Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MNC and Presentation to the Senate

Metis National Council


June 11, 2009

Action needed for Métis Residential School Survivors

One year after apology, vast majority of Métis Survivors still without compensation

Ottawa, ON -- Métis National Council (MNC) President Clément Chartier is calling for government action in compensating Métis residential school survivors excluded from the Indian Residential School Settlements Agreement.

While addressing a special sitting of the Senate marking the first anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology for Canada’s past assimilation policies and the Indian Residential School system, President Chartier said little progress has been made in addressing the concerns of Métis survivors who’ve been denied compensation.

“When I participated in that apology ceremony, I pledged the Métis Nation was prepared and willing to do our part in Canada’s collective journey towards healing and reconciliation,” said Chartier during his address to the Senate. “I wish I could report a strong beginning to that journey during the past year, but for most Métis survivors this is simply not true.”

While a small number of Métis who attended schools recognized by the settlement agreement are eligible for compensation, the vast majority of Métis survivors attend schools not included. These schools were church-run and government-sanctioned, but for the most part were funded by Provincial governments or religious order and not part of the federally funded Indian Residential School System.

“They were run with the same assimilationist intent and methods, and today neither the federal nor provincial governments are willing to accept responsibility for what happened,” said Chartier. “This impasse over how to deal with Métis survivors personifies in real human terms the true cost of Ottawa’s persistent refusal to accept historical, constitutional and moral responsibility for dealing with the Métis as a distinct Aboriginal people and nation.”

Chartier did commend Minister Chuck Strahl, Federal Interlocutor for Métis, for signing the Métis Nation Protocol in September 2008. The Protocol commits the Federal Government and the Métis National Council to work together on a range of bilateral issues, and where appropriate it allows for multilateral discussion with provincial governments from Ontario-westward.

Chartier said Minister Strahl has demonstrated a personal commitment to move ahead with the leadership of the Métis Nation in the year following the apology, and the Métis National Council is encouraged in its work with the Minister in area of economic development.

“Promising as these initiatives may be,” said Chartier, “they do not address the long outstanding need for justice for those who those who experienced the horrors of the Métis residential school system”

President Chartier went on to ask both chambers of Parliament to call on the federal government to assert its jurisdictional responsibility for dealing with the Métis Nation, and ensure all Métis survivors get the compensation they deserve.

For more information contact Greg Taylor, MNC Communications, at (613) 296-9263 or gregt@metisnation.ca.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Monument to Métis Who Served in WWI and WWII Announced for Juno Beach

COURSEULLES-SUR-MER, France, June 6 /CNW Telbec/ - A monument to Métis Nation citizens who fought during the two World Wars will be erected at Canada's Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France. The Métis National Council's

Minister for Veterans Affairs, David Chartrand, made the announcement today while attending commemoration ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the June 6, 1944 liberation of Europe by Allied Forces during World War II.

"Thousands of Métis Nation citizens bravely and selflessly answered the call to serve during the World Wars," said Chartrand. "This monument will stand in eternal remembrance to those Métis who fought, who were wounded, and who died defending their people, their country, and world freedom."

The monument will consist of an exhibit highlighting the history of the Métis Nation in Canada and a Red River Cart, a widely recognized symbol of the Métis Nation currently being constructed in the Métis Nation homeland. The Red River Cart will be accompanied by Métis Nation veterans and youth to Juno Beach in November, where they will take part in its unveiling with a dedication ceremony during 2009 Remembrance Day events.

"Métis soldiers, sailors, and aircrew made incredible sacrifices for Canada's war efforts," said Chartrand. "This monument is a long overdue acknowledgement to these brave Métis men and women."

Minister Chartrand went on to thank Veterans Affairs Canada and the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis for their assistance in making the monument possible and providing resources for Métis Nation veterans and youth to participate in its dedication ceremony.

Supreme Court Application

But as of today the Globe and Mail announced that Sharon McIvor will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. The reason that we believe she is seeking the Supreme Court address is because the upper court in BC amended the first decision to only include individuals that are affected after 1985 rather then the original decision which included individuals who were effected since the 1800's. Te narrowing of the parameters effects 100's of thousands of people. In addition, we believe that she is hoping that the Supreme Court may give guidance in identifying mechanisms for the Federal Government to address the racist legislation.

