Towards a Consultation Framework for Ontario Métis – 2007/08 Community Consultations What We Heard Report
I The Métis Nation of Ontario
Prior to Canada’s crystallization as a nation in west central North America, the Métis people emerged out of the relations of Indian women and European men. The initial offspring of these Indian and European unions were individuals who possessed mixed ancestry. Subsequent intermarriage between Métis women and Métis men resulted in the genesis of a new Aboriginal people with a distinct identity, culture and consciousness – the Métis.Distinct Métis settlements emerged, as an outgrowth of the fur trade, along parts of the freighting waterways of Ontario, around the Great Lakes and throughout the Northwest. These Métis people and their settlements were connected through the highly mobile fur trade network, seasonal rounds, extensive kinship connections and a collective identity (i.e., common culture, language, way of life, etc.). In Ontario, these historic Métis settlements continue to exist along the rivers and watersheds of the province, surrounding the Great Lakes and throughout to the northwest of the province.
In 1993, the Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”) was established through the will of Métis people and historic Métis communities coming together to create a Métis-specific governance structure. At a founding meeting, Métis representatives from communities throughout the province set the foundational principles, which would guide and today continue to guide the evolution of the MNO. These foundational principles focused on:
• Creating a Métis-specific governance structure for the implementation of the nation’s inherent right to self-government in the province;
• Establishing a credible and recognized identification system for Métis people within the province;
• Focusing on ‘nation building’ through working together as a collective in order to support Métis citizens and communities;
• Pursuing a rights-based agenda and proudly asserting the Métis existence as a distinct Aboriginal people within Ontario;
• Protecting and preserving the distinct culture and heritage of the Métis Nation in the province; and,
• Improving the social and economic well-being of Métis children, families and communities throughout the province.
Today, based on the pursuit of these principles, MNO has built an impressive provincewide governance structure which includes: an objectively verifiable, centralized registry of over 13,500 Métis citizens;1 approximately 30 Chartered Community Councils across the province which represent Métis citizens at the local level; a provincial governing body that is elected by ballot box every four years; an Annual General Assembly where regional and provincial Métis leaders are required to report back to Métis citizens yearly between elections; a charitable foundation which promotes and support Métis culture and heritage; and, an economic development arm.
In addition, the MNO has built an accountable, results-based provincial delivery structure to meet the socio-economic needs of its citizens and communities. Currently, the MNO delivers programs and services to its citizens through these branches: Health Services, Training Initiatives, Housing, and Economic Development. Through these various branches, the MNO maintains 30+ service delivery access points across the province, administers over $13.5 million annually, and, employs over 175 employees across the province.
The MNO has also built a notable communications network to reach its citizens and partners throughout the province. The Métis Voyageur, the MNO’s bi-monthly newspaper, reaches over 12,000 Métis households as well as governmental and nongovernmental partners. The MNO also maintains two interactive websites at www.metisnation.org and www.metisradio.fm to keep Métis citizens connected and informed. Further, the MNO undertakes a robust public affairs and media relations program.
Over the last decade, on the Métis rights front, the MNO has achieved many successes and is a recognized leader in advancing rights and self-government issues for the Métis Nation. It is responsible for initiating and supporting the historic Powley case – the first Supreme Court of Canada case to affirm the constitutionally protected harvesting rights of the Métis. It is the only Métis government in Canada to negotiate and have in place a province-wide harvesting accommodation agreement with a provincial government, based on its own Métis-made harvesting policy. More recently, the MNO jointly announced with the Ontario Government that it would engage in negotiations with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs to arrive at a MNO-Ontario framework agreement, which will support its ongoing and evolving relationship with the provincial government.
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