First Ministers’ Conference on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Compendium, Metis National Council (15-16 March 1983)

Document Information

Date: 1983-03-15
By: Metis National Council
Citation: First Ministers’ Conference on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Compendium, Doc 800-017/007 (Ottawa: 15-16 March 1983).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).

DOCUMENT: 800-17/007



1. Opening Statement
2. Attachments a) Charter of Rights
b) Statement of Principles
c) Metis Land Base
d) Metis Self-Government
e) Economic Development
f) Services
g) Fiscal Arrangements


March 15-16, 1983



Ottawa, Canada

March 15 and 16, 1983


The purpose of our participation in this Conference
is to entrench in the Constitution the right of Metis People
to a land base and self~government. We believe the realization
of these rights is essential to the preservation and development
of our aboriginal nationality within the Canadian Federation.
we believe we must have these rights entrenched in the Canadian
Constitution to fulfill our Metis destiny.

Children of the fur trade, the Metis emerged as a
distinct national community in Rupertsland toward the end
of the eighteenth century. Our ancestors played a major
role in the fur trade economy. They developed a unique
aboriginal culture and identity, a new Nation on the soil
of the New World. They formed a political consciousness,
Metis Nationalism, and expressed this nationalism whenever
their collective rights were threatened.

At the time of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s transfer
of Rupertsland to Canada, the Metis already had a land base
and self—government. The decision by Riel and his followers
to resist the transfer resulted from government agents
ignoring the rights of the Metis settlers. When guarantees
for the rights to land and self-government were not forthcoming,
the Metis acted to safeguard their rights.

Riel’s goal in taking control of the Red River
and setting up a Provisional Government in 1869 was to firmly
establish the rights of the Metis to land and self-government
before the actual transfer took effect. The Provisional
Government negotiated the entry of Manitoba into Confederation
as a province. However, they did not obtain control over the
land and resources. When the negotiations resulted in the
passing of the Manitoba Act, the Metis believed theyghad a
deal which gave them what they wanted, land and self-government.
The Canadian Government, however, had something else in mind.
The provisions for the land were exercised in such a manner
that in ten years the Metis of the Red River were almost
completely dispossessed.


Displaced from the province they had created, the
Metis moved west and north settling at Batoche, St. Paul,
St. Albert, Battleford, Cypress Hills and in other communities.
From their new homes the Metis began to petition for the
recognition of their land rights and they began to exercise
local government functions over their affairs.

As settlement began to crowd in on the Metis again,
they again began to fear for land, for the preservation of
their culture and for their right to be self-determining
peoples. For twelve years the government had turned a deaf
ear to their petitions. In l884, they again acted in their
own defense. The decision made was to bring back Riel to
lead them in their fight to have their land and other rights
constitutionally recognized. It is not necessary to repeat
the story of what happened since it is one of the better-known
events in Canadian history. The death and martyrdom of Riel
has been a symbol to our people of the injustice they have
suffered. Others, who stood up for their rights in Canada,
such as Howe, MacKenzie and Papineau, became heroes and
influential leaders. Riel was instead branded a traitor.

Even though the government promised to satisfy the
Metis land claims in the Northwest, the events of Manitoba
were to be repeated. Only a few of our people remained in the
possession of their land. The rest were left in abject poverty
and despair, dispersed to isolated rural and northern communities,
or to the slums of the new towns and cities. Their reward
for daring to stand up and fight for their rights has been
discrimination in education and training, in employment, in
job pay and in the receipt of health and social services.
They suffered many problems and acquired an image as a
rejected people.

In 1980, when the Government of Canada began to
seriously consider steps to patriate the Canadian Constitution,
we lobbied long and hard to ensure that the rights of the
Metis would be entrenched in the Constitution. We were
successful in having the Metis recognized in the Constitution


as one of the Aboriginal Peoples, with a promise that new
rights could be negotiated in the future under provisions
of Section 37.

