The Inuit are not the only Native population grilling the five parties in the May 2 election. The Métis, descendants mainly of fur trader unions with Native women, gained official recognition as a distinct aboriginal group after years of struggle. Their particular issues generated their own set of election-related queries.
Economic development was the major concern, in keeping with Métis National Council (MNC) President Clément Chartier’s efforts to build self-sufficiency. Among the requests was one for a $12 million investment over four years in the Métis Entrepreneurship Fund. The Métis also asked if the winners would help create new Métis capital corporations in Ontario and British Columbia.
In addition, the group hopes the victors will open Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) community economic development funding to Métis Nation communities and invest $10 million annually for the next five years in a Métis Community Opportunities Fund. The Métis want inclusion in land-claims-resolution cases and input into programs for education, health and other areas.
The parties’ responses, however, were generally couched in terms of larger aboriginal and poverty initiatives. For instance, the New Democrats said they “remain committed to increasing access to capital for aboriginal business development, subject to the principle that the Métis Nation should have access to similar levels of support as other aboriginal peoples, with Métis direction over those resources to ensure they are used to the maximum benefit of Métis people.” The party also said that “the precise mechanisms to realize this principle would be determined through a nation-to-nation conversation between the Métis National Council and the provinces and government of Canada.”
The Liberals “are committed to the socioeconomic betterment of aboriginal peoples” and to partnerships between aboriginal, provincial and federal governments that “raise standards of living and empower communities at the local level. Exact contributions would be discussed with the appropriate stakeholders.” The Green Party, by contrast, reaffirmed its commitment to the Kelowna accords and would restore the $5.1 billion commitment made at those talks.
The Liberals offered the most concrete response on social issues, promising to “work with the Métis community to establish a new national Métis scholarship program to help Métis learners across the country access post-secondary education. The program will include a $5 million annual investment in Métis students.”