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

Thursday, May 21, 2009

AFN National Chief “Deeply Disappointed” that Flawed Legislation on Matrimonial Real Property (Bill C-8) May Proceed

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine expressed his deep disappointment today that a motion to “hoist” Bill C-8 did not receive wide support in the House of Commons.

“I am deeply disappointed that, in spite of a motion by the Liberal Party to hoist Bill C-8, the other parties did not use this opportunity to reject this deeply flawed legislation,” National Chief Fontaine said. “This is not about partisan politics. This is about doing the right thing for First Nations families. This is about our human rights.”

Bill C-8 deals with the division of matrimonial real property (MRP) on-reserve when relationships break down. “Hoisting” the Bill would take it off the parliamentary agenda. In its place the Federal government should enable First Nations to build the capacity to properly develop a meaningful process and alternate approach that respects First Nations jurisdiction and existing First Nations processes respecting MRP.

Bill C-8 has received strong opposition from First Nations, including the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the AFN Women’s Council and First Nations across the country.  The Bill itself also runs contrary to the recommendations provided by the Minister of Indian Affairs’ own appointed Ministerial Representative on MRP, Wendy Grant John, who held nation-wide consultations with First Nations women and concluded that unilateral imposed federal legislation is not the answer.

AFN Women’s Council Chair Kathleen McHugh stated, “Bill C-8 does not work. All Bill C-8 does is force families into provincial courts. This is not a solution. For many families it is unaffordable and it will also force families in remote communities to endure long waiting periods before their case can be heard, if they can even make it to a court.”

Bill C-8 has serious flaws and could be subject to legal challenges because the government did not meet its duty to consult and the bill itself infringes on First Nations rights. The National Chief stated that First Nations and all those who support First Nations families and First Nations rights should be working to ensure the Bill does not become law.

“Our people did not create this problem,” said the National Chief. “The federal government created this problem by imposing the Indian Act on First Nations.  The solution is not impose more flawed legislation on First Nations, but to work with us in partnership on real solutions that protect First Nations families and respect First Nations rights.  This legislation and its approach runs contrary to the commitment of the Government and parliamentarians to the spirit and intent of the June 11, 2008 apology to First Nations for the Indian residential school policy.  This Bill is nothing short of continued imposition and paternalism. A number of First Nations have already developed approaches to MRP that are fully supported by their communities. This is the way to go. We need capacity within our communities to deal with this important matter.  It is unfortunate we may have to use our energies to fight bad legislation instead of using it to work together on real solutions.”


The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.


For further information: Karyn Pugliese, Health Communications, (613) 292-1877,

Friday, May 15, 2009

What happened to those National Métis Health Dollars?

Well folks I think we seen a small glimpse of how Health Canada is going to deal with the proverbial health dollars.

Just to refresh your memories – there were many posts about the Métis Health dollars and it has potentially destroyed the relationship between the Board of Governors at Métis National Council. Some of the Board of Governors requested that there be regional agreements developed so that each provisional representative organization would be directly responsible for their programs, bursaries and also be able to build capacity.

David Chartrand did not want that – he wanted the 10 million dollars to be under his control and so the fight began.

Now several years later – we have the Métis National Council struggling to find a way to be accountable for the money they spent which did not go where it should have and dealing with a significant deficit as a result of their inability to be accountable. The Board of Governors has only had one meeting since February 2008 and the communication between them is non existent.
In spite of all of that …. The regional Provincial Métis Organizations are flourishing based on today’s press announcement…

Métis in British Columbia to benefit from Health Canada’s Aboriginal Health Transition Fund

VANCOUVER (May 14, 2009) – Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) President and Minister Responsible for Health Bruce Dumont is pleased to announce the addition of five new staff to the MNBC Ministry of Health. Five Regional Health Coordinators join the team today, funded through Health Canada’s Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, under the Province’s Adaptation Plan.

The Regional Health Coordinators are geographically aligned with the five Regional Health Authorities in British Columbia. The part-time Coordinators will work with Métis Chartered Communities, Métis Nation British Columbia and the Health Authorities to establish or further build relationships, increase community capacity and facilitate improved access to existing health programs and services for Métis people across British Columbia.

MNBC President and Minister Responsible for Health Bruce Dumont expressed his excitement for this work, “Métis people in British Columbia have fell between the cracks within the British Columbia healthcare system for many years.

This program is the first of its kind for Métis people in BC. Our Regional Health Coordinators will be able to provide much needed support to each of our communities and educate health policy makers about the health status of Métis people in this Province”.

Director of Health Tanya Davoren shared Minister Dumont’s perspective, “Métis Chartered Communities in British Columbia are run by volunteers who work tirelessly to promote Métis history and culture and to develop and administer programs and services. Having paid staff available in the community will greatly increase capacity in each Métis Chartered Community and provide an opportunity for Métis people to play an active part in improving their own health

The Regional Health Coordinators commence their new role today and will be working in communities by next week. The five part-time Regional Health Coordinators join Director of Health Tanya Davoren, Program Assistant Tresley Tourond-Bouvier and Chronic Disease Surveillance Program Manager Dr Peter Hutchinson in the MNBC Ministry of Health.

