MNA’s Right to Consult on Behalf of its Citizens Upheld
November 29, 2019 (Edmonton, AB) — The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has dismissed a lawsuit, in its entirety, filed by an organization called the Fort McKay Métis Community Association (“FMMCA”) against the Métis Nation of Alberta (“MNA”).
In the lawsuit, the FMMCA asked the Court to declare that only it represents the Métis in Fort McKay and that governments and industry should only consult with it on resource development projects in the Fort McKay area, not the MNA.
The FMMCA is an entity incorporated under the laws of Alberta that is controlled by a few individuals who used to be MNA citizens and previously led MNA Local #63 Fort McKay (“MNA Local #63”). There is no clarity on the FMMCA’s membership, and some do not even live in Fort McKay. In addition, the FMMCA is currently led by an individual who unsuccessfully ran for Provincial President in the MNA’s democratic province-wide elections held in 2018.
The MNA is currently involved in other litigation against the FMMCA to ensure MNA Local #63 is protected as a part of the Métis Nation and the voices of MNA citizens living in Fort McKay are not silenced. The MNA is very concerned that assets and lands negotiated in the name of MNA Local #63 were transferred to the FMMCA without authority.
In opposing the FMMCA lawsuit, the MNA argued it was a hopeless claim and could not succeed. Justice Gates of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench agreed with the MNA on all points and dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety. He held that “the issues [raised by the MNA] are not mere weaknesses in the Local Associations’ case. They are obstacles, which are plainly and obviously insurmountable.”
“We are very pleased with the decision of the court,” MNA President Audrey Poitras said. “It affirms that the MNA continues to represent our citizens in relation to consultation with the Crown and industry in the Fort McKay area. We will continue to fight to make sure the voices of MNA citizens and communities across the province are heard through democratic governance structures, not ones controlled by a few individuals with no accountability to the Métis Nation.”
Poitras added, “It should also now be clear that these self-styled “Métis” community associations cannot take away the rights and interests of MNA citizens or rights-bearing Métis communities throughout the province. The MNA is the government of the Métis Nation within Alberta grounded on an objectively verifiable registry of Métis Nation citizens and democratic elections. We will protect our lands, rights, and assets negotiated in the name of the Métis Nation from those acting in their own self-interest.”
In June 2019, the MNA signed a Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement (“MGRSA”) with Canada that recognizes “the MNA is mandated to represent the Métis Nation within Alberta,” that the “Métis Nation within Alberta has an inherent right to self-government” and that “the MNA has been mandated by the Métis Nation within Alberta to implement its inherent right to self-government that is protected by sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”
“It is disappointing that self-styled “Métis” community associations are attempting to confuse who actually democratically represent the Métis people and the Métis Nation within Alberta. Based on this decision, we will now work to make sure the current provincial government and industry no longer allow benefits that should go to Métis citizens and communities to go to these unaccountable groups,” added Dan Cardinal, MNA Vice-President.
“The MNA has the only objective and credible provincial registry to identify Métis Nation citizens in Alberta. All MNA citizens have a right to run in our elections. All MNA citizens have the right to vote in our elections. The democratic will of the Métis Nation must be respected. Unsuccessful candidates in democratic elections cannot be allowed to take our collectively held rights as Métis through unaccountable ‘community associations’,” added Cardinal.
A copy of a summary on this case was prepared by Nuri Frame, Katie Brack and Jason Madden of the law firm Pape Salter Teillet LLP and is available here.