By Jenna Hamilton
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Fort McKay and Willow Lake Metis nations have received provincial funding to legally challenge Bill C-48, the federal government’s ban on oil tankers north of Vancouver Island.
The $372,000 funds come from the Alberta government’s Indigenous Litigation Fund. Both Metis groups say the ban challenges their economic prosperity.
“Bill C-48 constrains Alberta’s ability to access international markets, which in turn negatively impacts our economy, our prosperity and our ability to provide, protect and progress our people,” said Justin Bourque, vice-president and CEO of Willow Lake
Metis Nation. “The federal government did this without engaging or consulting or incorporating our views. This is not honourable, or in keeping with reconciliation.”
Bill C-48, better known as the oil tanker ban, passed in 2018 and prohibits tankers carrying crude oil as cargo from stopping or unloading at ports or along British Columbia’s north coast. It stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Canada’s border with Alaska.
Premier Jason Kenney said at a Monday press conference the funding was a step towards reconciliation. He called the legal challenge a “credible legal claim.”
“We took this approach because the vast majority of Indigenous groups are pro-responsible development but too often those have been forgotten, ignored and sidelined in the debate about resource development in Canada,” said Kenney.
The Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA) rejected the Alberta government’s decision to provide financial support to the Fort McKay and Willow Lake Metis Nations.
The two community groups are not recognized by the MNA. A Monday statement from MNA president Audrey Poitras called them “unaccountable, undemocratic and illegitimate organizations.” She objected to the two groups claiming to represent the interests of Metis people.
“This is a bad decision by the premier and represents a clear misuse of public money,” said Poitras. “These organizations are not elected or accountable to anyone and are made up of non-Metis individuals. These organizations do not speak for the Metis Nation, the Metis people or Metis communities in Alberta.”
Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Metis Nation, ignored the statement at the press conference.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to be able to condemn anything. When they better look in the mirror, if they’re going to be condemning any type of malfeasance or inappropriate behavior,” says Quintal.
The Alberta Government recognized the Fort McKay Metis as an autonomous Indigenous community in early 2020. The MNA is disputing the Alberta government’s decision in court.
The MNA has more than 51,000 registered citizens. An agreement with the federal government recognizes them as the only democratically elected government of Metis citizens in Alberta.
Jenna Hamilton is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the FORT MCMURRAY TODAY . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.