Globe and Mail

By Bill Curry

Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update, Friday, Jun. 05, 2009 10:44AM EDT

The Supreme Court of Canada will be asked to decide whether thousands of Canadians should be added to the federal list of status Indians, a process that will likely pre-empt the government's plans to re-write the definition this fall.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Sharon McIvor says she will seek leave to appeal a B.C. Court of Appeal decision in a case with major implications for native communities and the federal government.

Ms. McIvor is a B.C. lawyer who first launched her legal battle against the Indian Act just months after it was re-written in 1985 – when she was still a law student - on the grounds that it continued to deny her Indian status because of her gender.

Ms. McIvor's announcement comes just days after Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said the government would not appeal and intended to rewrite the definition of Indian status over the summer and introduce amendments to the Indian Act this fall.

“The B.C. Court of Appeal narrowed the decision so much and gave the government license to add as few people as they possibly can,” she said in a telephone interview. But even though she and her son now have status, Ms. McIvor said she will launch a costly appeal on behalf of those who have been left out.

“I won. My grandchildren will get status because that's what this was about, but you know, there are so many people out there that have been waiting and waiting and waiting and when the B.C. Court of Appeal made the decision and they narrowed it, it cut many of these people out. It's just not fair.”

The Indian Act, which was first introduced in 1876, has not had a significant update since 1985. That rewrite 24 years ago sought to end the discrimination in the definition of status Indian as it applied to women.

However, two court decisions in what is called the McIvor case have ruled that women are still treated unfairly in some scenarios when it comes to passing their status down to their grandchildren.

Ms. McIvor successfully fought the provisions on the grounds that she was originally unable to pass on status to her grandchildren because she was a woman.

The B.C. Supreme Court first issued a ruling that would have extended status to anyone who could prove discrimination in their family tree from 1876 to 1985. Ms. McIvor said that ruling, had it not been appealed, would have added about 100,000 people to the ranks of status Indians.

The B.C. Court of Appeal then ruled in April that the current definition will be struck down by April, 2010, unless Parliament passes a new definition. That ruling found a more narrow form of discrimination, limited to the period from 1985 to the present. That ruling would likely only affect a few thousand people. However, the ruling did not recommend a way for MPs to fix the problem.

Having aboriginal status qualifies a Canadian citizen for non-insured health benefits from Health Canada, as well possible federal support for post-secondary education.

Sharon McIvor is trying to take her case to the Supreme Court

On June 4, 2009 - Minister Strahl advised that the Federal Government would not be challenging the decision of the Courts of BC in relation to the Sharon McIvor court case.

Sharon McIvor's victory applauded by public-sector union

By Charlie Smith

The Public Service Alliance of Canada issued a news release today (June 4) to offer congratulations to Sharon McIvor, who waged a successful 22-year struggle to gain Indian status first for her son and later for her grandchildren.

"I am thrilled to learn that this government has finally recognized that it was futile to carry on with this systemic form of gender discrimination," PSAC president John Gordon said in the news release.

In April, a three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel ruled unanimously that a section of the Indian Act violated equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the decision written by Justice Harvey Groberman, a 1985 amendment to the Indian Act was discriminatory because it denied status to a person with one Indian parent born prior to April 17, 1985, and whose grandmother was Indian and grandfather was non-Indian.

If the reverse were the case--i.e. the person's grandfather was Indian and the grandmother was non-Indian--the person would have status as an Indian under the Indian Act.

"The discrimination in this case is the result of under-inclusive legislation," Groberman wrote.

On June 2, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl announced that the government wouldn't appeal the ruling and would amend the law. Gordon declared that his union will "remain vigilant to ensure that that the forthcoming amendments to the Indian Act reflect the spirit of McIvor’s appeal and the court’s decision".

McIvor was supported by many groups during her struggle, including the Native Women's Association of Canada.

The B.C. Court of Appeal decision described McIvor's family history, which led to a peculiar circumstance. Until Strahl's announcement confirmed McIvor's victory, some of McIvor's grandchildren would have had Indian status and others wouldn't have qualified.

McIvor had two non-Indian grandfathers. One grandmother had Indian status; the other was entitled to have status.

Both of McIvor's parents were born out of wedlock to Indian mothers, who did not have status.

McIvor married a non-Indian, which automatically deprived her of status.