Métis Nation British Columbia is the representative governing organization of Métis people in British Columbia. MNBC works on behalf of 59 445 (2006 Census) Métis people in British Columbia. MNBC was created in 1996 and continues to evolve today. MNBC has three levels of Métis Nation governance, thirty-six (36) Métis Chartered Communities, seven (7) Regional Governance Councils, and a provincially elected Board of Directors. Since 2003 the MNBC leadership has implemented a number of institutions of governance including the Senate, Métis Nation Governing Assembly, Youth representation, and Women’s representation.

Please visit to learn more about Métis Nation British Columbia.

For further information please contact:
Tanya Davoren
Director of Health and Sport
Métis Nation British Columba

Bill C-8 and the Controversy

Bill C-8 and the Controversy

Harper government ignoring Aboriginal communities on Bill C-8

OTTAWA – Liberals are calling on the Harper Conservatives to delay the passage of Bill C-8 after the government failed to properly consult First Nations governments in the development of the bill. Bill C-8 concerns the division of real property on First Nations reserve lands when couples separate.

“We do not question the need for legislation to address the very real problems when family breakdown occurs for Canadians living on reserve,” said Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic Todd Russell. “However, the Conservative government failed in its constitutional duty to consult First Nations in the development of this bill.

“We believe this bill should be deferred for six months so that the government can properly consult First Nations communities on what changes they believe are necessary. The bill in its current form imposes a default law on First Nations communities, without ensuring that First Nations have the resources or capacity to develop their own codes. First Nations are rightly upset by this.”

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have been highly critical of the Conservative bill, arguing that the government is attempting to impose a “one size fits all” solution on a diverse group of more than 600 First Nations communities, each with its unique needs, said Mr. Russell.

“First Nations women’s groups have specific concerns with this bill, which is why the government needs to take a second look,” he said. “For example, their bill mandates that ‘verification officers’ play an active role in the development and approval of local matrimonial real estate property regimes. First Nations see this as an insulting throwback to the use of Indian Agents.

“We’re saying to the Harper government, let’s take the bill off the table so that Aboriginal communities can be properly consulted about these matters. Their concerns cannot be dismissed, and the government should take the time and the steps to do things right,” Mr. Russell said.

This is a joint press release from NWAC, AFN and the AFN Women’s Council

Press Release – For Immediate Release

NWAC, AFN and AFN Women’s Council

Unite to Oppose Bill C8 on Matrimonial Real Property

Ottawa, ON (May 14, 2009) – Today the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the AFN Women’s Council united to express their opposition to the federal Bill C8,

An act respecting family homes situatedon First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves.

NWAC and the AFN (including the AFN Women’s Council), all agree that Bill C8
Will do nothing to solve the problems associated with Matrimonial Real Property (MRP) onreserve; that the federal government failed in its duty to consult and accommodate the views of First Nations; and, as a result, the Bill is fatally flawed and cannot be fixed. It should not proceed to committee.

NWAC President Beverley Jacobs says NWAC held meetings with Aboriginal women prior to the introduction of Bill C47 and produced a “Peoples Report” that included a
number of solutions to address MRP. Bill C47, the predecessor to Bill C8, and this Bill,
C8, ignore all of those recommendations.

“Aboriginal women, who we met with and who were directly affected by the lack of legal recourse of MRP, stated over and over again that their voices needed to be included in the creation of any legislation,” said NWAC President Jacobs. “They also highlighted non-legislative solutions for the short, medium and long term. We need to ensure that the voices of the women that we talked to are heard and that their solutions are implemented. The resources are needed to implement the non-legislative solutions as soon as possible.”

AFN Women’s Council Chair Kathleen McHugh agrees that there was no effective consultation process. She added that Bill C8 also ignores the recommendations of the Minister of Indian Affairs’ own Ministerial Representative on MRP, Wendy Grant John, who tabled a report stating that unilateral imposed federal legislation is not the answer.

The organizations are in agreement that Bill C8 is a one dimensional approach to a
complex problem that does not address the real issues in communities.

“All Bill C8 does is force families into provincial courts. This is not a solution. For many families it’s unaffordable and it will also force families in remote communities to endure long waiting periods before their case can be heard,” said the Chair of the AFN Women Council. President Jacobs agrees, and states that, “I am also deeply concerned that Bill C8 will put women who are experiencing family violence at further risk by forcing them to wait long periods for justice without adequate social supports, services or shelters.”

National Chief Phil Fontaine added that it is unlikely that the strict parameters imposed on First Nations will allow communities to create solutions that reflect their traditional laws, cultures and realities, including geographic remoteness, lack of access to the court system, inability to afford lawyers, overcrowding and multiple family homes and a lack of emergency shelters.