We find it a contradiction that the Government of
Canada is once again attempting to deny that it has any
legal responsibility for the Metis. In particular, we find
it difficult to understand why the government would make
such a statement at one of the meetings preparatory to this
Conference. We had made it clear to the government in 1980
that we were looking for and prepared to negotiate a political
settlement. Is the government going to suppress our rights

After 100 years we have one more chance to negotiate
for our rights. Our main priorities are still land and self-
government, as they were 100 years ago. We expect these
constitutional discussions to continue until these rights are
resolved. The Metis National Council, as the sole and
legitimate representative of the Metis in the Prairie Provinces,
is here to fulfill the historic mission of the Metis Nation,
to secure a place we can call our own.



The Constitutional Committee of the
Metis National Council

March 8 , 1983




NOTWITHSTANDING anything in this Act, the Collective
Rights and Freedoms of the Metis Peoples of Canada
are guaranteed and shall include the Right to:

a) Metis lands, waters and resources base, which is
owned and controlled by the Collective;

b) hunt, fish, trap and gather on Metis, Crown
and other lands to which they have right of

c) self-government, which shall have jurisdiction
over political, cultural, economic and social
affairs and institutions deemed necessary to
their survival and development as a distinct

d) representation in Parliament and legislative

e) fair and equitable compensation for Rights
that have been infringed;

f) adequate fiscal arrangements to fulfill these

35.4 Details regarding these Rights shall be spelled out
in a schedule to the Canada Act, 1982.

35.5 Every individual member of each Collective is equally
entitled to the Rights and Benefits which are
guaranteed to that Collective, without discrimination
on the basis of religion, sex, age, marital status,
or mental or physical disability.

35.6 There shall be provided by legislation adequate
measures for enforcement of the fulfillment of the
Rights identified in this Act, including:


i) a Metis Rights Commission whose role it
will be to monitor and report on
progresses in fulfilling the above
provisions to the appropriate legislative

ii) a Metis Peoples Court, a Court of Law
and Equity, which shall be the Court of
final jurisdiction in regard to Metis


37.1 Any Amendments to the Constitution of Canada shall
only be made as provided for in this Act, after
the Prime Minister of Canada convenes a Constitutional
Conference composed of the Prime Minister and the
First Ministers of the Provinces and to which he
shall invite the representatives of the Aboriginal
Peoples to participate in the discussions on such
proposed Amendments.

37.2 Such Conferences shall be called once every year
for the first five(5) years; and thereafter, every
five(5) years as requested by the Aboriginal Peoples.


38.5 Resolutions of dissent will not apply to Rights
provided for under Section 35 of this Act, which
will be binding on all Provinces.



Amendments to be Entrenched in the Constitution



35(3) WHEREAS the Metis of Canada, as
descendents of Indigenous Peoples
of Canada, have an inherent right
to a homeland within the Canadian
nation with their own national
and cultural identities and
institutions; and

WHEREAS the Governments of Canada
and the people of Canada are desirous
of ensuring that the Metis are
included as equal partners in
the Canadian Federation as full
participants in the development
of Canada.

THEREFORE, the Metis and the
Governments of Canada agree to
jointly take such steps as are
necessary during the next five
(5) years toward the realization
of the following principles, which
may take the form of a Charter of
Rights, spelled out in a separate
schedule, for each of the Aboriginal
Peoples named in this Act. Such
rights shall apply to each of the
Aboriginal Peoples regardless of
their province or territory of

NOTWITHSTANDING anything in this
ENTRENCHED PRINCIPLES Act, the Governments of Canda and
the Metis are committed to the
following principles:

i) providing the Metis with a
land base which they will
own and control;

ii) self-government as the Metis
deem necessary for their
survival and development as
a distinct People;



iii) the practice of Aboriginal
usages, traditions and languages;

iv) representation in Parliament
and legislatures;

v) that all members of the Metis
shall have equal access to
the rights and benefits
guaranteed to the Metis;

vi) the recognition of traditional
rights to hunt, fish, trap
and gather;

vii) fair and equitable compensation
for infringed rights;

the development of mechanisms
for the implementation and
enforcement of the provisions
of each Charter and to ensure
the effective realization of
their provisions;

ix) the development of fiscal
arrangements to ensure adequate
funding for the realization of
these principles.


