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The Chiefs of Ontario ask for truths to be shared this holiday season

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TORONTO (December 19, 2023) – The Chiefs of Ontario have released the following statement ahead of the 2023 holiday break:

As we wrap up 2023 and head into the holiday break, the Chiefs of Ontario are sharing their wish list for 2024. Our biggest hope is that 2024 brings long-awaited truths to light regarding unfounded rights assertions and claims to First Nations Ancestral and Treaty territories.

The Chiefs of Ontario call on:

The Métis National Council to commit to a truly transparent process surrounding the Expert Panel that has been tasked with examining the claims surrounding the identification of the Métis Nation of Ontario’s (MNO’s) seven new so-called “historic Métis communities” in the Ontario region.

Through this transparent process, our hope is that, based on evidence, research reports, and expert advice, the MNC learns what First Nations have long known – that the MNO is making unfounded claims to land and rights, including the assertion of the existence of the so-called “new historic Métis communities” in Ontario, and section 35 rights, including harvesting rights in First Nations Ancestral and Treaty territories, which fall outside of the Historic Métis Nation Homeland.

The Chiefs of Ontario are not the only ones who have called the MNO’s so-called “new historic communities” into question. These concerns also exist within the Métis Nation. In 2021, the Métis National Council (“MNC”) passed a motion calling for the establishment of “an Expert Panel with a mandate to review the history of the seven Ontario communities through the lens of the National Definition [of Métis that is accepted by the MNC] and contemporary Métis governance.”

In late September 2023, as part of an ongoing court case between the Manitoba Métis Federation (“MMF”) and the MNC, a judge ordered the MNC to take a position on whether the Ontario “new historic Métis communities” identified by the Province of Ontario and the MNO in 2017 do or do not fall within the Historic Métis Nation Homeland.

The judge’s order asked the MNC to take a position within 20 days of the decision’s release, which would have been October 18, 2023. To our knowledge, no public response has been provided. When MNC President Cassidy Caron appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (“INAN”) on November 23, 2023, we were disappointed that none of the committee members questioned her about this court order or whether the MNC believes the MNO’s “new historic communities” are part of the Historic Métis Nation Homeland. While we anticipate her response would have been that the MNC is waiting for the Expert Panel to complete its work before commenting, failing to provide a response to the MMF, the court, and the public is deeply disappointing.

“While we welcome the work of this Expert Panel and respect the MNC’s internal process, we hope that the process will be truly genuine and transparent, that careful attention is paid to the selection of panellists who will bring a wide range of perspectives, including First Nations perspectives, and that this isn’t all just a rubber stamp,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “We hope to see truths told within these reports.”

The Chiefs of Ontario are aware that the work of the Expert Panel is now underway and that the panel has been directed to meet over the span of 12 months and develop a “discussion paper to be presented to the MNC Board of Governors no later than 12 months from the date of the first meeting of the Panel […] that shall review all information presented to the Panel and any initial conclusions reached with respect to the 2018 probation resolution [of the MNO for not complying with the National Definition] and may recommend an action plan.”

“We look forward to the outcome of the Expert Panel and hope that the findings substantiate our concerns. We are confident that if any individual were to examine all of the evidence and expert advice objectively, they would find that the MNO is making unfounded claims in our territories,” said Ontario Regional Chief Hare. “These so-called new historic communities form the foundation for Canada’s recognition of the communities represented by the MNO as having section 35 rights, so this is really significant for us. Especially given an official from the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations admitted that Canada did not verify the MNO’s claims – but that they are relying on Ontario’s identification of the so-called new historic communities. We are looking forward to the MNC’s response to Justice Robert Centa, the MMF, and the public.”

Canada to withdraw Bill C-53 until it has done its due diligence to verify the MNO’s claims and meaningful consultation with First Nations takes place – or at the very least, wait until the results of the MNC Expert Panel are released before moving forward with the legislative process.

The Chiefs of Ontario continue to oppose Bill C-53 and its preceding Agreement and have opposed it since early 2022. Two peaceful demonstrations were hosted on Parliament Hill in June and September 2023 where First Nations Leadership, technicians, Elders and Knowledge Keepers, Youth, dancers, drummers, supporters, and allies gathered in opposition to Bill C-53 and the dangerous precedent it would set.

“We hope that in 2024, Canada will examine all the evidence that’s been presented and withdraw Bill C-53 before irreparable damage is done to First Nations Rights,” said Ontario Regional Chief Hare.

For more information on the Chiefs of Ontario’s position on Bill C-53, please visit:

Chiefs of Ontario Remain United in Protecting First Nations Rights from Bill C-53
Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare Celebrates the Passing of AFN Resolution #44/23, “Protect First Nations Rights and Interests from Unfounded Métis Rights Assertions”
Chiefs of Ontario Returning to Parliament Hill on September 20 for a Peaceful Demonstration
AMC Stands with Chiefs of Ontario, Urges Federal Government to Halt Unilateral Advancement of Bill C-53 Without Free Prior and Informed Consent
https://fnrightsatrisk.ca/
https://chiefs-of-ontario.org/priorities/justice/rights-assertions/

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The Chiefs of Ontario support all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction and their chosen expression of nationhood. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ChiefsOfOntario.

Media Contact:

Christopher Hoyos
Director of Policy and Communications
Policy and Communications Sector
Chiefs of Ontario
Telephone: (416) 579 4998
Email: Chris.Hoyos@coo.org

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