“A number of First Nations have already taken a proactive approach to this issue and have worked with their communities to develop rules and policies related to MRP. Under
Bill C8, the flawed federal approach will be imposed on First Nations and these existing
Community based solutions could be struck down and replaced. This is not democratic, it is inconsistent with the values of First Nations and Canadians, and only serves to do more harm to First Nations families,” said AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine.

The AFN and NWAC believe that the legislation attempts to pit the individual rights of women against the collective rights of First Nations people. Both organizations expressed disappointment with this tactic and do not support this approach. President Jacobs, the National Chief and Chair McHugh stressed the importance of acknowledging and respecting the role of women and mothers in First Nations families, communities and Nations and ensuring that their voices are sought and accommodated within the context of this role.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, including their Women’s Council agree that Bill C8 should be scrapped in favour of a new approach. This may include non-legislative measures such as local dispute resolution processes and community based solutions. The urgent need for housing, counseling services and emergency shelters on reserve must also be addressed.

NWAC President Jacobs added “Aboriginal women, girls and children continue to be subjected to violence and are often forced to leave their homes and communities to be safe. Aboriginal women have consistently stated that they want safe communities where they, their children and future generations can live. Above all else, any resolution needs to ensure that this happens.”

The resolution of MRP matters requires collaborative efforts between the federal government and First Nations. Solutions must address the root causes of the poor socioeconomic conditions faced by First Nations couples that contribute to MRP issues.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada is an aggregate of 13 native women’s organizations and is the national voice of Aboriginal women in Canada.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

The AFN Women’s Council ensures the perspectives of First Nations’ women are included in all AFN policy directives and activities, as well as ensuring that the AFN is an effective advocate on behalf of First Nations women.

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

Ottawa, Ontario (May 14, 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:

“Today, the Liberal Party moved a motion that will effectively kill Bill C-8, which is designed to protect the rights of women and children living on reserve. I am deeply disappointed that the Liberals would be prepared to prevent the passage of Bill C-8 and leave untold numbers of First Nations women and children without the protection of the courts at a time when they most need it.

The proposed legislation would provide legal protection to both members of a common law or marital relationship in the event of a breakdown of their marriage, divorce or death. Bill C-8 responds to national and international calls for action and change. The bill is the result of over 100 extensive consultation sessions held throughout the country. It is shameful that the Liberals are trying to derail a bill that would provide a solution to an intolerable legislative gap.

Bill C-8 is a landmark piece of legislation. For the first time ever, the Government is taking significant steps to provide First Nation leaders with the opportunity to develop their own culturally appropriate laws. The federal government would no longer be involved. First Nation leaders will only be accountable to those most directly affected by the law, namely their own constituents.

The proposed Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act fills the legislative gap by providing women, children and families with immediate protections and rights. Delaying its passage will only exacerbate the ongoing injustice facing some of the most vulnerable members of Canadian society.”

For more information, please contact:
Minister's Office
Ted Yeomans
Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl
(819) 997-0002

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First part of Métis hunting trial ends

First part of Métis hunting trial ends


After seven days of testimony from Métis community members in a Medicine Hat provincial courtroom filled with maps, the first session in the trial of three men accused of hunting without a license has come to an end.
Métis witnesses from Lac la Biche, Bonneyville, Manyberries, Medicine Hat, Pincher Creek and other Alberta municipalities described how they and their families have hunted in the province for decades. Many could trace their backgrounds to 1885 North West Rebellion battlefields such as Duck Lake, Batoche and Cut Knife.

Garry Hirsekorn, Ron Jones and Bruce Bates all currently stand charged with hunting without a license.

While the three self-described Métis men on trial have admitted to hunting without a license during a protest hunt in late 2007, they are arguing they had the constitutional right to do so.

The Alberta government contends the three accused do not meet the conditions of the Powley Decision — a Supreme Court ruling which gives a legal framework for identifying who is Metis and therefore where they can hunt.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that Metis across Canada have the constitutional right to fish, hunt and gather food without a license.

However, in January 2007, the Alberta government restricted harvesting rights to areas within a radius of eight recognized Metis settlements and 17 communities.

None was south of Edmonton.

Outside the courtroom, the men’s lawyer, Jean Teillet, said the goal of the trial is to see the accused’s aboriginal rights acknowledged.

“On one level it is about proving Métis have hunting rights. On another, it’s about getting some recognition for Métis people in Canada.”

Teillet said the government has no problem giving that recognition in the same way they do other ethnic groups but, “the idea the Métis have aboriginal rights to use the land in a different way, they resist that.”

She expects if the men win their case, the province won’t look to appeal due to the fact higher court decisions will have a binding effect on other provinces.

The Crown attorney arguing the province’s case, Thomas Rothwell, said the prosecution is about the issue of Métis rights in southern Alberta.

“It’s the central issue and the court will have to make a ruling on that. When the ruling comes out we’ll study it carefully.”

