February 2, 2017 1:06 am
Updated: February 2, 2017 2:50 am

Alberta signs 10-year deal with Metis Nation of Alberta to push ‘respect and co-operation’

WATCH ABOVE: Premier Rachel Notley signed a 10-year framework agreement with the Metis Nation of Alberta on Wednesday that will see the province pledge to improve their nation-to-nation relationship and promote reconciliation. Quinn Ohler has more.

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Rachel Notley’s government has signed a new 10-year framework agreement with the Metis Nation of Alberta to strengthen their “nation-to-nation” relationship, the premier announced Wednesday.

“Metis people have a long and proud history in Alberta,” Notley said in a statement.

“The agreement we sign today is an important step in our journey of reconciliation, one that moves us forward with respect for our heritage and an unwavering belief that, together, we can make life better for Alberta’s Metis people.”

The government said the deal emphasizes “recognition, respect and co-operation” and that it took many principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into account.

“The signing of this agreement signifies that our continued journey for the recognition of Metis rights is being acknowledged by the Government of Alberta with the nation-to-nation approach that this agreement entails,” Audrey Poitras, president of the Metis Nation of Alberta, said in a statement.

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“Reconciliation can only be achieved by working in close partnership with such organizations as the Metis Nation of Alberta,” Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said in a statement.

READ MORE: ‘It hurts’: Metis among those left out of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation

The government said the deal will pay close attention to four primary goals:

– clarifying and strengthening the province’s relationship with the Metis Nation of Alberta;
– recognizing and respecting Metis rights and promoting reconciliation;
– developing cross-government approaches to tackle the needs and issues of Metis people;
– creating more economic opportunities to improve the well-being of the community and individuals.

The Metis Nation of Alberta said it hopes the agreement will address issues such as climate change, education, health, women’s issues, employment and economic opportunity, housing and infrastructure, culture, heritage, employment and economic opportunities.

“It is without question a continuation of the good work that began under the previous government,” Notley said at a press conference. “It’s a longer agreement… it also for the first time mentions a need to address the nation-to-nation relationship and how to define that.”

READ MORE: Alberta announces $5.3M to help guide teachers on how to instruct on First Nations

The Metis Nation of Alberta has about 33,000 members and was founded in 1928.

In 1987, the Alberta government signed its first framework agreement with the Metis Nation.

“It was about recognition,” Poitras said of that agreement. “Over the years, depending on people that were doing the negotiating, we gradually got whittled down to (where) it wasn’t as strong as it was even in the beginning and now what we’ve done is we’ve come back to where we should have been quite a few years ago.”

Almost 97,000 Metis people live in Alberta, making it home to the largest Metis population in Canada, according to the government.

READ MORE: Canada’s top court extends rights to nearly 600,000 Métis, non-status Indians

Last year, a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling declared Canada’s 600,000 Metis and non-status Indians are indeed “Indians” under the Constitution. The ruling clarified the federal government’s role and responsibility for providing services to and engaging with Metis people.

READ MORE: What the Supreme Court’s ruling on Métis and non-status Indians changes

Watch below: In April 2016, Jennifer Tryon filed this report after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Metis and non-status Indians are under federal government jurisdiction.

The Metis Nation of Alberta said it had reached a memorandum of understanding to advance reconciliation with the government of Canada on Tuesday. On its website, the Metis Nation of Alberta says the agreement will bring about “exploratory discussions table between the MNA and Canada with the goal of arriving at a mutually-agreeable framework agreement by September 2017.

“As the Metis Nation of Alberta, we’ve worked very hard to be recognized for our rights as aboriginal people in this country,” Poitras said Wednesday. “Our agreement with Canada is about putting a framework together to do exactly that, whether it’s for self-government, land.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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