June 25th, 2024

‘No meaningful consultation’: Local Métis president speaks out about constitution

By Troy Bannerman - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 11, 2023.

Herald file photo Adam Browning, president of the Lethbridge and Area Métis Community, gives a welcome during a flag raising for Métis Week in November at city hall

Last month, President Audrey Poitras of the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) celebrated the results of their “Vote Yes” campaign for their new constitution.

In the new constitution there are a lot of promises made for better funding for local communities, more programs for community involvement, more consulting opportunities for local leaders and community members will have a say in political and industrial input.

But what does this new constitution actually mean for Lethbridge and southern Alberta?

“I would say that our local council, and most Métis people are generally in favour of self government,” said Adam Browning, president of the Lethbridge and Area Métis local. “But the process itself through which this constitution was developed was a deficient process. In terms of our community, we’ve been unequivocal that there was no meaningful consultation with our community. This constitution seeks to speak on behalf of communities that the MNA does not even represent. But even from the communities that they do represent the process has been entirely deficient.”

The new constitution addresses some issues but in other areas problems arise, according to Browning.

“That’s where my biggest challenge is; if this constitution purports to solve some problems, like access to programs, equitable funding to communities, it is entirely unclear. On October 6, with many of my community members present and our elected council, I asked our president, Poitras, these questions directly. I said, ‘How specifically will this constitution ensure that there is more equitable funding, more access to programs, more access to the community in terms of funding?’ And I did not get a clear answer. She defaulted to a minimal amount of funding that they get from the federal government. And they have made these broad claims that this is going to be a solution, or an encompassing solution to ensure that communities actually have more equitable funding. But there has never been a clear path as to how that would happen through this constitution.”

At the meeting in October 2022, a map was revealed that outlined the new political boundaries that would be used once the constitution was ratified.

“I feel like there was really some gerrymandering. And I feel like the whole entire process was quite insulting. We had three generations of leaders, in the three southern locals (Pincher Creek, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat) that were present. And this was an after the fact; it was not a consultation. Everything had been set. We never actually had a consultation. But after they had set for this to be voted on they tried to make a sell in these three southern communities in Lethbridge in early October on points in the constitution. This became a real touch point for just how problematic the constitution is when we were talking about the districts. Despite the fact that members of the constitution committee claimed that they had consulted and had put thought into the boundaries, there was no clear individual in these three communities who could say that they were actually consulted in a meaningful way, or even understood the rationale of the boundaries. And when it was challenged to the constitution committee and the president, Poitras, on how exactly these boundaries were developed and that it was very much gerrymandering, the response was that it could potentially be changed thereafter. And this is just entirely problematic.”

According to Stats Canada’s 2021 census data there are 127,475 Métis in Alberta. The Métis Nation of Alberta has 45,355 people registered. Of that, only 15,729 voted on the new constitution.

“I think in terms of their 96 per cent passing margin, well, that happens in Third World countries too. It happens in dictatorships. And I think that the whole process, and the way that the

vote was conducted, and the way that consultations happened; I’ve heard a lot of skepticism. I’ve heard very few people who are knowledgeable about matters within the MNA who are actually in favour of this. I know many people boycotted it.”

Browning described the reaction to the constitution as something less than a success story.

“Well, it’s off to a rough start. I don’t think that this constitution and the way that it stands is going to be implemented without challenge. I expect that some communities, including the settlements, some MNA communities are looking at possible litigation. And I expect that this will be thoroughly challenged because there was a duty to consult on the constitution. That was never fulfilled. There was limited engagement that was undertaken, much of it was at the height of the pandemic without virtual options limiting membership from participating. There was no transparency regarding what members actually said, and the process doesn’t meet the principles of UNDRIP, The United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I don’t think it meets the threshold that the federal government should be able to accept. So, I’m sure that it is going to be challenged, and it’s going to be a rushed process. And I think that if it is accepted in its current form, given its highly problematic process, I think that communities are going to be looking at ways to restructure themselves, and I’m not going to speak on behalf of my community, I’ll just say that our local council of Métis leaders is considering all possibilities.”

Editor’s Note: Troy Bannerman is a member of the Lethbridge and Area Métis Local.

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