Four more sessions are scheduled between September and January with a decision expected to be rendered by May 2010.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Tar Sands and the Impact on the Aboriginal Community

For Immediate Release-Regulate the tar sands and uphold treaty and human rights to water

For Immediate Release

Community Groups Send Strong Message to Feds:

Regulate the tar sands and uphold treaty and human rights to water

May 12th, 2009 (Edmonton, AB)- The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development begins its formal hearing on the impacts on Water by the Tar Sands Extraction today in Edmonton. Concerned community members, union representatives, non-government organizations and First Nations have gathered together outside the Hearings to send a strong message to the commissioners of the hearings.

“Water is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the land and we want a voice!,” said Alice Martin, an Aboriginal grassroots community member from the
Fort McMurray region.

“The Federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to uphold its treaty obligations and consult on a Nation to Nation basis with First Nations, regarding infrastructure projects built within their traditional territories,” said Eriel Deranger Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation member and Rainforest Action Network Campaigner.

Since March 2009 the Environment Committee has been discussing water and the tar sands, the process however has excluded the voices of many communities impacted by Tar Sands extraction in particular the Unions, the up-grader communities, farmers, grassroots First Nations, and those living in the development zones.

“Tar Sands development is more than just the mine sites, it is the whole infrastructure needed to refine the tar sands into usable crude. This includes the lines of pipe, and the development of Upgraders, far beyond the boundaries of
Alberta, which have huge consequences for water and the fertility of the land.” explains Barb Collier a farmer from Alberta's Industrial Heartland. “The federal government needs to know that their decisions to regulate tar sands is going to have far reaching impacts right across this country.”

“Tar Sands are not just contaminating the Athabasca River, they are contaminating the whole Athabasca/Mackenzie watershed; a watershed which is estimated to house 1/5th of Canada’s fresh water resources!” emphasizes Harvey Scott a representative of Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council, “With an estimated 11 million liters of toxic chemicals leaking daily from the tailing lakes, there is definitely a federal responsibility to ensure action is taken on tar sands to uphold both treaty and human rights to water are respected.

Today’s events are supported by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Council of Canadians, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter, Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network, highlighting the growing coalition effort byFirst Nations, provincial community groups and national organizations to draw attention to the devastating impacts of tar sands development.

Adding to today's event, there will be a public forum at 7pm at the Trans Alta Art Barn where Fort Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam and Francois Paulette - Member, Fort Fitzgerald First Nation will be leading a discussion around the impacts of the tar sands

For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Connie Bresnahan, Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council - (780) 816- 0654

Eriel Deranger, Rainforest Action Network and Member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation - (587) 785-1558

Metis Trial moved to living room

Medicine Hat News

May 12, 2009

Trial moved to living room



In a scene not likely to be repeated in Medicine Hat court history, a judge, stenographer, clerk, News reporter and four lawyers crowded into a witness’ small living room to hear testimony Monday afternoon.

It was a fitting scene for the trial of three Métis men charged with breaking provincial hunting regulations that has so far focused on history while trying to make it as well.

In Monday’s hearing, Métis elder Henry Aaker, 79 – testifying from his home due to a medical condition – told the court how his home was once part of a thriving community called Saratoga Park.

The house – hidden away as much as a home could be in a city of 60,000 – lies along a bike trial which follows Seven Persons Creek between Dunmore Road and Scholten Hill. 

In an almost surreal scene, the court entered the four metre by seven metre home surrounded by a corral in disrepair, abandoned garden, several vehicles and sheds.

“You said four (people) not 44,” said Aaker in a comical moment as the courtroom entered his home.

Depending on the source, the home is the last of a “half-breed colony” or squatters community which once had at least 20 to 30 homes stretching from Dunmore Road to the South Saskatchewan River.

In the cramped living room with the walls filled with family photos and First Nations as well as Western artwork, Aaker testified with a bowl of potato chips and glass of cola in front of him. 

He testified that he moved to Saratoga Park from Montana when he was three weeks old after his parents split up.

The lawyer for the accused, Jason Madden, asked Aaker what life was like growing up in Saratoga Park.

“A picnic,” he responded.

“Everybody had a lot of fun.”

He went on to describe group social events within the community that included music played with violins, guitars and banjos while people danced the jig. He told the court about being married in a nearby church and went to Elm Street School.
Aaker said at the Elm Street School there would be numerous fights with other children.

“Kids would get smart and pretty soon you’d be battling it out,” Aaker said.
“Smart about what?” asked Madden.


“They’d be calling you half-breeds. After they got a few lickings, they’d smarten up.”

Madden went on to ask what had happened to the other homes in the area.
“When the people died off, they would come in with a bulldozer, clean it up, bury the stuff and that would be the end of it,” Aaker responded.

“Why would they do that?” Madden asked.

“I don’t know.”

