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Métis and the 2015 Federal Elections

Nov 6, 2015

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By James Oloo

On October 19, 2015, Canadians went to poll to elect federal Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister. Before the night was over, Mr. Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, was declared the Prime Minister-designate after his party won 184 of the 338 seats in Canada’s House of Commons. What does Mr. Trudeau’s win mean for the Métis?

The Liberal Party released its reconciliation plan for the Métis Nation in a September 29, 2015 announcement. In it, Mr. Trudeau stated that if elected, he will work on a “Nation-to-Nation basis” with the Métis Nation to reach meaningful reconciliation and achieve positive results for Métis children, youth, families, and communities.

Specifically, the Liberal Party Leader asserted that, “There is an urgent need to take real action to advance reconciliation with the Métis Nation, and to renew the relationship based on cooperation, respect for rights … and a commitment to end the status quo.” He continued, “After a decade of … failure, Liberals will work diligently toward meaningful reconciliation with the Métis Nation.”

Mr. Trudeau further stated that, if elected, his government will work with Métis groups to establish a federal claims process that recognizes Métis self-government and resolves outstanding claims. And, quite remarkably, Mr. Trudeau promised to “convert current year-to-year funding, made available to provincial Métis communities for Métis identification and registration, to a permanent initiative.”

In highlighting the socioeconomic challenges faced by the Métis across Canada, the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, said that “Improving Métis quality of life requires distinct and innovative approaches and real partnership with the Métis Nation as well as with the provinces and territories.” Mr. Trudeau also made commitments that have important implications to the work of Gabriel Dumont Institute. He stated that his government will:

  1. Undertake a review, in partnership with Métis communities, of existing federal programs and services available to the Métis, to identify gaps and areas where strategic investments are needed in order to improve Métis quality of life; 2) Renew the Aboriginal Strategic Employment and Training Strategy (ASETS) and also expand its funding by $50 million per year (GDI Training and Employment is one of the 84 ASETS agreement holders across Canada); 3) Work with the Métis to develop a Métis Economic Development Strategy – and provide $25 million to implement this new strategy (Remember, in March 2015, GDI Executive Director Geordy McCaffrey presented a paper at the ‘Toward a Métis Economic Development Strategy’ conference in Winnipeg. The conference proceedings and report are available at http://www.metisnation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/MEDS-III-Report-2-Policy-Framework-1.pdf); and 4) Fulfill the commitment in the Kelowna Accord to enhance existing scholarships and bursaries available to Métis students (Since 2010, GDI has awarded over $1,120,000 in scholarships and bursaries to Saskatchewan’s Métis students).
  2. The Liberal Party’s ‘Real Change: Advancing and achieving reconciliation for the Métis Nation’ is available online at https://www.liberal.ca/liberals-announce-reconciliation-plan-for-the-metis-nation/

Irrespective of an individual’s political affiliation, these commitments to enhance the well-being of the Métis make sense, for the status quo is just not viable anymore. When Mr. Trudeau made the statements above, he was on the campaign trail. But now, he has been elected the Prime Minister. Many will be watching with great interest how he constitutes two key Departments: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada. No matter who the new ministers will be, many in the Métis community will keep going back to Mr. Trudeau’s promises to advance and achieve reconciliation for the Métis; and if necessary, they will remind the new Prime Minister of his promises even as they congratulate and wish him well.

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

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