The Métis Constitution Has Passed: Now What?
On December 1st, 2022, history was made. The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) successfully ratified their Constitution, with 96.9% of participating citizens voting ‘Yes.’ A staggering 15,729 votes were cast, making this the largest ratification vote in Canadian history for an Indigenous nation. Last Monday, I introduced the Otipemisiwak Constitution of the Métis Nation and what the ratification could mean for the Métis Nation. Today, we will take a deeper look into the implications of ratification.
Photo Credit: Métis Nation of Alberta, “Screenshot from Facebook Live Ratification Vote Announcement” (01 December 2022), posted on Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/ABMetis/videos/699755738240085>.
As a Métis woman who follows Métis politics, I’ve had a few people ask me, “Okay, but does this actually change anything?” and “Does this mean that they’re independent now? How does that work?” I find these questions a little difficult to answer. I mean, it makes sense in my head, but I find it difficult to put into words. I also have a hard time putting into words how I felt when I watched the ratification results announcement. I wasn’t expecting to get choked up, but I found myself reflecting on the decades of hard work undertaken by Métis leaders and elders. Métis people have been fighting for decades to exercise our inherent right to govern ourselves.
The ratification of this Constitution is a preliminary and very important step toward self-determination. But, it is just that: a step. The ratification does not automatically mean that the Métis Nation of Alberta has the ability to control all of their affairs without the interference of the Canadian and provincial governments. The Constitution is important because it lays the groundwork for self-determination by putting into words the values of the Métis Nation. These values can not only guide the next steps of the Métis Nation in creating laws and policies but can also guide the ways in which the Métis Nation interacts with different levels of government.
Now that the Constitution has been ratified, it is in the federal government’s hands to introduce enabling legislation to implement the Métis Nation’s previously signed Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement. Once this occurs, the Métis Nation of Alberta will be recognized as a government body “with the power to make laws regarding citizenship, leadership, and governmental operations.” The opportunity will then exist for the MNA to negotiate further to gain power and independence in relation to other affairs like education, environment, and social welfare, among other things.
President of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Audrey Poitras stated, “It has been the missing piece in our self-government journey, but it is missing no longer.” She went on to say that the Constitution will “open doors with both Canada and Alberta and help to move Métis people in Alberta toward reconciliation” I agree that this is so important in the journey of reconciliation. But on the other hand, I feel conflicted. Indigenous groups shouldn’t have to jump through all of these hoops and participate in colonial-based processes just to gain recognition and ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of the Canadian state. Indigenous people existed on these lands long before European contact and had their own laws, traditions, and customs. It is nice to see Indigenous nations taking these steps to create their own constitutions and self-government agreements, but it frustrates me that these mechanisms are needed to exercise inherent rights.
This is my last post for the year, but there are two more posts coming tomorrow and Wednesday, so stay tuned! Thank you so much for coming on this journey with the Reconcili-ACTION YEG Blog so far. I have learned a lot from my research and my amazing team. Over these last few months, I have enjoyed reflecting on what reconciliation looks like and feels like to me personally and casting a critical eye on current events and issues. I have also enjoyed sharing our posts with my family and friends, and expanding the reconciliation conversation beyond the walls of this law school. Thank you for taking the time to learn with us.
Until next time,
Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG
 “MNA Constitution” (accessed 03 December 2022), online: Métis Nation of Alberta <www.mnaconstitution.com/>.  Ibid.  “Benefits of a Constitution” (10 November 2022), online (pdf): Métis Nation of Alberta Constitution Commission <assets.nationbuilder.com/mna/pages/52/attachments/original/1669066037/1_MNA_Fact_Sheets_Benefits_of_a_Constitution.pdf?1669066037>.  “Self-Government in Canada” (10 November 2022), online (pdf): Métis Nation of Alberta <assets.nationbuilder.com/mna/pages/52/attachments/original/1669066043/3_MNA_Fact_Sheets_Self-Government_in_Canada.pdf?1669066043>.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Katarina Szulc, “Métis Nation of Alberta members votes 97% in favour of adopting constitution” (02 December 2022), online: CBC News <www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/m%C3%A9tis-nation-of-alberta-ratifies-constitution-1.6671866>.  Ibid.