Pointing towards the top of Scholten Hill, Aaker testified that is where he used to hunt and said he trapped weasel, mink and muskrat along the nearby creek. He also described fishing in the South Saskatchewan River and recalled his mother used to gather native vegetation for medicinal remedies.

“When you went hunting, did you get a licence?” asked Madden.

“No, why would I want a licence for,” Aaker responded.

“Did you ever get charged?”

“No, they never caught me.”

Madden asked if Aaker spoke an aboriginal language.

“Yea, English,” he responded before saying he could speak the Métis language Michif – a mixture of Cree and French.

Lead attorney for the province Tomas Rothwell declined to cross-examine Aaker.
The first session of testimony in the trial is expected to end today with several more witnesses from the Métis community.

Two more sessions concentrating on historical documents are expected before the end of the year

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To All you Métis Mothers Have a Very Terrific Day

As the Matriarchs of our community – Thank you for all you do.

In honour of Mother’s Day I have borrowed an article written by Lorraine Freeman about Louis Riel’s wife and the commitment she made as a Métis woman to the future of our nation.

Marguerite Monet dit Bellehumeur Riel - A Metis Mother of the Battle of Batoche

"Her faith so deep and her righteousness are a beauty to be held.Ah... she is a tender creature,Always attentive to her duty.I have the privilege of knowing that her love is unfailing.When she loves, she loves through and through.Her gaze beckons on me."Louis Riel
Marguerite was born January 15th, 1861 at White Horse Plains (St. Francois Xavier) to Marie Malaterre and Jean Baptiste Monet dit Bellumeur. Marguerite's mother and father were from Metis hunting families. Marguerite spent her childhood at Fort Ellis (St. Lazare, Manitoba). Her family later moved to Montana when the Buffalo herds grew scarce.

When she was twenty years old, (1881), Marguerite was introduced to Louis Riel by her father; Louis who was quite taken with the young lady, would later ask for her hand. They were married by "custom of the country." The prairie marriage was preformed in March of 1882, at Carroll, Montana, by Father Damiani-a Jesuit from St. Peter's Mission, Montana.

Marguerite had her first child, a handsome son named Jean Riel, who had the eyes of his mother, on May 9th, 1882. Their second child, Marie Angelique, a pretty blonde little girl, was born September 17th, 1883.

Marguerite was known to be soft spoken, quiet, patient and is also said to have been petite and quite attractive. She took on the all responsibility of a plains wife: Gathering fire wood, cooking, cleaning and struggling on very little money and food. She was alone most of the time with her children, while Louis was fighting for rights of their people. Louis had a most devoted wife who worshipped him but feared the harm that could befall their family at the hands of his enemies.

In June 1884, Marguerite, Jean and Angelique accompanied Louis to Batoche, Saskatchewan, in spite of the looming conflict. She was at her husband's side during the battle of 1885 until Riel surrendered May 15th, to Middleton's scouts. Cold and hungry. Marguerite and her children hid in caves near Batoche while awaiting word from Louis. Instead Louis' brother Joseph appeared and took Marguerite and her children to live with Riel's mother in St. Boniface, MB.

Weakened by the events of Batoche and her husband's imprisonment, premature birth and death of her third child added to her grief. Marguerite's suffering continued with Louis' execution for his involvement in the Red River Resistance of 1869. When in May, 1886 she died of tuberculosis the final blow was dealt to a greatly diminished existence. She was buried beside her beloved Louis Riel in St. Boniface.

Marie Angelique died of diphtheria in 1897 just before she was to turn fourteen years old.Jean married Laura Casault, a daughter of a Québec family. Jean died July 31st, at the age of twenty-six from injuries resulting from a buggy accident. Jean and Laura had no children.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Accused Métis hunter takes stand

Medicine Hat News
May 8, 2009

Accused Métis hunter takes stand


One of the three men accused of breaching hunting regulations as part of an effort to establish Métis hunting rights in southern Alberta took the stand in his own defence Thursday.

Ron Jones told the court of the hunting expedition north of Brooks in January 2008. He described it as part of a Métis action plan after the disillusionment with the aboriginal group’s Interim Harvesting Agreement with the Province of Alberta.

Jones told the court the hunt in January 2008 was to provide food for a feast with the remainder of the meat given to a single father.

The province’s lawyer, Tomas Rothwell, asked Jones if he thought his rights were being assaulted, If his rights to learn or educate his children in another language were being challenged, and if the disillusionment with the Interim Harvesting Agreement actually took away his rights.

“If you can take away one, you can take away the rest,” Jones responded.

Rothwell then produced a copy of the Edmonton Journal from Feb. 17, 2008 which documented the hunt in an article titled Launching the Western Rebellion. That article stated that he had never hunted in the area and showed a picture of him discussing his plans to notify conservation officers once he has taken an animal.

“Where you shot the antelope was actually quite close to CFB Suffield?” asked Rothwell.

“The (CFB Suffield) fence was about a half mile away,” answered Jones who worked in the area and on the base with Alberta Energy Company.

