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Métis leaders want introduction, passage of self-government legislation by summer

OTTAWA — Métis leaders urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government on Thursday to speed up its plans to introduce and pass self-government legislation before Parliament breaks for summer.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Metis National Council President Cassidy Caron, middle, co-chair a Metis National Council meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, June 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Métis leaders urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government on Thursday to speed up its plans to introduce and pass self-government legislation before Parliament breaks for summer.

The leaders met in Ottawa as part of a summit between the Métis National Council and several government ministers. 

The council is comprised of Métis communities from Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario. 

At the start of the meeting, council president Cassidy Caron said the leadership has been working to sign self-governance agreements with Ottawa and "eagerly look forward to the introduction and passage of Métis self-government implementation legislation in Parliament this session."

Speaking afterwards, Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras said "there's nothing more important to the Métis Nation than the swift introduction and passage" of this legislation. 

She said members voted overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying its constitution last fall — a step necessary to becoming recognized as a government for its own communities.

"I have been the president of the Métis Nation of Alberta for almost 27 years. Self-government has been the dream of our people throughout my presidency and going back more than 90 years since our founding," Poitras said.

There is less than a month to go before the House of Commons is set to rise for summer, and the minority Liberal government already has nine priority bills it wants passed. 

Trudeau's government has long said that working toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples — including advancing the Métis Nation's goals of self-governance — is a priority.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Thursday that the plan is to table the long-awaited legislation only days before the end of the spring sitting, meaning the timeline for debate before the summer break would be tight.

Miller said he heard loud and clear from Métis leaders they hope the legislation comes sooner and said he takes responsibility for the delay to date.

"It's not done yet, so that's on me," he said Thursday. "We committed to getting that done and it's not done yet."

"People around the room know it, they've heard it from the prime minister's own mouth that this is a priority."

Miller suggested that the legislation could be passed by unanimous consent, meaning opposition members agree to fast-track it through both the House and Senate instead of spending time on debate.

Caron said council presidents have been meeting with hundreds of parliamentarians trying to ensure the bill is expedited once it hits the Commons floor. 

"The conversations that have been had with the NDP, with the Bloc (Québécois), with the Conservatives, with the Green Party even, have been really supportive," she said.  

Trudeau, who gave opening remarks while media were present at the start of the closed-door meeting, said his government understands that it cannot make decisions about the Métis without the Métis at the table. 

He said he understands there are many issues left to deal with, such as emergency preparedness. Trudeau told leaders that their communities are on the front-lines of the impacts of climate change, including disasters like wildfires.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023. 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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