One hundred and fifty years after Canada became a country, some of its first peoples are finally starting to feel like they belong.
The Canada-Métis Nation Accord outlines how the Government of Canada and the Métis National Council will work together to set priorities and policy in areas of shared interest, such as health, education, and traditional and inherent rights.
“It’s historical, because of what it does,” explains Debra Fisher, president of the Columbia Valley Métis Association. “It’s just a piece of paper that’s been signed. But, we are now officially in negotiations.”
Fisher has seen a complete shift in her lifetime in being Métis.
“Being Métis wasn’t something to be proud of,” Fisher reflects of her childhood. “It wasn’t a thing to be proud of as a kid.”
For the past 38 years, Fisher has worked to see Métis culture and tradition kept alive in the Columbia Valley. She is now seeing momentum, with more people searching their roots for their Métis ancestry, school children learning about some of Canada’s earliest residents, and progress in the association. Recently, the Columbia Valley Métis Association received a $4,000 grant from the BC Métis Nation to help ‘build capacity’. That means they can put on events such as one recently in Canal Flats where they gathered to eat bannock dogs, socialize and learn about a local tannery where they will be gathering supplies for an upcoming moccasin-making workshop.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Clement Charier, president of the Métis National Council, signed the accord during the first Métis Nation-Crown Summit in Ottawa last month. It signifies a renewed government-to-government relationship, according to a press release put out by the prime minister’s office.
“Last December, I made the promise that federal ministers and Métis Nation leaders would work together to solve important challenges,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated of the signing. “While there is still much that needs to be done if we are to address the unique social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues faced by the Métis, we now have a solid foundation upon which to move forward with a respectful, renewed Métis Nation-Crown relationship, for the benefit of all Canadians.”
Charier stated it was a great encouragement to the Métis nation to enter in the process of engagement.
“It offers the opportunity to advance the interests and rights of the citizens of the Métis Nation.”