At the end of the cross-examination, Judge Ted Fisher asked Jones, “Did you have the belief, before or after, (conservation officers) would allow you to keep that animal?”

“I wouldn’t have bet on it,” responded Jones.

Jeannette Hansen, director of the Miywasin Society – an aboriginal friendship centre in Medicine Hat – told the court of her formative years in the city.She testified that her mother had denied her own Métis status due to experiences in a residential school.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alberta Métis go to court in their 'hunt for justice'

Alberta Métis go to court in their 'hunt for justice'



Posting by Unhypentated Canadian about Patrick Brazeau

Thursday, May 07, 2009

We Dropped The Ball On This One Stephen!

Posted: February 03, 2009, 10:44 AM by Daniel Goldbloom

It's hard to imagine how such a thoroughly damaged resumé could've survived the supposedly ruthless scrutiny of the Prime Minister's Office, particularly when the job is a 40-year guaranteed Senate gig with an annual salary of $130,000 plus perks.

But the allegations, investigations and accusations against newly-appointed aboriginal Senator Patrick Brazeau, 34, are piling up in such a frenzy that it's quickly put the unelected Senate under a negative light, and must surely embarrass Canada's other six native senatorial representatives.

Consider the growing list of Brazeau indiscretions conveniently overlooked by the PMO, but unearthed by reporters in fairly short order.Brazeau had to be arm-twisted to give up his six-figure job as chief of the Congress of Aboriginal People, lest it be seen as double-dipping on the taxpayers' tab. That Conservative-cheerleading organization is still under investigation by Health Canada for its use or misuse of $260,000 in public funds including $16,050 in suspect payments to Brazeau or his sidekicks.The man described in his bio as a loving father of three is darn close to qualifying to be a deadbeat dad with the mother of one offspring telling CTV that Brazeau hasn't seen or properly supported his 14-year-old son in eight years.

Brazeau's been seen tooling around Parliament Hill in a new Porsche SUV, has hired Ottawa staff who were reportedly hitting the sauce hard during work hours at his former congress job and is still fending off refuted allegations of sexual harassment at a human rights tribunal.If this is the calibre of individual Stephen Harper had in mind when he set out to reform the Senate, well, it's enough to make you yearn for those days when they filled the place with backroom bagmen.

It's clear that Patrick Brazeau should've been kept a senator-in-waiting a bit longer to clear his name — or save taxpayers from a bad appointment.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Métis Nation and the Alberta Government or is it David and Goliath?

The Metis Hunt for Justice continues. In Alberta, the previous leadership (Premier Klein) was willing to try and negotiate a deal with the Alberta Metis to ensure that the implication of the Supreme Court decision was implemented. The era of government negotiated work ended with Mr. Klein's retirement.

The new era of a provincial leader that is completely controlled by one of his cabinet ministers began. Ted Morton, an American born MLA, believes in the abolishment of Aboriginal rights and the assimilation and genocide of the Metis. He has brought in policies that went even against the recommendations of MLA Report and arbitrarily drew circles on a provincial map and made a policy that marginalizes where Metis can practice their harvesting rights. The circles that were drawn on the map exclude many historic Metis communities in Alberta including Cypress Hills. In fact - his circles completely exclude anywhere in southern or western Alberta.

The historic documents completely demonstrate the significance of the Metis in the development of this province but the Alberta government would like to ignore any part of that history. Their own government records clearly demonstrate the history of the Metis and there is evidence of the contemporary Metis existing even today in those areas and that they have never extinguished their rights.

The Metis Nation of Alberta has on many occasions attempted to meet with the Alberta Government to negotiate changes to the policy to no avail. They have been forced to use the courts to protect the rights of the Metis for future generations.

The Metis Hunting Case began on Monday in the courts in Medicine Hat.

Lethbridge Herald

Hunting court case


It’s expected to be one of the longest trials in Medicine Hat provincial court history with hundreds of witnesses as well as thousands of documents and, according to one constitutional law expert, it will just be the beginning.

Garry Hirsekorn, Ron Jones and Bruce Bates are facing charges of breaching provincial hunting regulations and, according to their lawyer, will likely admit as much in the trial, which began Monday.

However, what’s at issue will be far larger — who is considered Métis in this province and where can they hunt. Proceedings have been scheduled over several sessions through the end of the year.

The Alberta government under Ralph Klein fell in line with the Supreme Court’s 2003 Powley decision which recognized Métis’ right to hunt and fish for food and provided a legal test to determine exactly who can legally be recognized as Métis.

In 2004, the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement was enacted which allowed members of the aboriginal group to hunt on Crown land and without licenses.March 2006 saw the release of a seven-page report on the issue from the MLA Committee on Métis Harvesting. The three-MLA committee identified concerns about the interim agreement from fish and game associations, First Nations as well as the Métis themselves.

The MLA report recommended a negotiated settlement firstly but, “alternatively, a unilateral approach could be instituted whereby the Alberta government would set out criteria under which it would implement a policy to govern,” the report stated.

