Understanding Bill C-53:
Recognition of Certain Métis Governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan and Métis Self-Government Act
On June 21, 2023, Bill C-53 was introduced by the Government of Canada in the House of Commons. This important piece of legislation implements the self-government agreements the Métis Nation of Alberta (“MNA”), the Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (“MN-S”) and the Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”) each signed with Canada.
Our Métis ancestors were determined to govern themselves and to protect our traditions, values, and truth for generations to come. Their efforts began more than two centuries ago when Métis leaders fought to have our rights recognized. Many of our ancestors petitioned the Crown and took collective action, including taking up arms in some regions of our Homeland, to defend Métis identity, lands, our way of life, and our rights. They fought back against Canada’s expansionist agenda as well as a fraudulent scrip system that dispossessed our families and communities of our lands. This historic legislation has been a goal of our Métis governments for generations and has been co-developed with us and has our full support.
We are calling on Parliament to support Bill C-53. Instead of being known as the ‘forgotten people’, we will be recognized as an equal order of government alongside other self-governing First Nations and Inuit. Passage of Bill C-53 will finally end the legacy of ignoring the Métis and denying our rights as an Indigenous people. This historic step forward is long past due in achieving reconciliation in Canada.
This website has been developed to share facts about the legislation. You can read the full Bill here, but below is a plain-speak version of each provision of the legislation and several accompanying fact sheets.
Tell your MP and Senator that you support Bill C-53 as Métis reconciliation!
Bill C-53 affirms what is in the self-government agreements our Métis governments signed with Canada in 2019 and 2023, which recognize Métis self-determination over internal matters of Métis governance, such as Métis citizenship, Métis elections, Métis government structures, and Métis child and family services. No one other than Métis communities have rights over these matters.
From the failed constitutional conferences in the 1980s, to the Métis Nation Accord being rejected as a part of the Charlottetown Accord in the 1990s to the Kelowna Accord in 2015, we have been close to having our self-government recognized in federal law, only to have politics overtake promises or principles.
Bill C-53 will ensure that even as governments come and go, the recognition of our Métis self-government will not be subject to political change. From the Métis perspective, Bill C-53 finally fulfills the constitutional promise Section 35 represents to the Métis people, and ultimately constitutionally protects the agreement we are currently negotiating with Canada, as a modern-day self-government treaty. Its passage will be reconciliation in action, advancing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a concrete and practical way.
Canada has passed similar implementation legislation for all modern-day treaties and self-government agreements signed with other Indigenous peoples – of which there are more than 26 across Canada. This type of implementation legislation is very short and follows a standard format and process. And just like other Indigenous self-government legislation, Bill C-53 only applies to the Métis governments named in it. It does not impact the rights of other Indigenous peoples, including other Métis or First Nations.
Plain-Speak Version of Bill C-53
An Act respecting certain Métis governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, to give effect to treaties with those governments and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
The legislation begins with a short, one paragraph summary of what the legislation does. In this case, it does three things:
- Recognizes the MNO, MNA and MN-S (e.g., the “certain Métis governments” named in it).
- Provides a framework for the implementation of future self-government treaties with those Métis governments and Canada; and
- Makes amendments to other federal legislation (just like all other implementation legislation).
The legislation includes a short preamble section that outlines why Canada developed the legislation. It states that:
- Canada is committed to advancing reconciliation with the Métis.
- Canada recognizes that the MNA, MN-S and MNO is authorized to act on behalf of the Métis communities represented by our Métis governments, which hold the inherent right of self-government.
- Canada recognizes that the right of self-government is constitutionally protected under section 35.
- Canada has signed a self-government agreement with the MNA, MN-S and MNO, which includes the commitment to negotiate future self-government treaties.
- Canada has committed to implementing UNDRIP, and our Métis governments and Canada believe that recognizing Métis self-government and reaching future self-government treaties contributes to the implementation of UNDRIP in Canada.
- The treaty will require implementation legislation to bring them into effect.
Similar to other pieces of legislation that have a longer formal name, in section 1, the legislation includes a “short title” that people can use when referring to it: the “Recognition of Certain Métis Governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan and Métis Self-Government Act.”
In section 2, key terms used in the legislation are defined, such as: Métis governmentⓘ, Métis government lawⓘ, supplemental self-government agreementⓘ, tax treatment agreementⓘ, and treatyⓘ.
Because the legislation applies to three Métis governments – the MNO, MNA, and MN-S – it uses a schedule to simplify the language. The legislation lists each of the three Métis governments in the schedule and then defines “Métis government” to mean the Métis government “set out in column 1 of the schedule.”
