The Otipemisiwak Constitution and the Inherent Right to Self-Govern
This week, we are exploring a few facets of the Métis experience in what is now known as Canada. We will explore how Métis people have been affected by the Canadian state in terms of identification, government recognition (or lack thereof), and the impacts of the issuance of scrip. To kick off the week, I will introduce some recent developments for the Métis in Alberta and what it means for reconciliation.
In August 2022, after years of drafting and consultation with Métis citizens, the draft Constitution of the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) was put to a vote. The Métis citizens in attendance voted overwhelmingly in favour of moving forward with a province-wide ratification vote, in which all members of the MNA over the age of sixteen could make their opinion heard. The vote has been open for the month of November and is now in its final days. I am very eager to hear the outcome of the vote, as either outcome will have significant impacts on the future of the Métis in Alberta and even across the country.
Photo Credit: Métis Nation of Alberta <assets.nationbuilder.com/mna/pages/52/attachments/original/1667516379/Otipemisiwak_Metis_Government_Constitution_FINAL_SEPT27_WEB.pdf?1667516379>.
The proposed Métis Constitution, the Otipemisiwak Constitution, is the result of the MNA signing the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement (MGRSA) in 2019. The signing of this self-government agreement was the first step to the MNA gaining recognition as a governmental body by the federal government. The agreement, along with the introduction of this Constitution and the federal government’s enabling legislation, will eventually allow the Métis Nation of Alberta to “make laws regarding citizenship, leadership, and governmental operations.”
Although the Constitution has attracted a lot of excitement concerning what it could mean for the Métis within Alberta, there are also some critics. The main concern that some people have is that the Constitution could negatively impact non-members of the MNA, and that Métis groups who are not affiliated with the MNA could be stripped of their power and authority as Métis organizations. These concerns are certainly valid and are only one facet of a very complicated web of Métis politics, self-identification, and Métis-Crown relations. Despite the opposition to the Constitution, the ratification of this document would have immense implications on the inherent right to self-determination held by the Métis.
There has been a recent resurgence of Indigenous nations creating their own constitutions. Constitutions can exist in a wide variety of contexts and can be defined as “the basic principles or laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the power and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it.” Creating a constitution is integral to dictating a particular group's foundational rules and values. By creating these constitutions, Indigenous nations are exercising their inherent right to govern themselves. Although there are additional barriers in place, such as the Crown’s seemingly unwavering attempts to quash and infringe these rights, many Indigenous nations continue to push forward toward ultimate self-determination.
Until next time,
Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG
 “Our Constitution” (accessed 27 November 2022), online: Métis Nation of Alberta <https://albertametis.com/our-constitution/>.  “Self-Government in Canada” (accessed 27 November 2022), online: Métis Nation of Alberta <https://albertametis.com/self-government-in-canada/>.  Ibid.  Stephanie Babych, “Group of Métis leaders worry about impact of proposed constitution on non-members” (14 November 2022), online: Calgary Herald <https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/group-of-metis-leaders-worry-about-impact-of-proposed-constitution-on-non-members>.  Ibid.  “Constitution” (accessed 24 November 2022), online: Merriam-Webster Dictionary < https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/constitution>.