, but the money will be available to all Métis veterans and communities across Canada — regardless of where they are located, Chartier said.
"It will be a fund for Métis Nation World War Two veterans; if there are Métis veterans in the Northwest Territories who served, they're eligible," he said. "If there are communities where World War Two veterans lived, they're eligible as well."
Chartier used Fort Smith, N.W.T., as an example, saying that community would likely be able to access some of the money to build a monument or hold a ceremony if they chose to do so.
"This has nothing to do with our governments," he said. "All they would have to do is communicate with us and give us the facts of World War Two Métis veterans … certainly, they will be included."