This would include identification of Métis communities, those who practice gathering rights and the scope of Métis harvesting.

“Alberta has always been a leader in recognizing Métis culture and society, and we want to negotiate a new agreement together — one that balances the rights of the Métis people with wildlife conservation,” said Ron Stevens, then minister of justice and attorney general, in a press statement dated April 27, 2006.

“This report provides us with the guidelines to do that.”

In the same release, Pearl Calahasen, then minister of aboriginal affairs stated, “Alberta's approach has always been to negotiate agreements and to avoid litigation with aboriginal people whenever possible. The government is not taking unilateral action on Métis harvesting and will be entering into negotiations.”

In January 2007, the Court of Queen’s bench set aside the conviction of Kipp Kelley, a Métis hunter prosecuted for illegal trapping. In that decision, the judge found the Interim Harvesting Agreement “not legally enforceable.”

In July of that year, the agreement ended and was replaced with a policy that restricted harvesting rights to areas within a radius of eight recognized Métis settlements and 17 communities — none south of the Yellowhead Highway.

In response to this, Métis began in late 2007 what they call the “hunt for justice,” a series of protest hunts conducted throughout southern Alberta including the Cypress Hills, Pincher Creek and Brooks areas.

“This will be on our plate for years to come,” said Greg Clarke, director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies in a telephone interview from Edmonton.The aim of the trial is to force government to accept Métis’ constitutional rights that allow them to hunt outside the regulations.

“These are the sorts of cases that require a lot of historical research and witnesses who are professors of history. They are very unusual provincial cases for that reason . . . I would be surprised if it ended at the provincial court level.”Clarke said he is skeptical of the purpose of such trials, calling them long, drawn out, expensive and inefficient.

“If it were to be possible to see the Métis Nation of Alberta, the provincial and federal governments sit down and negotiate a framework — that already recognizes Métis rights — we wouldn’t need to use this onerous way of making public policy.”

The fact that there was an interim harvesting agreement lends credence to the Métis’ claim, he added.

“They had a framework in place with the Alberta government that the Alberta government chose to alter. It’s the government’s prerogative to do that but when they negotiated this framework with the Métis and then chose — presumably without negotiation — to rescind that policy, that is a political issue.”

Clarke went on to say that the unconstitutionality of the law may be hard for the Métis to prove but that doesn’t mean the Constitution won’t uphold the aboriginal group’s rights.

He said to expect the Métis to call on Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution as a defence for their actions.

“That’s the section the courts, over time, have begun to develop as they relate to Métis peoples in Canada,” he said.

The men’s lawyer, Jean Teillet, agreed.

“That is where the big part of the trial will come in,” she said.“We have to prove there is a historical Métis people on the land who hunted in Cypress Hills.”

The second part of their constitutional challenge will require the accused to prove Métis have continued to hunt in the Cypress Hills, said Teillet.

“In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, a lot of what we have heard is that people have been raised to hunt in secret. I’ve heard Métis say that when they were kids they thought moose were nocturnal animals because they always hunted at night.”

Teillet said individuals in attendance at the trial will be receiving a history lesson about Métis who lived in this area.

“(There will be) thousands of historical documents — 5,000 to 10,000. And there will be community witnesses in the first two weeks talking about their practices, what their dad did and what their grandmothers told them.”

Trial begins for Métis

Medicine Hat News

Trial begins for Métis


The three men accused of breaching hunting regulations as part of the Métis “Hunt for Justice” campaign made a four-block march Monday morning down to the Medicine Hat Courthouse, surrounded by 40 supporters.

Garry Hirsekorn, Bruce Bates and Ron Jones took part in hunts near Cypress Hills, Blairmore and Suffield respectively beginning in late 2007. The aim was to establish recognized gathering rights in southern Alberta for Métis.

The province’s lawyers are contesting that the men do not meet the conditions of the Powley Decision – a Supreme Court ruling which gives a legal framework for identifying Métis.

However, the men’s lawyer Jean Teillet said, “Powley has morphed.”

She said she expects to prove not just the hunting rights for Métis throughout Alberta but a huge swath of the country stretching from the Great Lakes to the Rockies.

“The Métis have a history of hunting throughout the northwest ... the lands in question are the lands traditional hunted by the Métis of the northwest.”

Alberta Justice aboriginal law attorney Thomas G. Rothwell said any suggestion that denying these hunting rights is a rejection of Métis couldn’t be any further than the truth.

“You may be Métis but you may not be part of a rights bearing community. Individuals may say ‘what is the point of being Métis, that is what my culture is about?’ That is what we are here to decide.”

The criminal aspect of the case took less than an hour with an agreed statement of facts entered into evidence and a guilty verdict rendered pending the constitutional challenge.

The majority of the day was spent with Teillet and Rothwell going back and forth over case law on whether the province must disclose a report on the Métis.

