Metis Settlements are unique to Alberta. They are the only Métis land base in Canada, and likely in all of North America.
Since becoming Minister of Indigenous Relations, I have visited most of the 8 Metis Settlements. I have been impressed by their strong sense of identity, community and their pride in their history and culture.
Settlements members told me about issues that matter to them, like self-sufficient community finances and strong government. They are looking for greater autonomy in a way that the current legislation doesn’t allow.
These conversations stayed with me. It is time to change the Metis Settlements Act, to open the door to self-determining Metis Settlements.
The settlements governance structure and financial authority come from the Government of Alberta through the Metis Settlements Act.
Bill 57 makes greater governance and financial autonomy possible for the settlements – the kind Métis leaders and people have expected for their communities for a long time.
Bill 57 will:
- Increase Metis Settlements council’s responsibility to charge for services such as water, sewage and roads.
- Leave it to councils to determine the number of elected councillors for their community – from a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 5.
- Reduce the size of the Metis Settlements General Council executive from 4 officers to a maximum of 2.
- Remove Alberta’s Indigenous Relations minister from any decision-making powers related to the Metis Settlements General Council’s financial policies.
Two events make this the right time to amend the Act.
One is the end of the Long-Term Governance and Funding Arrangements Agreement or LTA – on March 31, 2023. That’s when Alberta’s government wraps up our $85 million, 10-year commitment to the settlements.
The second is the Metis Settlements Council elections in October. Current councils must decide the number of council members before those elections.
Settlements leaders have told us that they want the flexibility to determine their government structure and have control of their finances.
It is also true that Alberta is in a tough fiscal situation right now and we have to look at spending within our means.
This makes it even more important that settlements have the means to operate more efficiently, like having greater authority over charges for essential services.
Settlements can take advantage of opportunities through the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation and provincial municipal grants programs. These avenues are open to help settlements gain a financially self-sufficient and sustainable future.
Metis Settlements need a chance to exercise more of the self-determination they have long fought for. It is time for Alberta’s government to get out of their way.
Rick Wilson was sworn in as Minister of Indigenous Relations on April 30, 2019.