Fort Smith Métis walk out of NWT Métis Nation AGM

Fort Smith Métis walk out of NWT Métis Nation AGM
The NWT Métis Nation approves of an agreement in principle in 2012. Now, heads are butting as the Hay River, Fort Smith and Fort Resolution members work towards a final agreement with the federal government. File photo.

A frustrated Ken Hudson walked out of the Northwest Territories Métis (NWTMN) Nation annual general meeting on Nov. 21, where members were working towards finalizing a land claim with the federal government.

The president of the Fort Smith Métis Council’s early exit came after a resolution excluding Métis members from outside of the territory in the NWTMN’s final agreement was narrowly passed 19-18.

“That was passed to eliminate Fitzgerald as a (Métis) community,” Hudson said.

Following the outburst, Hudson confirmed with an enumeration office that those who had ties to the NWT before 1921 were protected, however, he was still unhappy with the symbolism of the resolution.

“It’s just the principle of it,” he said. “It goes to show you that there’s always an attempt to lessen our people we represent. It all has to do with getting a bigger share of whatever it is, resources or money, that we have in the future.”

There are about 1,400 Metis members living in Fort Smith. Hay River and Fort Resolution have Métis populations of about 400 each.

“Res and Hay River want to gang up on the largest community and try to eliminate as many members of our association as they can,” Hudson said. “It has to do with even the future choice of our fair share of the land or money, even devolution money, that’s available to us right now.”

Other resolutions were considered but withdrawn, including a move to divide governance in such a way that each group had a third of the power.

“We have 1,400 members in Fort Smith and there are 400 in HR and exactly the same amount in Fort Res,” he continued. “A democratic government would not be one third (each) as far as governance. It was withdrawn all right, but it just goes to show you Hay River and Res are not going to treat us fairly in the future. These resolutions are still hanging over our heads for some other date.”

Members react

Garry Bailey, president of the NWT Métis Nation, said he was not impressed with the walkout.

“I didn’t think it was a good enough issue to walk away,” he said. “It was heartbreaking to watch it, to see an empty table after working together, for myself, since 1998. To see it almost fall apart was very sad. The resolution was to put forward that the Métis nation represents indigenous Métis North of 60 and that’s all.”

Arthur Beck, President of the Fort Resolution Métis, agreed with Bailey.

“The Métis are negotiating land north of the 60th Parallel and nothing south of it, we’re not negotiating for Alberta,” he said. “It’s a really hard thing for us to do, but we have to do it for the future generations. We like all the people there, they’re friends, but you’ve got to put that aside for business. It’s a touchy one.”

All three parties called for a door-to-door enumeration to be completed in order to ratify the official number of people in the NWTMN and how those numbers would be divided under a final agreement, to allow for accurate per capita payout and land divisions.

“Devolution money that was sent to us, those numbers were wrong, too,” Beck said. “We did it once and that is the only time we’re going to do it because we have to get the proper numbers in. Whoever sent our numbers in for us, it wasn’t accurate.”

Negotiations will likely pick up again from Dec. 8 to 12 in Edmonton, the next meeting set for the members.

Bailey hopes the numbers would be official in the near future.

“I’m sure hoping I can get it done this year, it’s the backbone of what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re still united as far as I know. We’ll get through it, we have tough things to do yet.”

Hudson agreed, though said he was ready to stick to his guns on the more controversial resolutions.

“We’re surely not going to let it go, we’re going to continue with negotiations because we’re actively claiming self government active of claim,” Hudson said. “How are we going to continue and get our fair share?”

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