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February 2, 2014
February 1, 2014 Edmonton, AB: MNC President Clément Chartier joined Métis leaders from northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan in coordinating strategy for enhanced Métis participation in major economic development projects in these contiguous regions within the Métis historic homeland.
Organized by the Métis Rights Panel which is chaired by President Chartier, the gathering examined how the pursuit of the Métis rights agenda, including the application of the duty to consult and accommodate, can accelerate opportunities for Métis economic development.
An overview of the factors influencing the pace of Métis economic activity in these regions was provided by Professor Frank Tough of the University of Alberta and Kathy Hodgson-Smith of the Métis Legal Research and Education Foundation. Dr. Tough provided a historical background to the treatment of Métis land rights by way of the issuance of scrip. Ms. Hodgson-Smith provided an overview of the duty to consult and accommodate and how it is applied today. Joining these presenters was Dr. Arthur Ray, University of British Columbia Professor Emeritus whose work figured prominently in the Powley decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003, recognizing Métis harvesting rights under S. 35 of theConstitution Act 1982.
In roundtable discussions, community leaders identified some of the promising practices such as Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) that have flowed from the application of duty to consult and accommodate to Métis communities. MNS Regional Director Glen McCallum spoke of the positive economic effects brought by the IBA between uranium mining giants Cameco and Areva and the Métis community of Pinehouse. The agreement to guide future co-operation and sharing of benefits from uranium mining operations sets out specific commitments by the mining companies with respect to workforce development, business development, community engagement, environmental stewardship and community investment. Mayor Duane Favel of the Métis community of Ile-a-la-Crosse and a Board Member of the MLREF, along with Gerald Morin, MNS Vice-President and Vice-Chair of the Métis Rights Panel, from Green Lake also participated.
It was also evident that much remains to be done regarding the recognition of Métis rights and duty to consult. While the Government of Saskatchewan has a policy to fulfill its obligation to consult with rights-bearing Métis communities on decisions or actions that may impact their Aboriginal rights, the Government of Alberta, has yet to develop a Métis consultation policy for industrial development that had been promised by its Aboriginal Relations Minister more than a year ago.
The absence of this policy concerned Métis community leaders in attendance – Ron Quintal, President of the Fort McKay Métis Community Association, Bill Louttit, Vice President of Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935, and Fred (Jumbo) Frazer, President of the Fort Chipweyan Métis Local – as it places the Métis at a disadvantage in dealing with industry on major projects compared to First Nations. Mr. Quintal also cited the lack of equity capital for Métis businesses as a barrier to their expansion. At the same time, it was evident that the entrepreneurial drive of the Métis is very much alive in the region, attested to by the success of individual Métis businesses and Métis community enterprises like Fort McKay Métis Group Ltd. which is heavily involved in construction and transportation.
Marc LeClair and John Weinstein from the MNC focused on the need for a more consistent application of duty to consult and Impact Benefit Agreements to Métis communities as a key element in the Métis economic development strategy that the MNC has been developing during the past two years with the federal government and western provincial governments, in consultation with industry. That strategy and a related accord will be the focus of an upcoming third meeting (MEDS III) of the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, his five provincial counterparts and Métis Nation leaders. Expanded Métis participation in major economic and resource development projects is a key priority of the draft accord that will shortly be distributed among MEDSIII Principals.
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