That's because under the Indian Act prior to the introduction of the charter's equality-rights section in 1985, an aboriginal woman who married a non-Indian male ceased to be an Indian under the law. The children from such a union were non-Indian as well.

In 1985 after the equality-rights section came into force, the Indian Act was amended. Under the law, a child who has one Indian parent and a non-Indian parent is entitled to status unless the Indian parent has a non-Indian parent.

In September 1985, McIvor applied for status on behalf of herself and her children with the Lower Nicola Band. She was granted status two years later, but it was denied to her kids. That's because McIvor had a non-Indian parent.

She appealed and according to the BC. Court of Appeal decision, the registrar conceded that the decision couldn't stand.

But there was still a problem. Her kids obtained status by virtue of McIvor's status. Her daughter was married to an Indian, so their kids would also have status.

But McIvor's son, Charles Jacob Grismer, was married to a non-Indian. Under the law, his kids couldn't have status because they had one Indian parent and their grandfather was not male.

McIvor and Grismer launched a constitutional challenge so that Grismer would be allowed to confer Indian status to his children. In 2007, they succeeded in B.C. Supreme Court; the federal government appealed.

The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling, though it narrowed the terms somewhat. And now that the federal government is not appealing, Grismer's kids--who are McIvor's grandchildren--will have status under the Indian Act.

AFN Election for National Chief

2009 is an election year for the Assembly of First Nations. First Nations Chiefs from across the country will vote for the AFN National Chief at the AFN's 30th Annual General Assembly to be held in Calgary, Alberta from July 21-23. The voting begins on July 22.

The AFN Charter and election rules are available on the AFN website at: http://www.afn.ca/article.asp?id=57
(see Articles 20 -22 and Appendix "A" for relevant information).

According to rules established under the AFN Charter, nominations for National Chief are open as of May 27 (eight weeks prior to the election) and close June 16 (five weeks prior to the election).

Shortly after the close of nominations, the AFN will announce the official candidates for the 2009 AFN election for National Chief.

The proposed candidates to succeed Fontaine are:

  • Shawn Atleo, British Columbia regional chief.
  • John Beaucage, grand chief of the Union of Ontario Indians.
  • Perry Bellegarde, former assembly vice-chief for Saskatchewan.
  • Terrance Nelson, chief of Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba.

Perry Bellegarde, former Grand Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and former Regional Vice Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. www.perrybellegarde.com

Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has made innumerous contributions to the political field within his community, amongst First Nations, and in/between local, provincial, national, and international governments. Shawn is a hereditary chief of Ahousaht Nation.


Grand Council Chief John Beaucage was elected to serve the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation. John was re-elected in 2006, by acclamation, a rare occurrence in the history of one of Canada’s oldest political organizations.


Chief Terry Nelson An outspoken and controversial Manitoba chief is throwing his name in the race to replace outgoing Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine. There appears to be no website with his campaign attached.

Proposed All Candidates Forum

What: All-Candidates Forum for AFN National Chief Election

When: Thursday June 4, 2009; 1:00 PM-3:00 PM Pacific

Where: Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Vancouver, Downtown 1110 Howe Street, Vancouver BC

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bill C-8: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act



Ottawa, Ontario (May 25, 2009) - The following statement was released by the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, on Bill C-8:

“I am extremely pleased that this piece of legislation, of great importance to First Nations women and children, was not thrown aside yesterday by a Hoist Motion from the Official Opposition. Bill C-8 will now get the discussion it deserves in the House of Commons.

“There is a lot of misinformation spread about Bill C-8 by those who seek to block this reform, which is long overdue.

“The truth is that Bill C-8, the proposed Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, provides First Nations communities the very thing they are seeking: the mechanism to enact their own culturally relevant laws without any involvement by the federal government.

“The Bill also ensures that, in the interim, as communities develop their own laws, families will be immediately protected from the legal void that has existed for too long.

“More than 100 consultation sessions were held to give organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada ample opportunity to provide input and feedback. Numerous studies have been undertaken on the subject of matrimonial real property rights, and committees from both the House of Commons and the Senate have recommended that immediate action be taken. It is time to act.”