To achieve these principles the
Governments of Canada and the Metis
agree to the immediate convening of
such committees, task forces and
work groups as are necessary to
achieve the above.



37(4) The convening of a First Ministers’
Constitutional Conference provided
for in Sub-Section (1-3) above, once every
March for the next five (5) years,
beginning in 1984 and up to ands
including 1988, to hear progress
reports from the committees, task
forces and work groups to be established
in accordance with 35(5), to agree
on specific constitutional provisions
for entrenchment in this Act, and/or
to consider proposed amendments to
rights guaranteed under Sections 25
and 35(1) of this Act;



Agreed amendments will be made in
accordance with amending procedures
outlined in Section 38(l-2) of
this Act;


On the completion of processes under
Section 37, to entrench the rights of
Aboriginal Peoples, any proposed
future amendments to the provisions
in the Constitution of Canada pertaining
to the rights of the Aboriginal Peoples,
will be brought before a First Ministers’
Conference as convened in the same
manner as provided for in Section 37(l-3)
of this Act, before any such amendments
are entrenched in this Act. Such
a First Ministers’ Conference may be
called by the Prime Minister of
Canada at his discretion, but must
be called within one (1) year of a
formal request made in writing by
one (1) or more of the Aboriginal
Peoples named in this Act.


Section 54 of this Act is repealed and is replaced by the

“Part IV, Section 37, of this Act, shall
remain in force for the purposes and in
the manner provided for in this Act.”



I. Rationale

a) The Metis had a traditional relationship to the land in the
They shared it with the
They lived on it, they made their living from it, they
prairies as early as the 1700’s. They shared it with the
Indians. They lived on it, they made their living from it, they
settled, built homes and carried on agriculture, they being the
first permanent settlers of Western Canada.

b) They fought for and helped defend their territory on a number
of occasions. ( in Red River, in the Northwest – against
American Fenians).

c) They had a system of land tenure and laws.

d) Their land rights were recognized in the Manitoba Act of 1870.

e) Their land rights were recognized in the Dominion Lands Act of
1879 and in the Metis Betterment Act of 1938.

f) Their land rights were recognized in Orders-In- Council which
were intended to implement the land grant provisions of the
above Acts.

g) They had local government structures on their land. (examples:
Laws of St. Laurent, Laws of St. Albert, Laws of the Prairie,

h) Because the Metis were dispossessed, they are landless and are
not able to maintain their land claims by virtue of traditional
use and occupancy.

i) Metis people require a land base if they are to survive as as
aboriginal people.

j) Under International Convention the Governments of Canada must
provide this land base in keeping with their commitments under
the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights.

II. Precedents and Experience

The principle of a Metis land base is a key element of
self government. This has been recognized in the case of the
Aborigines of New Zealand and Australia. For example, Maori


tribal councils are responsible for their members who live on and
off the tribal land. Those individuals living off the land base can
still exercise the rights they possess as a result of belonging to
Those individuals living off the land base can
that ribal council. They can vote, share in tribal benefits and are
eligible to receive tribal services in the areas where they live.

The experiences of our people with individual land grants in
Manitoba and the Northwest Territories demonstrated that these do
not ensure the development of the land for the benefit of those to
whom land was allotted. Also, contemporary individual land tenure programs have failed to produce a land base for the Metis.
individual land grants do not make it possible to identify the lands
as aboriginal lands over which the Metis collective has jurisdiction
and over which it can develop and exercise self-governing structures.

Although the exact size of the land base will vary with local
needs, the land base must be sufficient to guarantee our economic,
Social and cultural developement. The land base in the northern areas
of our provinces will likely be much larger than the land base in the
southern-developed areas of the provinces. In those areas where only
a limited land base can be obtained, other benefits of an equivalent
value to the land must be provided. The nature of such equivalent
benefits must be negotiated. We accept that it may be necessary to
share some aspects of land management such as conservation policies.

