Canada author of latest Kapyong saga twist

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In the lead-up to the 2019 federal election, Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand told anyone who would listen he was “Team Trudeau.”

While the MMF is officially apolitical, Chartrand told the Free Press in September the Liberals are “a party that supports our people” — even musing he may “campaign” and encourage Métis to vote for them.

During the SNC-Lavalin affair, Chartrand defended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and condemned then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, calling her “hypocritical,” unfit to do her job, and even accused her of being anti-Métis in her decisions.

After news of Trudeau’s brownface/blackface scandal, Chartrand accepted the Liberal leader’s apology publicly, and said: “I definitely believe in my heart that he was not trying to hurt somebody intentionally. He was just being overzealous in his attempt to portray an image.”

MMF supporting the federal Liberals is nothing new (the federation endorsed Paul Martin in 2004) and Chartrand is not the only Métis to support Trudeau openly. Métis National Council president Clément Chartier, for example, has also been a big Trudeau ally.

All of this “Team Trudeau” has led to a lot of political inroads for the MMF and MNC. Alongside obtaining apologies for Métis war veterans, in 2017, the federal government signed a Canada-Métis Nation Accord, leading Chartier to state: “We have achieved more with this federal government than with any of its predecessors.”

So, if the relationship is so close, why is the MMF threatening to sue the federal government over the 2019 agreement between Canada and seven First Nations to share the old Kapyong barracks land in Winnipeg?

Métis try to quash Kapyong transfer to First Nations

Posted: 24/10/2019 7:00 PM

OTTAWA — The Kapyong Barracks years-long legal saga could again be back in the courts, with the Manitoba Métis Federation asking a federal judge to quash Ottawa’s deal this summer to transfer land to First Nations.

“The Métis were just completely ignored,” MMF President David Chartrand told the Free Press on Thursday.

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On Thursday, the Free Press broke the story that the MMF filed a request in court to toss out the Kapyong agreement and “all related ancillary decisions and agreements should be quashed or set aside.” The MMF is arguing the Trudeau government ignored its 2015 request to be a part of the Kapyong consultations.

If it feels a little weird Chartrand and Trudeau didn’t previously broach the topic, you’re not alone.

“Everyone knows Kapyong has been a long, drawn-out process. And just to have this come in so late is a little disconcerting,” Long Plain Chief (and spokesman for Treaty 1 First Nations) Dennis Meeches said.

The court appeal reeks of political coziness and opportunism; Chartrand definitely knows how to play politics to benefit the MMF.

It’s also a reminder Métis are owed land and deserve settlement. Since 1870, and the Manitoba Act, Métis in Manitoba are owed more than 1.4 million acres of land and millions of dollars in compensation for lost opportunities.

The theft and denial of Métis lands is arguably the largest black mark on Manitoba history.

Even larger than First Nations claims.

In 1997, the Manitoba Framework Agreement on Treaty Land Entitlement was signed between Canada and 21 First Nations over the failure to provide land as promised in treaties. As a result, Canada and Manitoba committed to provide more than 1.2 million acres of unoccupied Crown land to First Nations and provide $190 million for First Nations to “purchase” land from private owners.

In other words, these First Nations have a right of “first refusal” when any “surplus” Crown land becomes available.

This is the agreement which allowed the seven Treaty 1 First Nations to claim Kapyong when it became available in 2004. After 15 years of legal fighting and millions of taxpayer dollars (mostly against prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives), Canada agreed to hand over two-thirds (45 acres) of the valuable property to First Nations for development. (For those keeping score, that means Canada kept one-third.)

The MMF has been working on land claims for decades, and finally broke through with the Trudeau Liberals, leading to a 2016 “memorandum of understanding on advancing reconciliation” — which specifically legitimates Métis claims for land in Manitoba.

The MMF-Kapyong lawsuit makes sense.

The problem, of course, is Treaty 1 First Nations are left to pay the bill for injustice.

For 15 years, First Nations have fought to have their land claims for Kapyong recognized by Canada. Finally, when they get it and successfully negotiate, they are forced to deal with the other claims Canada has ignored.

It’s not their fault; it’s not the fault of the Métis either.

It’s the fault of Canada’s theft of Indigenous lands — and the refusal of governments to do much about it.

Niigaan Sinclair
Niigaan Sinclair

Niigaan Sinclair
Columnist

Originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on October 26, 2019. Republished with the permission of the author