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Métis groups will trudge on toward self-government as bill faces another setback

<p>Metis organizations in Ontario and Alberta say they'll keep on the path toward self-government as a Saskatchewan Metis group withdraws support for a belaboured bill set to do just that. Gary Anandasangaree, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations speaks with Metis Nation-Saskatchewan President Glen McCallum as they wait for a meeting to begin Wednesday, January 31, 2024 in Ottawa.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld</p>. ajw

Métis organizations in Ontario and Alberta say they’ll stay on the path toward self-government, despite the uncertain future of a contentious bill meant to do just that.

The Métis Nation — Saskatchewan withdrew its support Wednesday for federal legislation designed to recognize Métis governments in the province, as well as in Alberta and Ontario.

President Glen McCallum said the legislation is holding the group back, and its members made the decision to pull support after a meeting with his council.

The bill has faced fierce opposition from the Assembly of First Nations and academics, while the Métis Nations of Ontario and Alberta have both publicly and privately defended it, saying the entire process has been riddled with misinformation.

McCallum stood by the decision to withdraw Thursday, saying the group would continue working with the federal government to create a separate self-government structure in Saskatchewan.

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Public debates about the bill have raged on, while a recent Federal Court decision cited a number of flaws with the Métis Nation of Alberta’s agreement with Ottawa.

“We have to take into account our citizens and what they expect from us and our government,” McCallum said. “And that’s what we did — that’s why we broke away from Bill C-53.”

The Métis Nations of Alberta and Ontario said in a statement Wednesday they respect the choice of Métis governments to choose their own pathways, and wish the Saskatchewan group well as it steers its own ship.

Bill C-53, as it is known in Ottawa, has been through a lengthy House of Commons committee process and subject to extensive and often heated public debate.

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First Nations chiefs in Ontario have accused the federal government of overstepping its jurisdiction, saying the legislation steps on their rights. The Assembly of First Nations, which represents some 630 chiefs across Canada, passed a resolution calling for the federal government to kill the legislation altogether.

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The Alberta and Ontario groups say the lengthy process to make the bill law has been unfair, delayed, disrespectful and demoralizing, and that it has encouraged division between their groups and other Métis and First Nations communities.

“We have seen Métis youth, citizens and elders insulted, denied, and harassed based on misinformation and misconceptions,” a joint statement from the two provincial organizations said.

“It has allowed opponents to deny our very existence and rights, and even the attempted erasure of our lived experiences, history and identity.”

But given the support they have from their communities, the Métis Nations of Alberta and Ontario say they’ll continue to work with the federal government and ensure their self-government is respected and upheld.

The Métis National Council, of which all three provincial organizations are a member, offered a brief expression of support Thursday.

“This means supporting each of our Métis governments in their shared priorities, which includes Métis self-government implementation, through their unique self-determined pathways to achieving them,” the council said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations also vowed to keep working with the organizations, but wouldn’t comment on the future of the bill.

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