III. Principles applying to Metis land base

a) Metis people have the right to ownership of land and its resources
including surface and sub-surface rights.

b) The aforementioned lands and resources will be owned collectively
and can only be disposed of with the consent of the collective.

c) The lands and resources, including surface and sub-surface rights,
are exempt from taxation from any federal, provincial or municipal

d) The right of Metis local government to raise and collect taxes on
community-owned lands and resources.



I. Statement of Principles

A. Constitutional self-government would confirm that Metis
People historically governed themselves and still have
the right to do so.

B. Historically, the Metis wanted provincial status in
confederation to provide them with political autonomy and
guaranteed representation in Parliament.

C. Today, the Metis still seek political autonomy and
guaranteed participation in the larger political system.

D. Since today the Metis cannot obtain this political autonomy
through the exercise of provincial powers, they need their
own self-government structures.

E. Self-government rights would apply both on and off the
Metis land base.

F. Metis self-government, to be guaranteed as a right, must
be provided for in the Constitution.

G. We want self-government in the Constitution so that
legislative provisions cannot be changed unilaterally by

H. Metis government will be a representative, democratically
elected government, accountable to its own electors.


I. The Metis want as much self-government as is necessary
to maintain their political and cultural survival as a
distinct people.

J. The Metis want the right to adequate fiscal arrangements
with the federal and provincial governments to ensure
the viability of Metis self-government.

These principles will need to be spelled out in more detail in
a Metis schedule to the Constitution, in legislation and
agreements with governments. The details of governing structures
will vary, depending on needs, current circumstances and
historical precedents in each of the prairie provinces.


Position Paper Re: Economic Development

1. Introduction:

The effect on the Metis people of the loss of
their rights and of their access to land and resources is
most evident in the low-income levels of our people and
their lack of access to employment opportunities. The
government’s solutions to these problems has been some
minimal job training programs, some special Native employment
services, and an economic funding program called Special ARDA.
Final control over all of these programs rests with governments
and their bureaucracies. They have allowed only minimal i
Native participation in the decision-making and implementation
processes. In addition, these programs are generally bound
up in a good deal of “red tape” and are limited either
in scope or in their geographic application. This, coupled
with inadequate financing, results in these programs having
a minimal impact on the employment problems of our people.

2. Metis Goal:

For Metis to survive as a people and for Metis
self-government to be a success, the Metis must also have
their own economic institutions. We cannot always depend
on the government or someone else to provide our
employment for us. Our people need viable options for em-


ployment and viable opportunities to create their own economic
opportunities for themselves. In addition, if we are to
gain a greater degree of independence from the current welfare
systems and a greater degree of self-determination over our
own lives, we must have our own economic institutions.

3. Land, Resources and Economic Development:

The primary institutions of economic development
should be tied to our land base and our access to resources“
or resource revenues. If the land is selected with the goal
of economic development in mind, it could offer the follow-
ing possibilities:

a) both traditional and extensive agriculture
in southern lands suitable for this purpose;

b) primary and secondary manufacturing in
agricultural products(food processing,
industrial products such as oil, etc.);

c) primary harvesting of resources such as
timber, fish, game, etc.;

d) secondary manufacturing based on these
products(lumber, filleting , tanning, etc.);

e) the development of tourism industry(guiding,
accommodation, food service, recreation
leases, etc.);


f) the development of service industries in
our communities and to serve the above
economic initiatives;

g) mining and processing where minerals are
available or where oil and gas deposits
are present.

4. Development Off Land Base:

In addition, there is a need for economic develop-
ment initiatives for Metis people not living on the land
base but connected to it through their political organizations.
These opportunities could include:

a) processing and manufacturing of above in
urban areas;

b) marketing and retailing of products;

c) equity positions and job allocations in
key industries outside of Metis lands(mining,
oil industry, construction, maintenance and
services, etc.);

d) the development of support institutions and
services such as Education and Training,
certain social, health and recreation
services, housing, etc.);


e) participation by equity and job allocation
in high technieal industries, etc..

