Provincial funding for Metis bold challenge against tanker ban
By Matthew Hillier & Alex Luong, Staff Writer
Backlash has erupted from the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) following Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement to provide funding to fight against a tanker ban. The MNA cites the organizations Kenney is supporting as illegitimate and the organization condemns his public display of support.
On Nov. 15, Kenney announced that Fort Mckay and Willow Lake of the Métis Nation will receive more than $372,000 through the Indigenous Litigation Fund. The provincial fundings’ aim is to assist the two communities in legally challenging Bill C-48. The bill in question was passed in June 2019 by the Liberal party which prevents crude oil tankers from stopping or unloading cargo in ports along the British Columbia’s north coast.
The nations of Fort McKay and Willow Lake have claimed the bill is hampering the economic viability of their respective communities by limiting Alberta’s access to international markets and closing avenues for jobs and economic development for their nations. The Indigenous Litigation Fund helps finance legal expenses for Indigenous communities while also considering the legal actions that support resource development in Alberta.
MNA has criticized the government’s move to fund this endeavour. According to the organization, they are separate from the MNA and are not accountable to or a representative of the MNA.
“This is a bad decision by the Premier and represents a clear misuse of public money. These organizations are not elected or accountable to anyone and are made up of non-Métis individuals. These organizations do not speak for the Métis Nation. The Métis people or Métis communities in Alberta,” MNA President Audrey Poitra said.
The President of Fort Mckay, Ron Quintal, ignored these concerns at a press conference. Quintal was recently positioned at his seat in 2020 when the government officially recognized his community. The MNA is still disputing this claim in court as the nation sees these two communities as illegitimate representatives of the Métis community and the grant allocated to them as a waste of public resources.
Kenney openly approves the funding and is quoted as saying at a Monday press conference, “Alberta’s government stands with Fort McKay and Willow Lake Métis Nations in defending their vital economic interests and protecting their ability to develop their resources.”
“Indigenous communities already face more barriers to economic security than other communities in Alberta and this litigation fund grant helps those communities fight back. We are committed to economic reconciliation and together we can stand up against discriminatory federal legislation and be true partners in prosperity.” Kenney added.
He elaborated on this position on his personal Twitter account by tweeting, “Resource development means good-paying jobs and opportunities for First Nations.”
Bill C-48 is due for review in three years and because of its environmental and economic implications, it has been a hot issue since its implementation. The Conservative Party is now in the hot seat as questions about the motive of this grant are being questioned. The removal of the bill would secure the party a needed economic and political advantage.
Fort Mckay and Willow Lake will presumably be in the spotlight as the case against both their legitimacy and the case against Bill C-48 resume in these coming months.
According to Poitra in a press release, “Premier Kenney is standing with a handful of unaccountable, undemocratic and illegitimate organizations to challenge federal legislation that is designed to ensure we are consulted on projects that protect our Métis rights and way of life.”