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Ottawa moves forward with historical plans for Métis self-government

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Several years ago, Louis Riel had a dream for Metis to be self-determinant. Today, his descendants are taking more steps to fulfil that dream by signing an agreement with Ottawa that'll allow them to create their own government.

On Saturday, the Federal Minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, will be in Winnipeg to announce plans for the reconciliation with the MMF (Manitoba Metis Federation) and its people.

The Minister said that $154.3 million would be provided to the MMF as funding, and most of it will go to their social programs. The federation says these programs are vital to closing the economic gap between the rest of Canada and Metis.

Also, $40 million from the funding money will be used to help the MMF transition from a particular interest advocacy group to a self-governing Indigenous Nations. However, they are yet to negotiate any details with Ottawa.

The president of the MMF,David Chartrand, said the agreement would finally see the dream of Riel, the Metis leader, come to pass. Louis Riel formed a provisional government in 1869. This government then joined the confederation as Manitoba under the Manitoba Act of 1870. He was hanged for treason in 1885.

“It is changing our place in history back to what it was. For us, it is bringing us back into Confederation,” Mr. Chartrand said on Friday in Ottawa where he filmed a video with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to mark the historic occasion.

“Now that we have the government back at the table, we can start to negotiate the self-government that was promised,” Mr. Chartrand said.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada noticed that the Crown had failed in implementing the land provisions of the Manitoba Act, an act that said 1.4 million acres of land, including Winnipeg, should be awarded to the children of Metis.

The court also ruled in 2016 that under the constitution, the Metis are Indians and so the government needs to recognize and negotiate with them as such. According to the MMF, the Metis are people of mixed indigenous and European race. They can trace their origins all the way back to one of the historic Metis communities in Western Canada. The MMF estimates that approximately 120,000 people can lay claim to that ancestry.

Most of the $100 million that are coming into the MMF will be directed at social programs. Mr. Chartrand acknowledges that it is “down payment” on the amount Canada owes the people of Metis for the land they were denied.

Some will be used to create grants that the young Metis people can put towards their first house. Some will be used to build about a hundred new, single-family homes for senior, with each unit having its own greenhouse. Some of it will be used to cover the university tuition for Metis students. While some will fund small-scale capital investments that the people of Metis can use to start a business of their own.

“We make a lot of our own economic engine right now,” Mr. Chartrand said, "but this will be putting fuel to the fire for us. "


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