Teillet argued the report commissioned for the province by Heather Devine be made available to the defence while Rothwell countered that the document did not have to be released under government privilege.

Judge Ted Fisher set aside his decision on that matter until Monday at the latest.

A total of 40 witnesses are expected to take the stand over at least three sessions that will run until the end of the year.

Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, is expected to testify Tuesday.

Alberta Metis hunters battle province in court

Calgary Herald

Alberta Metis hunters battle province in court
Riel descendant calls case 'pathetic'

By Darcy Henton, Edmonton Journal
May 2, 2009

Alberta's Metis people and the provincial government will square off in court in Medicine Hat on Monday for Round 1 of a historic battle that could be waged for decades over the province's interpretation of Metis hunting rights.

Six years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Metis have a constitutional right to fish, hunt and gather food, Alberta Metis say they have been forced to go to court to achieve full recognition of those rights.

Three Metis hunters who shot deer and antelope in southern Alberta are on trial for illegal hunting in the first of what is expected to be a series of cases involving more than 25 hunters.
The Medicine Hat case is expected to be tried intermittently over seven weeks spread over the course of the year.

Other Metis hunters who shot wild game in other parts of the province are slated to go to trial in stages after the first case is resolved.

Metis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras said her 45,000 members may have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to assert rights Canada's top court has already ruled they have.

"There's absolutely no reason why we should even be in court," Poitras said. "We had an agreement that worked. If there needed to be changes, we had clauses in the agreement to do that."

Metis lawyer Jean Teillet said the province's insistence on prosecuting the charges in each region separately rather than bundling them into one provincewide case is a waste of court time and taxpayers' money.

"The way the Crown has this lined up, we'll be at this for the next 20 years," said Teillet, who won the landmark Powley case from Ontario in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003.

She said she would be "very surprised" if she cannot prove there were Metis people in the Cypress Hills who have always hunted there.

"The evidence is overwhelming," said Teillet, a direct descendant of Metis leader Louis Riel. "It's like de-fending the fact the sun sets in the west. It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic."

But Darcy Whiteside, spokesman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said the department is confident it is applying the top court ruling correctly.

"The information that we have indicates that in southern Alberta, there was no Metis community that would meet the Powley requirement."

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Senator harassment case to go to fed rights panel

News Talk Radio

Wed, 2009-05-06 19:02.


OTTAWA - Ontario's human rights tribunal has ruled that a sexual harassment complaint involving Senator Patrick Brazeau must be heard at the federal level.

At issue was whether the matter involving the federally incorporated Congress of Aboriginal Peoples - which Brazeau led until being named to the Senate five months ago - should be handled by the provincial panel.

A four-paragraph ruling issued April 23 with little notice says the congress argued it must be dealt with under the Canadian Human Rights Act - not Ontario legislation.

"The parties are agreed, although for different reasons, that this tribunal has no jurisdiction over the application and the applicant has taken steps to have her complaint dealt with under the federal act."

It can now proceed before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Michael Swinwood, who represents the woman behind the complaint, says she will decide "imminently" on next steps. She is considering suing Brazeau and the congress, he said.

"We're quite concerned about the way the matter has been dealt with all the way through from the perspective of the organization - which would include our friend Senator Brazeau.

"I'm really talking about issues surrounding the complaint itself, and how they were handled internally at the time the complaints were made."

Brazeau declined to comment Wednesday.

He has confirmed the dispute involves inappropriate text messages and phone calls. But he has repeatedly tried to distance himself from the case, stressing that the human rights complaint formally named the congress - not him specifically.

Brazeau and his lawyer have also said an investigative report by mediation firm ADR Chambers cleared him of any wrongdoing. The report has not been publicly released, Brazeau says, to protect the identity of the complainant.

At 34, Brazeau - an Algonquin member of the Kitigan Zibi band in northwestern Quebec - is one of the youngest appointees ever to the upper house. He made waves as leader of the congress by openly endorsing the Harper Conservatives and repeatedly attacking the accountability of native chiefs across Canada.

Brazeau blamed enemies in "the native establishment" for a wave of bad PR in the weeks after his Senate appointment.

In addition to the official human-rights complaint, another young woman who worked for the congress went public with allegations that Brazeau condoned heavy drinking during business hours - a charge he denied.

There were also uncomfortable questions about a Health Canada draft audit that forced the congress to better account for how it spent about $200,000.

He was also criticized for attempting to hang on to his job as head of the congress while also serving as a senator. He ultimately conceded that, along with the optics of collecting two publicly funded six-figure salaries, keeping both jobs could pose a conflict of interest.

He chose the Senate.

Brazeau, a father of four, also had ready explanations for missing $100-a-month child-support payments to his estranged eldest son from a previous relationship.

And he dismissed suggestions that his crafted image as a poverty-fighting aboriginal leader was tainted by his arrival on Parliament Hill in a 2006 Porsche SUV. The vehicle was bought used before he got the Senate nod from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he said at the time.