(ANNews) – Citizens of the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) have overwhelmingly adopted a new Constitution as the missing piece in their centuries long struggle to have their self-government solidified and recognized by other levels of government in Canada.
“The results from the MNA vote represent the largest ratification vote ever undertaken by an Indigenous nation in Canadian history. That is an incredible achievement,” said Del Graff, MNA Chief Electoral Officer.
More eligible electors cast a ballot in this ratification vote than for any other self-government or modern-day land claim agreement that has been approved in Canada to date.
In a province-wide ratification vote held throughout the month of November, which included an extensive public awareness campaign as well as mail-in, online and in-person voting, a total of 15,729 MNA citizens cast their ballots with 15,241 voting “Yes” to adopting the Otipemisiwak Métis Government Constitution (96.89% voting in support).
“Our people have a long and proud history of declaring and asserting our inherent right to self-government. From our resistances in what is now Western Canada in 1869/70 and 1885 through to our success in ensuring the Métis people were expressly included in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, we have always fought to have our unique self-government recognized in this country,” stated MNA President Audrey Poitras.
“Today, the Métis Nation within Alberta has unequivocally confirmed our inherent right to self-government—yet again. Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and the many Métis women and men who tirelessly built the MNA over the last 94 years would be very proud of these ratification results.
“With our Constitution, we are one step closer to fully implementing our nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship with Canada as well as Alberta. I want to thank all the MNA citizens who took the time out of their busy schedules to vote over the last month as well as our Chief Electoral Officer, Del Graff. This is a historic milestone for Alberta Métis. It provides us a solid foundation to guide our self-government for generations to come.”
In 2019, the MNA signed a self-government agreement with Canada, along with other recognized Métis governments in Saskatchewan and Ontario. This agreement recognized the MNA represents the Métis Nation within Alberta, which holds the right to self-government protected by Canada’s Constitution (MNA Self-Government Agreement, Chapter 3). The agreement also commits to Canada introducing federal legislation to support the MNA’s self-government recognition (MNA Self-Government Agreement, Chapter 4).
While 25 self-government agreements or modern treaties have been implemented across Canada involving 43 Indigenous communities, none are currently finalized in Alberta (see map). This ratification vote is an essential step towards becoming the first to be implemented in the province.
The MNA’s constitution will open doors with both Canada and Alberta, including: a new fiscal relationship with Canada to finally provide Métis-designed supports to our citizens in health, housing, language, education, training, economic development, and justice; and improving the services MNA provides to Métis in Alberta including mental health, supporting those with disabilities, delivering culturally appropriate child and family services, and caring for our elders when they can no longer take care of themselves.
“The MNA Constitution is so incredibly important, something that many of our elders and leaders have been working towards for generations,” stated Cassidy Caron, President of the Metis National Council. “I want to recognize the hard work and dedication of President Poitras, the MNA Provincial leadership, community leaders, youth, elders, and all Métis citizens who have contributed to the conversations that have shaped the development of this Constitution. You are all leaders in building a bright, prosperous, and strong future for the Métis Nation. Today, and every day, I am so proud to be Métis.”
Based on Chapter 30 of the Constitution, the Otipemisiwak Métis Government Constitution will come into force and effect “on the date set for the first general election of the Métis Nation of Alberta Association,” which will be held in September 2023.
Beginning in January 2023, the MNA will also be work with MNA Regions and its Local Councils to prepare for self-government under the new Constitution. In addition, the MNA has established a new Self-Government Department as well as MNA Self-Government Transition Committee comprised of citizens appointed by the MNA Regions.
Currently, the MNA has over 56,000 registered citizens, residing in every part of Alberta. The MNA maintains the only objectively verifiable registry that identifies Métis citizens and rights-holders living in Alberta. The 2021 Census reported the MNA has the largest membership of any federally-recognized Métis government in Canada.