This is the same technique used by Canada in other First Nation implementation legislation where it applies to multiple First Nation governments (e.g., Yukon First Nation Self-Government Act, SC 1994, c. 35). The Schedule also includes placeholders for the future self-government treaties (once reached) and the future date those treaties come into force. This means that our Métis governments do not have to reach a treaty at the same time, and each Métis governments’ negotiations with Canada can proceed at their own pace.
The other definitions (supplementary self-government agreement, tax treatment agreement, and treaty) are all agreements that the MNO and Canada will negotiate in the future. The legislation provides the framework to bring these future agreements into effect at a later date. Further details about what will be included in these agreements, is outlined in the 2023 self-government agreementsⓘ.
In section 3, the legislation includes the clarification that the future self-government treaties (to be negotiated between our Métis governments and Canada) will be constitutionally protected under sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This means that the Métis self-government rights over things like Métis citizenship, Métis elections, internal Métis governance, and Métis child and family services will be protected as treaty rights.
Purposes of the Legislation
The legislation outlines that it has four main purposes:
- Advance the recognition of the distinct identities, cultures, and governance structures of the Métis
- Advance the recognition of the right to self-determination and self-government of the Métis and the authority of our Métis governments to act on behalf of the Métis we represent
- Provide a framework to implement the future self-government treaties, to be negotiated between our Métis governments and Canada
- Contribute to the implementation of UNDRIP
This section provides the framework to implement the future self-government treaties between our Métis governments and Canada. The commitment to negotiate the treaty was made by Canada in the 2023 self-government agreements, which include further details about what will be included in the treaties and the requirements for it coming into forceⓘ.
In section 5, the legislation says that once Canada is satisfied that these requirements are met, Canada can bring the treaty into effect under this legislation. This happens by Canada passing an Order in Council to add the name of the treaties and the dates they come into force to those columns in the schedule.
In section 6, the legislation includes the standard language that Canada uses in all Indigenous self-government implementation legislation that:
- The treaty is “approved, given effect and declared valid and has the force of law”
- “a person or body has the powers, rights, privileges and benefits” set out in the treaty
- “a treaty is binding”
In practical terms, this means that corporate structures previously established by our Métis governments for the purpose of entering into agreements and funding arrangements with the Government of Canada, will no longer be necessary once the treaty is in place. Our longstanding goal of being recognized as Indigenous governments without needing to rely on a corporate structure as an administrative and legal arm, will finally be a reality.
Finally, in section 7, the legislation confirms that if there is a conflict between the future treaty and the legislation – or any other piece of federal legislation – the treaty provisions win out. This is how all Indigenous implementation legislation operates. It is also reconciliation in action by prioritizing the negotiated agreement between Canada and the Indigenous government, even over other federal laws
In section 8, the legislation provides the immediate recognition of the MNA, MN-S and MNO, each as a Métis government. Specifically, it recognizes that our Métis governments are each an “Indigenous governing body” that is authorized to act on behalf of the Métis collectivity/communities it represents, set out in column 2 of the schedule. This simply confirms the existing authorization that is found in the constituting documents and citizenship applications for each the MNA, MN-S and MNO.
This section also provides Canada’s recognition that the Métis collectivity/communities represented by our Métis governments hold “the right to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”
In section 9, the legislation provides for the recognition of the future law-making powers of our Métis governments which will be set out in the treaties. These will include law-making powers recognized in the 2023 self-government agreements, over areas such as Métis citizenship, Métis elections, internal Métis governance matters, and Métis child and family services.
In section 10, the legislation confirms that a Métis government is not a “federal board, commission or other tribunal” as those terms are used in the Federal Courts Act. This does not change the Federal Courts Act in any way. This simply confirms the status quo.
Supplementary Self-Government Agreements
This is the framework to implement any additional self-government agreements that our Métis governments and Canada may negotiate and reach in the future. The commitment to negotiate supplemental self-government agreements was made by Canada in the 2019 self-government agreements, which also includes an appendix listing different matters for negotiation as well as details about what other parties may need to be involved in those discussionsⓘ.
This is similar to how other Indigenous governments have negotiated modern-day treaties with Canada by beginning with certain core subjects and then moving on to address other matters in the future.
In section 11, the legislation says that once Canada is satisfied that the requirements for a supplementary self-government agreement are met, Canada can pass an Order in Council to bring that agreement into effect under this legislation. This is similar to how Canada brings the future treaty into effect under the legislation (outlined above)ⓘ.
In section 12, the legislation includes the same standard language for how Canada brings the future treaty into effect (outlined above) including to approve the agreement, recognize that the MNA, MN-S or MNO have the rights set out in the agreement, and that it is binding.
