The Mackenzie River Metis Collective will be holding its community gathering this coming weekend after efforts have been put forward in recent weeks to create a third geographic group representing NWT Metis people in the river region.
The effort is being led by Richard I. Hardy, president of the Fort Norman Metis Community.
“We are proceeding with a meeting Saturday the 29th and I can tell you people from four communities are saying they will come to the meeting,” he said last week, adding it will take place at 10 a.m. in the Snowshoe Inn in Fort Providence.
The Fort Norman Metis Community took out a full page ad to run la etter to all Metis from the Mackenzie River Communities in the Sept. 3 issue of News North. In the letter, Hardy called on Metis from the traditional Mackenzie River and communities of Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Fort Liard, Fort Wrigley, Fort Norman, Fort Good Hope, Arctic Red River, and Fort McPherson that exist along its tributaries, to contact him to try to establish the collective.
To date, there has been about 100 people mostly from the NWT who have responded. Saturday’s meeting will determine whether any further efforts lobbying for Mackenzie region-Metis will take place.
The effort stems from the Daniels vs. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development) case which went to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. The hearing was historic in Canada because it ruled that Metis and non-status Indigenous people in Canada are entitled to the the same rights as Aboriginal people under the Constitution Act, 1867. Specifically, this means that the federal government and Parliament of Canada have a legal obligation to extend the same rights enjoyed by Aboriginals to Metis people. Hardy says in the Northwest Territories, the implications of the decision mean if a Metis from the Mackenzie area is living abroad, they have the same rights to federal Aboriginal rights as Metis people still living in the traditional communities.
“A lot of the impetus behind (the collective) comes from people who aren’t resident here,” Hardy said. “One of the issues is health care coverage for the uninsured health services. For Metis who live in the NWT, they get that from the GNWT. As soon as you leave the NWT, Metis don’t have coverage elsewhere.”
Other issues include improved post-secondary educational access and economic development assistance that his people don’t receive.
Hardy says if there is enough interest in getting the collective together, it will be the third major Metis group in the NWT, along with the NWT Metis Nation and the North Slave Metis Alliance.
“Our hope is eventually to get the Mackenzie River Metis organized and we can then form an alliance with North Slave and NWT Metis Nation out of Fort Smith,” Hardy said. “Those two are organized and once we get our people organized with the third group, we can maybe work together get a common voice to Ottawa.”
Garry Bailey, president of the NWT Metis Nation said Hardy’s efforts were commendable because Metis people need to fight for their rights after the Daniels case. Bailey’s nation is made up of about 3,000 Metis members based in the South Slave communities of Fort Smith, Hay River and Fort Resolution.The North Slave Metis Alliance, which is located north of Great Slave Lake, is made up of about 500 members.
“I think it is a good idea for them because we have all been fighting the same fight for a long time for programs and services for the Metis,” Bailey said.
“The Daniels case has been out there for a couple of years now and the government is still not implementing anything. To me, it is good because the more Metis come out and fight for these programs and services, then Canada has to look at the NWT as unique.”