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Representative Authority in Métis Consultation

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

This week on the ReconciliACTION blog, we are going to discuss the duty to consult and how it relates to Indigenous people in Canada. Put simply, the duty to consult is a term used to describe the requirement and responsibility placed on the Crown (i.e., the provincial and federal governments) to consult with Indigenous nations in situations where the Crown is contemplating conduct that may have adverse impacts on the rights of that Indigenous group.[1] Today, I am specifically going to look at the duty to consult and how it relates to the Métis in Alberta.

With the recent signing of the updated self-government agreement between the Métis Nation of Alberta and Canada, I, like many, am anxious to see what kind of changes will take place to the status quo. In particular, I wonder how the duty to consult with the Métis will change due to the recognition by the federal government that the Métis Nation of Alberta is “an Indigenous Government.”[2]

Photo: MNA TMX Consultation Project (2019). Courtesy of Sarah Turcotte.

Currently, the duty to consult the off-settlement Métis in Alberta is, to say the least, messy and inadequate. One of the major issues that arises is the fact that multiple Métis groups may claim to represent the interests of the Métis population in a particular area, due to the lack of a recognized land base. In other words, there are disagreements between Métis groups as to who has the representative authority to take part in the consultation process.

Although the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), which boasts over 57,700 citizens, claims to be “the voice for Métis Albertans,”[3] not all Métis Albertans agree that the MNA should be authorized to represent their interests, including in terms of consultation. In fact, there has been litigation between the MNA and other Métis groups on the subject.

In Fort McKay Métis Community Association v Métis Nation of Alberta Association, the Fort McKay Métis group argued that they should be the only group consulted on a particular project, while the MNA contended that they should be the consulted group. Ultimately, the court decided in favour of the MNA, as the Fort McKay group was seeking entitlement to consultation at large, rather than tying the entitlement to a specific Aboriginal right, as required in duty to consult cases.[4]

The Fort McKay case is not the only litigation that has arisen as groups disagree about representative authority as it relates to consultation. Rather than being a unifying factor for Métis groups, the current consultation policies are driving a wedge between communities.

Representative authority has implications outside of the tumultuous divide it creates between Métis groups. The government of Alberta has actually used this lack of consensus between groups as a tool for further Aboriginal rights violations and to skirt consultation responsibilities. In Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation of Alberta Local 125 v Alberta, the province of Alberta argued that if multiple Métis groups or organizations purported to represent the Métis community in a particular affected area, it would “amount to a waste of resources for the Alberta Crown to potentially have to consult with several separate organizations who state that they represent smaller or larger subsets of the same group in respect of the same interests and the same project.”[5] Unfortunately, the court agreed with this submission, essentially agreeing with the province that, if there are multiple groups vying for consultation, then they shouldn’t have to consult with anyone.

Photo: MNA TMX Consultation Project (2019). Courtesy of Sarah Turcotte.

This blog post has only scratched the surface of the duty to consult and how it relates to the Métis in Alberta. The added burden of Métis groups to prove that they have been authorized to represent the affected communities creates tension between the Métis groups themselves and may provide an ‘out’ for the province to fulfill its consultation obligations. Now that the MNA has been recognized as “an Indigenous government,”[6] one could expect that the consultation policies may change, and that the MNA will be given even more recognition in terms of its ability to represent the Métis within Alberta. But only time will tell.

Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG

[1] Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2004 SCC 73 at para 35. [2] Métis Nation within Alberta Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement between Métis Nation of Alberta as represented by its President and His Majesty the King in Right of Canada as represented by the Minister of Indigenous-Crown Relations, 24 February 2023, page 16, online (pdf): Métis Nation of Alberta <>. [3] “Governance”, online: Métis Nation of Alberta <>. [4] Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation of Alberta Local #125 v Alberta, 2016 ABQB 713 at 6. [5] Ibid at 408. [6] Supra note 2.

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