This part of the legislation is what provides the framework to implement the tax treatment agreement that the MNO and Canada will negotiate in the future. The commitment to negotiate a tax treatment agreement was made by Canada in the 2023 self-government agreements.
Importantly, this tax treatment agreement is about the tax treatment of our Métis governments, not individual tax benefits for Métis citizens. It is about ensuring that the MNA, MN-S and MNO have access to the same tax savings as other governments in Canada when purchasing goods or services. Under the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act, “entities performing the functions of government” already have provisions for tax saving. This simply extends those same benefits to our Métis governments.
Other Indigenous governments with self-government agreements or modern-day treaties have negotiated similar tax treatment agreements with Canada as part of their self-government negotiations. Similarly, the implementation legislation for their agreements includes tax provisions that are essentially identical to the tax section in this legislation (e.g. Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act, SC 2005, c.1), specifically:
- the future tax treatment agreement can be brought into effect under the legislation; and
- the future tax treatment agreement is not a part of the treaty and so does not include treaty rights regarding tax matters.
These sections of the legislation include standard provisions that are found in most Indigenous self-government implementation legislation, including how a court can consider the various agreements as well as who must be notified of any potential litigation about the agreements or laws.
Judicial Notice of Treaties
In section 15, the legislation provides that the courts must take judicial notice of a treaty, supplemental self-government agreement, and a tax treatment agreement. Canada must publish copies of these so that everyone can be aware of what they say. Basically, this means that a court can take what’s written in a treaty, supplemental self-government agreement, or tax treatment agreement at face value and without requiring further proof or evidence.
Judicial Notice of Métis Government
In section 16, the legislation provides that the courts must take judicial notice of a Métis government law that is included in the public register of Métis government laws that our Métis governments must each maintain. The requirement to maintain the public register is also set out in the 2023 self-government agreements. Similar to the judicial notice of the treaty, this lets a court take what is in the Métis government law at face value.
Notice of Litigation
In section 17, the legislation outlines who needs to receive notice if any of the various agreements or laws are challenged through the courts:
- If the legislation is challenged, Canada and our Métis governments must receive notice.
- If a treaty is challenged, Canada and the Métis government party to the treaty must receive notice.
- If a supplementary self-government agreement is challenged, Canada, the Métis government party to the treaty, and the province (if they are also a party to the supplementary self-government agreement) must receive notice.
- If a Métis government law is challenged, the Métis government whose law it is must receive notice.
This section also outlines what the notice must include, as well as details about how the parties that receive the notice can participate in the proceedings.
Statutory Instruments Act
In section 18, the legislation confirms that the Statutory Instruments Act does not apply to Métis government laws. The Statutory Instruments Act requires, among other things, that all federal laws be published by Canada and reviewed by Parliament.
This section of the legislation does not change the Statutory Instruments Act in any way. It simply confirms the status quo, that Parliament does not – and should not – be reviewing Métis government laws.
Orders and Regulation
In section 19, the legislation provides that Canada can make orders and regulations to help carry out the provisions of the legislation, a treaty, a supplementary self-government agreement, a tax treatment agreement, or other implementation-related matters. Basically, this gives Canada an additional tool to address any downstream implementation needs that may come up without having to amend the legislation itself.
This section also confirms that Canada must ensure that our Métis governments have been involved in the development of any regulations, where a regulation is about a future treaty or future agreements with Canada. This is part of how Canada ensures that all future regulations or changes to this legislation are done only with the consent of our Métis governments.
Amendment or Removal of Information in the Schedule
In section 20, the legislation outlines how Canada can add or change information in the Schedule, such as adding the name of a future treaty and the date on which it comes into effect. Importantly, this section confirms that any amendment or change of information about our Métis governments in the Schedule will require the consent of the Métis government in question.
The legislation addresses the situation where there may be actions or decisions that our Métis governments each need to take in advance of the treaty, such as developing or passing various Métis government laws. This section confirms that those actions and decisions are valid so long as they were done in a way that met all requirements in the treaty and will not need to be redone just because the treaty comes into effect.
Other implementation legislation for First Nation agreements includes a similar provision, since in many cases those First Nation agreements also required various steps or decisions in advance.
Section 25 of the legislation outlines the various amendments to other federal pieces of legislation in order to bring those in line with Canada’s recognition in the legislation of the MNA, MN-S and MNO as Indigenous governments. Specifically, it outlines amendments to:
- Canada’s Access to Information Act; and
- Canada’s Privacy Act.
Both Acts include a list of Indigenous governments who Canada has entered into self-government agreements or modern-day treaties with. This section of the legislation is simply how Canada adds our Métis governments to these lists.
All of Canada’s implementation legislation for other Indigenous governments includes a similar section dealing with these same consequential amendments to these two federal Acts.