Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett made a trip to local Métis settlements to engage in dialogue that has been ongoing for over a year.
On Wednesday, July 4, Bennett visited the Fishing Lake Métis Settlement for the first time, where she discussed with Métis Band Councils the Memorandum of Understanding they had signed in December 2017.
The intention is to advance the discussions around Canada’s recognition of the Métis People’s Section 35 Rights found in the Constitution of Canada.
But it wasn’t only about discussing framework, it was also a chance for the settlement to share their thoughts and voice any issues including finding sustainable long-term funding for the settlements in order to deliver essential services, and protecting settlement lands.
“Make no mistake, the members of the government of Fishing Lake Métis Settlement have immense pride in their community. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that we have very real challenges,” said Herb Les, chairperson for the Fishing Lake Métis Settlement. “We have a disproportionate number of our member dealing with addictions, mental health challenges, the long-term effects of residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.”
He continued, “We have failing infrastructure and very limited resources to address those needs. It’s imperative that we come to an agreement with Canada to move forward as partners.”
The draft framework agreement between the federal government and Métis settlements is currently being reviewed and includes the Elizabeth Métis, Fishing Lake, Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Gift Lake, Kikino, Paddle Prairie, and Peavine Métis Settlements, which are throughout northern Alberta.
“It’s one thing to read reports and hear presentations in the boardroom attached to your office in Ottawa, and an entirely another to get out into a community and see with your own eyes the things you’ve been told. This visit presents us with an important opportunity to really demonstrate to the minister what the conditions in the settlement are like and how our people live,” expressed Gerald Cunningham, president of the Métis Settlements General Council.