5. Financial Arrangements:

At present financing for such economic development
is controlled by governments. To make the development
meaningful for us and to give our people the independence
they need, the following are necessary:

a) access to a pool of capital funds which can
be used to finance all aspects of projects,
including training, planning and development,
fixed capital, bridge financing and operating
capital costs;

b) access to funds to buy equity positions in
certain key projects or an agreement that
we will automatically gain a certain per-
centage of equity in such projects;

c) investment funds to invest in infra-
structure, housing, etc.

d) access to a technical and professional
resource pool to assist us in research,
planning, development, implementation and
management of all aspects of projects.


The financing for such economic development could
be provided as follows:

a) a trust fund set up as part of an.agreed
settlement of outstanding land claims;

b) a negotiated economic development program
through which governments annually provide
or earmark a fixed amount of money to be
released for capital expehditures for
specific projects as directed by a Metis
development board or corporation;

c) a fund built up from a percentage of resource
royalties earmarked for Metis people;

d) borrowing provisions guaranteed by the

e) development of Metis financial institutions
such as banks, trust companies, credit
unions, etc., which would accumulate some
of their own investment funds.

There is no reason why combinations of all of
the above could not be used. This would give greater flexi-
bility to the system and enable us to gain a greater degree
of independency from direct government funding. The
principles for the use of economic development funding are
as follows:

a) the economic and financial institutions will


be under the control and direction of the
Metis people;

b) the decisions as to which projects will be
developed and funded will be under the
control of the Metis people;

c) where joint projects or equity positions
are being taken in government or private
projects, decisions will be arrived at

d) economic, training and service priorities
will be established by Metis people;

e) governments will assist by providing technical
and professional resource expertise as re-
quested and where appropriate.


Position Paper on Services:

Our people have for many years complained about
the services they receive from existing government and non-
government agencies. The reasons for these complaints are
varied and include the following:

a) persons providing services have biases and
some are prejudiced against Metis people;

b) the services themselves have biases toward
the middle-class needs and values of non-
aboriginal people and are, therefore, not
geared to the problems or service needs of
Metis people;

c) services are often provided by persons who
are unfamiliar with the history, values
and feelings of Metis people and, therefore,
are insensitive to our people our people’s goals;

d) persons delivering services and the policy
framework within which the services are
delivered are extremely paternalistic and
have created unhealthy dependency, leading
to a whole range of endemic social problems
among Metis people and in Metis families;

e) services are often provided at centres that
are not easily accessible to Metis people;

f) Metis people living in isolated areas
often receive few, if any, services;

g) the costs associated with certain services
prevent our people from using these services;

h) certain facilities such as social-recreational
facilities are inadequate to serve the total
population and, thus, are not available to
our people;



i) services are provided in fragmented and
unco-ordinated ways. Our people need wholistic
services which deal with them and their
problems in a wholistic way;

j) some of the kinds of services needed by our
people are not available; or if available,
are provided in ways which re-inforce rather
than resolve problems;

k) funds which have been earmarked for Aboriginal
peoples services, in a number of situations,
have been under-utilized, misused, or not used
at all because of a lack of planning or
realistic programming to respond to Aboriginal

l) in other situations, funds have been diverted
to other uses; or a significant proportion
of the funds have been used to support
government bureaucrats and consultants, and
other expenses from which our people get no
direct benefit.

Other reasons for the ineffectiveness of services
to our people could also be cited. Various attempts have been
made in an effort to correct or overcome these problems. One
important initiative has been the provision of services by
Aboriginal groups or organizations. Some of these have
experienced some success. However, there continues to be a
number of problems which mean that results are not what we
would desire. These include:

a) excess control over the use of finances
and the kinds of programs which can be
offered. The organizations become responsible
to government rather than to their own people;

b) the dictation of policy by funding bodies,
which only serve to re-inforce dependency;

c) a continuation of fragmented services;

d) no preparation or training of Metis persons
to carry out the many duties and responsi-
bilities required in service delivery;



e) funding levels which are not realistic in
relation to the scope and depth of Metis
service needs.

Our people have reached the conclusion that the
only way they can get control over their lives and resolve
their problems is if they have the right to exercise a degree
of self-government sufficient to enable them to achieve their
objectives. We spend too much of our time and resources
begging for resources and in fighting against the unreasonable
controls imposed by various bureaucratic government bodies.
If our efforts at overcoming these problems and at our own
self-development are to be successful, we must be able to
exercise control over the implementation of our services as
a right. We must also have access to service resources as a
right, and be able to decide on the priorities to which we
will apply these resources.

