By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The UCP government is bankrolling two Métis groups’ lawsuit against the federal Liberals’ oil tanker ban off the northern coast of B.C., but the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) says these groups aren’t legitimate representatives of Métis people.
The Willow Lake and Fort McKay Métis nations are set to receive more than $372,000 from the province’s Indigenous Litigation Fund to challenge the tanker ban, also known as Bill C-48, which was implemented in June 2019 and is scheduled for review every five years.
“[The feds] have shut a door directly in our face that we will use to help our community and other communities prosper,” Ron Quintal, president of Fort McKay Métis Nation, told CTV News.
“Reconciliation is about opportunity. It is about highlighting other opportunities for Indigenous people to follow.”
Justin Borque, vice president and CEO of Willow Lake Métis Nation, told Postmedia that the tanker ban obstructs Alberta oil’s access to the international market, “which in turn negatively impacts our economy, our prosperity and our ability to provide, protect and progress our people.”
In a news release announcing the provincial funding, Premier Jason Kenney said his government is “committed to economic reconciliation” and combating “discriminatory federal legislation.”
MNA president Audrey Poitras told CTV the lawsuit represents a “clear misuse of public money” that is being routed towards “outside organizations claiming to represent Métis interests.”
“These organizations do not speak for the Métis Nation, the Métis people or Métis communities in Alberta,” said Poitras.
Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson admitted to CTV that the government hadn’t consulted the MNA, which has 51,000 members, but said Fort McKay and Willow Creek had come to the government independently.
“We support all Métis people of Alberta,” said Wilson. “There’s not just one group that represents all the Métis people.”
Fort McKay and Willow Lake are two of six northern Alberta Métis Nations who broke away from the MNA last year to form the Alberta Métis Federation.
This is the second grant distributed from the Indigenous Litigation Fund. The first went to the Woodland Cree First Nation’s challenge of the federal government’s overhaul of the environmental impact assessment process for new fossil fuel infrastructure.