Metis raise flag to celebrate history with Alberta

Richard Froese
Spotlight

For the first time in its 80-year history with the Government of Alberta, the Metis Settlements General Council raised its flag Nov. 1 at the Alberta Legislature.
This historic ceremony commemorates the 27th anniversary of the proclamation of legislation negotiated as part of the Metis Settlements/Alberta Accord (1989).
“We appreciate the long history between our settlements and Alberta, and we’ve come a long way in 80 years, but the work of community building never ends,” MSGC president Gerald Cunningham, of East Prairie, says in a news release.
“We are also beginning the process of reconciliation with the Government of Canada given recent Supreme Court decisions and we truly hope that all three parties – the Metis Settlements, Alberta, and Canada – can formalize a framework to cooperate as we move forward.”
A special week has been set to honour the Metis.
“I invite all Albertans to participate in celebrations during Metis Week, Nov. 13-18,” Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan says in a news release.
The accord established the eight Metis Settlements and the governance structure that exists today.
That includes area communities of East Prairie, Peavine and Gift Lake.
“Metis people helped to settle the West and played an important role in the evolution of Alberta,” Cunningham says.
“We were here before Alberta was even a province and many Albertans are not aware that the only legislatively protected, land-based Metis communities in Canada are right here in their province.
“We hope days like today help bring that awareness.”
On Nov. 1, 1990, a legislative package was proclaimed and included the Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act, Metis Settlements Land Protection Act, Metis Settlements Act, and Metis Settlements Accord Implementation Act.
Alberta also transferred the title of 1.25 million acres of land to the Metis Settlements, making Alberta the only province in Canada with a recognized Metis land base entrenched in provincial statute, ensuring that Metis people in Alberta will always have a land base to call home.
The provincial minister further recognizes the 27th anniversary of the passing of legislation resulting in land and self- governance for those living on Metis Settlements.
“Alberta is committed to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Feehan says.
“This means we are also committed to making life better for Metis people, by ensuring they are recognized, their voices are heard, and they have the tools they need to succeed.”
Alberta has a strong connection with the Metis people, and the province continues to be made richer through their influence, contributions, traditions and heritage, he says.
“We are working with the Metis Settlements General Council on initiatives such as the Indigenous climate leadership programs, which help settlements create jobs, lower energy costs, and transition to a greener economy,” Feehan says.
“We are also working with the council to implement Alberta’s first-ever Metis Settlements Consultation Policy.
“As we continue to work together toward reconciliation, commemoration of important milestones such as the proclamation of the Metis Settlements Act enables Albertans to learn more about our province’s past and how we can build even stronger relationships with the Metis people.”
Metis Settlements and their members have a long history in the province of Alberta, going back before the province was established in 1905.
It was an act of the Legislature in 1938, the Metis Betterment Act that established what were then referred to as the Metis colonies.
Those communities evolved and grew as beacons of the Metis way of life.
They suffered their share of setbacks and difficulties, there were challenges with the relationship between the Metis Settlements and Alberta.
But in 1990, after a long hard negotiation, both partners agreed to ratify the 1990 Metis Settlements/Alberta Accord and implement the four pieces of legislation, including the Metis Settlements Act and the Metis Settlements Land Protection Act that created the framework under which the Settlements operate today. Ultimately the goal of the accord and the legislation was to enhance local autonomy and respect the Metis Settlements’ right to self-determination.

The Metis Settlements General Council flag is raised during a ceremony Nov. 1. in Edmonton. Left-right, are Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan, Metis Settlements General Council president Gerald Cunningham, of East Prairie, Dunvegan – Central Peace – Notley MLA and Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Spruce Grove – St. Albert MLA Trevor Horne and Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Jon Carson.

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