The Northwest Territory Métis Nation has signed an agreement with the federal and NWT governments setting out a roadmap for negotiations toward self-government and a settled land claim.
Garry Bailey, the Métis Nation’s president, said the group was “pleased to be entering into self-government negotiations.” In a joint news release, he called talks regarding self-government “the missing component of our land claim negotiations.”
“The negotiation process will enable the NWT Métis Nation to advance the self-determining rights and governance interests of our Indigenous Métis members and three Métis Councils,” said Bailey.
“Building upon our successes to date, we now have the capacity to plan for our governance future.”
Wednesday’s deal, known as a framework agreement, does not provide specific timelines but does set out how the parties will work toward a more detailed agreement-in-principle on self-government.
The federal government said the framework agreement “outlines the process for self-government negotiations, including governance of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation entities, legal status and capacity of Métis governments, administration of lands, Métis government finances, law-making authority, implementation plans, and elections for Métis government.”
Groups affected by the framework agreement include the Fort Resolution Métis Government, Hay River Métis Government Council, and Fort Smith Métis Council.
Arthur Beck, acting president of the Fort Resolution Métis Government, said in a statement that self-government was “critically important for our members … to effectively manage Métis land and finances, and to continue delivering programs and services to our Indigenous Métis members.”
Trevor Beck, president of the Hay River Métis Government Council, said the framework agreement came after “many years of perseverance and struggle.” Allan Heron, president of the Fort Smith Métis Council, said the deal was “symbolically a significant step in Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories’ recognition of our Métis Nation status as an Indigenous government.”
Federal Crowd-Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett said: “By signing this framework agreement today, our government is taking a fundamental step to advance reconciliation and transform our relationships with the Northwest Territory Métis Nation.”
NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane said the agreement was an “important milestone” in recognizing and reaffirming the Nation’s treaty rights.
The Métis of the Northwest Territories have been involved in negotiations with Ottawa for decades, initially forming part of a Dene-Métis agreement that was never ratified. Canada later agreed to a regional approach that saw the NWT Métis Nation represent the Métis of the South Slave.
A separate 184-page agreement-in-principle, signed in 2015, deals with land and resource use and ownership by South Slave Métis. Work is under way toward a final agreement on land and resources.