Glen McCallum accepts painting of Jim Brady. Credit: Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By: Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder

On June 21, 2023, Bill C-53: An Act respecting the recognition of certain Métis governments in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, to give effect to treaties with those governments and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, received second reading in the House of Commons. It provides for the recognition of certain Métis governments in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan and provides a framework for the implementation of treaties to be entered into by these Métis governments and the Government of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognizes their inherent right to self-government. Speaking of the historic moment of that day, Michelle LeClair, Vice-President, Métis Nation – Saskatchewan said, “Today, we are taking another important step in realizing the dreams and aspirations of our Métis ancestors. …Today’s agreement also supports the ongoing self-determination and self-government work already underway at the MN-S and ensures we have the means and space to create the strongest foundation for our future generations.”

President Glen McCallum in his address at the Opening Ceremonies of Back to Batoche Days said, “The agreement that we’ve signed for the MOU framework for governance agreements legislation and the Treaty to follow are restrictive… How much longer do we wait to be able to have governments be able to step outside that comfort zone, to be able to think outside the box?” Expounding on that he said that there are Métis people, and First Nations people, and non-Indigenous people. There are Saskatchewan people and there are Canadian people and sometimes those categories serve to push people further apart because we fail to recognize and acknowledge that each has their histories, identity, culture, values, and language which often lead to distinct ways of doing things. “We call ourselves Canadians,” he said, “well let’s live up to that name and start engaging with each other, communicating with one another, [striving] to be able to do the best for our citizens here in this province and in Canada.” To that effect, President McCallum and MN-S have been reaching out and engaging with members of the Ahmediyya Muslim community, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, and the Executive Director and CEO of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada to name but a few, all within the last 3 months.

Over the last number of years, Metis Nation-Saskatchewan has been actively seeking out and building relationships with communities, First Nations, municipalities, the Federal government, and the Provincial government. On June 15, MN-S signed an Impact Benefits Agreement with NexGen Energy on the proposed Rook 1 uranium mine and mill development project slated for north of La Loche. On May 25, a meeting was held with the Vice President of Research at the University of Saskatchewan to discuss the many ways they can continue to work together and build on the Memorandum of Understanding that already exists between the two parties. Since 2019, MN-S has been working together with the Saskatchewan government on important issues such as jurisdictional rights, harvesting, fisheries, and conservation. “We are making tangible progress and know that, collectively, we will affect change that helps build a better Saskatchewan for us all,” President McCallum said.

Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, under McCallum, is adamant that change and improvements for the Métis people will only come about when the governments realize that self-determination and self-governance are at the very core of who the Métis people are. It was what Riel took a stand for in 1870 and again in 1885, and although the Resistance was squashed nearly 140 years ago, the belief in the right to continue governing themselves was not. The people suffered and struggled, but they never gave up. The track record of governments and institutions is not a good one when it comes to carrying out changes to programs and implementing improvements for Métis and First Nations. McCallum believes that only when Métis and First Nations people are given the capacity to create and manage programs based on their distinct traditions, values, and practices will positive change occur. To highlight this belief, he draws on the history of the Métis and First Nations. It wasn’t provincial or federal policies that guided their historical lifestyles; it was their own laws, practices, traditions, values, and language that guided them and defined their society.

McCallum says that he is happy with how the doors of government, the RCMP, and other policing forces, are slowly beginning to open. Businesses are interested in engaging with the Métis and First Nations and that is paramount to moving forward. Saskatoon Fire Chief Morgan Hackl said to President McCallum during a meeting, “Relationship and partnership collaborations are the cornerstone of building communities together.” It is by communication and engaging with each other that we will all get to a point where we have the best possible community for all who live within it, whether that community is big or small, whether it contains voices and cultures from many corners of the world, or whether it only contains two. It requires looking at the uniqueness of each and seeing how they can complement each other for the betterment of all.

“With the past to motivate us, it will help to keep us strong. As we build the Métis Nation, as we watch it rise again, Our past loss is motivation, to inspire our future gain. We are proud to be Métis, watch our Nation rise again. Never more forgotten people, we’re the true Canadian.” With these words of the Métis national anthem, together with President McCallum’s final words from the Back to Batoche Opening Ceremonies fresh in the minds of elected officials in attendance that day, it can be hoped that it will act as an incentive to try harder. “We gather here [at Batoche] to remember the plight of the Métis and First Nations people and to be able to bring the people and the government together in the room and have a different way of thinking, a different way of approaching and dealing with Métis and First Nations, it has to happen. Hopefully, we’ll leave here and go back to our offices and say, ‘OK we heard outside the box thinking, let’s get to work.’”