Finally, services have been the main tool used by
governments in their efforts to assimilate our people. The
strategy is to re-educate our people to the non-aboriginal
values and forms, and to eliminate the “aboriginal problem”
by assimilation policies.

Our survival as a people with our own history and
culture is threatened, unless we can integrate service-
planning and delivery as part of an overall thrust toward a
greater degree of Metis self-government.


Position Paper on Fiscal Arrangements:

The general public tend to view Aboriginal people
as a continuing burden to the taxpayer, who refuse to take
any responsibility to finance their own needs and who always
want more without giving anything in return.

It is true that Indians do not pay municipal taxes
on their reserve lands, but it is also true that they get
no municipal services from local governments. It is also
true that Indians have a special arrangement with the Govern-
ment of Canada, confirmed by the Courts, which exempt them
from paying taxes on income earned on the reserve. It is
true that other Aboriginal groups are requesting Aboriginal
lands which would be exempt from taxes imposed by another
level of government.

The existing Aboriginal lands, plus any additional
Aboriginal lands which may be made available, are or will be
the homelands of the Aboriginal peoples. They do or would
exercise self-government on their lands. Other levels of
government would not or do not provide their local services.
It is therefore only right, in keeping with Canadian Consti-
tutional principles, that they would not pay taxes to another
jurisdiction but that they would have the right to levy taxes
on their own lands to meet their own needs.

Since Aboriginal lands would be owned in Fee Simple
Title by the Collective, which would include the surface
and sub-surface resources, again in keeping with Constitutional
principles, Aboriginal people would be able to develop and
tax what is within their jurisdiction for their own purposes
and needs.

It is, however, not true that Aboriginal people
do not pay taxes. They are all subject to the Same direCt and
indirect sales taxes paid by other Canadians. They are
subject to tariffs, excise taxes, road tax, licenses fees,
plus all the other taxes levied by the Federal and Provincial
governments. Aboriginal people, including those Indians



earning their income outside of reserve lands, are subject
to Income and corporation tax. Taxes are also paid for
C.P.P. and U.I.C. Benefits.

Given this state of affairs and the likelihood that
present tax arrangements may not be changed, provisions must
be made for fiscal transfers to Aboriginal governments to
their own services. Since they are being taxed, they should
be able to benefit from the payment of these taxes on the
basis of equality with other Canadians.

There are a variety of ways in which fiscal arrange-
ments could be made to channel tax money to Metis governments.
These include:

a) Metis governments could be eligible for
those special and general grants or tax
transfers that go to all other local

b) funding could be provided for in specific
agreements covering the implementation of
agreed services to be delivered by Metis

c) funds could be provided on a per capita
basis to pay for services and/or for specific
political(self-government), social, cultural,
and economic purposes;

d) equalization payments could be made to
take into consideration the level of
development of Metis peoples and the degree
of social poverty suffered by them;

e) specific tax points could be earmarked for
or turned over to Metis governments for
general purposes.

It is likely that different fiscal arrangements
will be necessary for different groups of Aboriginal peoples
and to deal with their varying circumstances, in most
cases combinations of the above fiscal models will likely be
necessary. Whatever form these arrangements take, they must
provide for a maximum degree of flexibility, a maximum degree
of Aboriginal self-determination and must be channelled in
ways which make Aboriginal politicians responsible to their



own people (electors) for the use of these resources.

Also, resource levels must recognize the differences
in economic, social, health and demographic needs and
circumstances of Aboriginal peoples as Compared to the general
public. In the past and at present, resource levels were
and are often so meager so as to make little impact on the
problems of our people. The services are often not even
sufficient to cope with new problems as they arise, let alone
enable our people to address long-standing problems and needs.
we need a level of resources sufficient to enable us to catch
up. Otherwise our current poverty in services, incomes,
education and cultural development will merely become insti-
tutionalized and we will forever remain as second class citizens.

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