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Sault Ste. Marie, ON (November 6, 2023) – The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) is hosting a Métis Rights Conference from November 5 to 8, 2023 at the Delta Hotel Waterfront in Sault Ste. Marie. Guided by the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” the conference speaker series will reflect on the political history of the MNO, the progress of Métis Self-Government and explore next steps for securing Métis rights and recognition in Canada.
The conference takes place during a pivotal year for the MNO, marked by two major milestones: the 30th anniversary of the MNO’s establishment and the 20th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling in R. v. Powley. The Powley Decision remains foundational for Métis rights and recognition across Canada by creating a legal framework for recognizing constitutionally protected Métis rights.
The “Powley Test” has led to the recognition of rights, interests, and outstanding claims protected by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, including the inherent right of self-government for Métis communities throughout the Homeland, including seven historic Ontario Métis communities.
“It’s both symbolic and fitting that the MNO has chosen to host the Métis Rights Conference in our community,” said Region 4 Councillor Mitch Case. “The Sault Ste. Marie Métis community is extremely proud to be the home of the landmark Powley Decision—the first and only Supreme Court Case recognizing the existence of a historic Métis community with constitutionally protected rights. We look forward to convening with distinguished Métis leaders and legal experts, as we reflect on the progress we’ve made together and explore how we can advance Métis rights and self-government in Canada.”
“This isn’t a run-of-the-mill conference; we’ve designed it to be informative and accessible, featuring culturally enriching entertainment, exhibits and vendor markets that our whole community can enjoy,” said Case. “With Métis denialism on the rise, this gathering presents a crucial opportunity for citizens and other community members to deepen their understanding of Métis history, particularly our hard-fought struggle to secure our rights, recognition and self-government.”
The conference will feature distinguished speakers, including Tony Belcourt, founding president of the MNO, who will share insights on the historical significance of the MNO’s establishment. Additionally, Audrey Poitras, former president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, will address the growth and progression of Métis self-government across Canada.
Other esteemed attendees will share remarks, including Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council (MNC), Margaret Froh, president of the MNO, Andrea Sandmaier, president of the Otipemisiwak Métis Government (formerly the Métis Nation of Alberta), Hank Rowlinson, chair of the MNO, Sharon Cadeau, vice chair of the MNO and Region 4 Councillor Mitch Case.
“This Métis Rights Conference is taking place during a momentous year for our Nation,” said MNO President Margaret Froh. “The MNO’s founding, together with the Powley Decision, continues to spur the Métis people forward in our pursuit of self-determination, cultural preservation and the recognition of our unique position within the tapestry of Canada.”
“As we commemorate our remarkable progress, we recognize that our journey is far from complete. The next horizon for Métis rights lies in the passage of Bill C-53, our Métis self-government implementation legislation. Bill C-53 will solidify the recognition our Métis governments have been tirelessly pursuing for nearly two centuries,” said Froh. “Once this legislation becomes law, instead of being known as the ‘forgotten people,’ the Métis will finally be recognized as an equal order of government alongside other self-governing First Nations and Inuit.”
In addition to the formal conference agenda, there are several optional cultural events taking place. Sunday at 11am, there will be a memorial mass, hosted at Precious Blood Cathedral – the site of the original church built by the Metis community in the early 1800s.
A traditional memorial feast honouring departed community members who led the fight for Métis rights will follow at the Delta Hotel at 2 pm ET.
On Monday, November 6th, participants will hear from legal experts, gaining insights into the evolving Canadian legal landscape and the path forward for Métis rights and recognition. Attendees will also be able to explore a historic Powley exhibit in the George Simpson Suite of the Delta Hotel. This exhibit showcases significant artifacts, including Steve Powley’s distinctive hat, sash, and hunting notebook, as well as the original copy of the Powley decision. It will feature the hide from the first moose harvested by the Métis community following the landmark 2003 ruling. To culminate the day’s events, a Soiree at the Soo celebration will be held for community members at the Machine Shop Banquet Hall, commencing at 4:30pm ET. Community members wishing to attend must reserve a seat by calling President Kim Powley 705-257-2643. Cut off time 7pm Saturday Nov 4.
On Tuesday, November 7, a lineup of speakers will lead sessions on diverse topics, such as revitalizing Métis food systems, nurturing Métis entrepreneurship, and sharing vibrant Métis narratives and history. The conference will close with Cultural Workshops in the Algoma Ballroom of the Delta Hotel from 7-9 pm ET, featuring areas for storytelling, beadwork, music and jigging, where participants can move from station-to-station engaging with different aspects of Métis culture. On November 6 and 7, an all-day Métis vendor market will take place in the Etienne Brulé Salon of the Delta Hotel, where attendees can purchase hand-crafted goods from local Métis artisans.
On the morning of Nov 8th, there will be a special breakfast and commemoration event for Metis Veterans in recognition of Indigenous Veterans Day.
Weather permitting – there will be opportunities for participants to take part in the walking and canoe tours offered by Metistours.com. Participants should dress for the weather if they would like to take part.
Looking Back, Moving Forward is funded in part by the Government of Ontario and the City of the Sault Ste. Marie.
Media interviews with MNO spokespeople about the Métis Rights Conference are available upon request.