The Fort McKay Métis near Fort McMurray has declared self-governance after members voted to adopt a constitution, elections act, membership act and governance act.
The move is a “dramatic and historic milestone that will reverberate across Canada and set a precedent that will change the Indigenous landscape forever,” the community said in a news release Friday.
“We realize we are the first and are leading Métis communities into uncharted territory,” said Fort McKay Métis president Ron Quintal said in a statement. “For that reason we have invested a great deal of work to make sure this was done right and that other communities have a model to follow.”
Community members supported the move in a vote held Thursday. A “celebration of self-determination” will be held Friday afternoon at a hotel in Fort McMurray.
A governance act will allow the community to have its own governing bodies — a Fort McKay Métis Nation Council and Fort McKay Métis Nation Assembly — supported by an elders council, women’s council and youth council.
The community would negotiate directly with the provincial and federal governments instead of the current system, which has the Métis Nation of Alberta act as the broker for negotiations.
Thursday’s vote follows the community’s decision to buy all of the land it is on more than a year ago.
In a $1.6-million deal, the community bought the 372 acres of land from the province of Alberta; at the time the community had 97 members. The community previously purchased 120 acres in 2014.
Declaring self-governance is believed to be “a first for any local Métis community in Canada,” Dwayne Roth, CEO and corporate counsel for the Fort McKay Métis, said in Friday’s news release.
“Our actions follow self-government declarations by Métis organizations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. Aboriginal people have an inherent right of self-determination recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Roth said the Fort McKay Métis will have to work with the federal government to negotiate a self-governance agreement.
Fort McKay is about 500 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.