Métis people in Alberta are celebrating the signing of a historical self-government agreement between the Métis Nation of Alberta and Ottawa on Thursday morning.
The agreement formally recognizes the Métis Nation of Alberta as a self-governing entity, something that Métis people have been working toward for generations, said president Audrey Poitras.
“I’m very glad to actually see us put pen to paper,” Poitras said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The MNA has sought official recognition since its inception in 1928, she said.
“I think we have a lot of happy citizens in Alberta that have finally seen that recognition that they’ve waited for, for so long.”
The historical signing is an important step toward entrenching the rights of Métis people, said St. Albert Métis Josh Morin, who works for Michif Cultural Connections.
“Any signing toward self-government is good,” Morin said.
“This will probably be a good step forward for our nation as a whole, as long as the provinces work together, see eye to eye and have that clear vision of national unity.”
The agreement grants Métis jurisdiction and law-making power in core self-government areas, such as citizenship, leadership selection and governmental operations.
It also establishes the framework to enshrine a constitution for the Métis people of Alberta.
“It will be the foundation of our government,” Poitras said. “We will be going out now to develop that constitution and certainly having community engagements with our citizens to make sure we do it right.”
The MNA will also continue its negotiations with the provincial government to reestablish Métis people’s traditional lands, and hunting and fishing rights.
The agreement also lays the foundation for the Métis nation to gain control over education, health care, and child welfare systems, Poitras said.
“Now that we have the recognition, we will be able to go full force forward, and be able to provide those services to our citizens.”
Incorporating Métis teachings in schools is critical for transmitting culture and the Michif language, Morin said.
“This will be a great opportunity for us to bring in more culture and more representation for Métis people,” he said. “That sometimes gets lost.”
The Métis Nation of Ontario and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan also signed agreements with Ottawa Thursday.