For more information, please contact:

Minister's Office
Ted Yeomans
Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl
(819) 997-0002

Backgrounder - Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

For most Canadian couples undergoing a breakdown of their conjugal relationship, there is legal protection to ensure that assets of the marriage are distributed equitably between them. Such is not the case, however, for couples living in communities governed by the Indian Act. For either one of them, relationship breakdown could end in homelessness.

The reason is simple: the Indian Act is silent on the issue of matrimonial real property rights and provincial/territorial laws relating to this issue cannot be applied on reserves. The resulting legislative gap continues to affect women, children, and families living on reserves.

On March 4, 2008, Bill C-47, the proposed Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act was introduced. Bill C-47 has been referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, which is expected to begin its study of the bill in fall 2008. With the introduction of the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, the Government of Canada is taking practical, concrete measures to remedy an unacceptable situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

This bill follows a comprehensive, collaborative consultation process with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations. The consultation process was overseen by the Ministerial Representative, Wendy Grant-John, who was tasked to report back with a recommended legislative solution.

After undertaking nationwide consultations and dialogue sessions and hearing from First Nation members, leaders and regional and national organizations, as well as provinces and territories, the parties entered into a consensus-building phase. While arriving at a consensus on a legislative model proved to be a challenge, some shared principles emerged as priorities. These included the urgency to remedy this situation, the need to balance individual rights and the collective rights of First Nation communities, and the need for First Nations to exercise law-making powers over matrimonial real property in developing their own community-specific laws.

Over the summer and early fall of 2007, the federal government shared and worked together with the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Ministerial Representative, Wendy Grant-John, and the provinces and territories, on a draft legislative solution regarding on-reserve matrimonial real property. All of those involved in the sharing process had opportunities to ensure their views and concerns were raised, and the bill is much improved as a result.

The legislation consists of a substantive federal matrimonial real property regime combined with a mechanism for First Nations to develop their own matrimonial real property laws. The federal regime will fill the legislative gap on reserves until such a time as First Nations develop their own laws on matrimonial real property. If passed by Parliament, the bill will come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Part of Métis Rights Trial Concludes Next Phase of Trial Set To Start in Fall 2009

Medicine Hat, AB (May 12, 2009) – After seven days of testimony from Métis  community witnesses from throughout the province, Alberta’s first Métis harvesting rights trial – R. v. Jones, Bates and Hirsekorn – adjourned today until the Fall of 2009.

The trial involves three Métis harvesters who were charged for hunting without a license, as a part of traditional Métis hunts near the Cypress Hills and Pincher Creek in the fall of 2007. These Métis harvesters are defending themselves based on the constitutionally protected harvesting right of the Métis in Alberta. The harvesting rights of the Métis were recognized in 2003 in a landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Powley.

Since May 4th, the Alberta Provincial Court in Medicine Hat has heard first-hand evidence about Métis culture, harvesting, way of life, mobility and kinship connections throughout Alberta.   Métis witnesses provided testimony about locations across Alberta, including, Cypress Hills, Pincher Creek, Calgary, Sundre, Tail Creek, Grand Prairie, Rocky Mountain House, High Prairie, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, Lac St. Anne, Lac La Biche, Bonnyville, Elizabeth Métis Settlement, Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement. As well, witnesses testified about Métis mobility and connections to Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Montana.

“While the Métis Nation is disappointed with the Alberta Government’s denial of Métis rights, we are pleased to be moving forward on having our rights recognized in the courts,” said Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta. “Through this trial, our people have the wonderful opportunity to share our often untold story in our own voices. We look forward to having our constitutional rights recognized by the courts.”

Poitras added, “Based on this case, the Alberta Government will no longer be able to deny Métis rights exist in Alberta or take the position that Métis do not need to be consulted and accommodated on development occurring throughout this province. Government and industry need to be aware of the potential impacts flowing from Ted Morton forcing Métis into the courts.”

The trial is expected to take another 7 weeks of court time and to be finished in early 2010. The next phase of the trial is set to begin in mid-September 2009 when expert witnesses will provide testimony on the Métis of the Northwest, the fur trade, Métis genealogy and Métis culture.  

Additional Métis community witnesses will also be called in the Fall of 2009, including, the MNA President Audrey Poitras, the MNA Registrar and Métis community witnesses from northern, central and southern Alberta.

For more information about the case and Métis harvesting in Alberta    visit http://www.albertametis.com/MNAHome/Home.aspx