Conservatives no friends to Metis
Open letter to Metis Nation citizens,
Last week, the Metis Nation’s leadership unanimously decided to inform and encourage Metis citizens to vote for the Liberal Party in this election based on the party’s track record and its Metis platform- We are now undertaking initiatives to inform our people why this decision was made.
You should know that this decision was not made lightly.
It was not just a ‘partisan’ decision as some claim. It was based on Paul Martin’s proven track record, the Liberal Party’s written commitments and a very real concern about our nation’s rights and future,
As leaders, we know there will be consequences for our decision.
However, throughout our history, we have always taken political action. We have stood up for our identity, lands and rights when they have been threatened.
We have never been a people to sit back and let things happen to us. We are a people of great determination, resilience and action.
Quite often, our assertions, have placed us on the other side of governments. Sir John A. Macdonald’s vision for Canada was very different than that of Riel and the Metis people.
Our collective actions back in the 1800s ensured his vision is not now Canada’s reality.
In the 1980s, we took political action to ensure Metis rights were included in the Constitution.
In 1992, we actively campaigned for the Charlottetown Accord because the Metis Nation Accord was a part of the package. Metis political action is not a new phenomenon.
At the start of this election, I wrote to all five federal parties. I asked the parties for their positions on Metis issues.
We have received responses from the Liberals, NDP and the Green Party. We have released these letters and prepared a summary chart. These are available at wwvv.metisnation.ca.
While the responses from the Green Party and the NDP are encouraging, we know neither will form the next government. The Liberals have affirmed their commitment to the Canada-Metis Nation Framework Agreement and its implementation on a “government-to-government” basis.
They also remain committed to the Kelowna Agreement which includes federal resources for much needed Metis-specific child care, bursaries, housing and education supports.
Metis citizens should also be aware of other factors that influenced our decision:
• The Conservatives did not respond to our request for their policies;
Since the last election, Stephen Harper has not met with us;
At the Conservative policy convention, the Metis were left out of the party’s Aboriginal policy;
The Conservative’s Finance critic Monte Solberg has stated that the “Kelowna Agreement is something that they crafted at the last moment on the back of a napkin on the eve of an election. We’re not going to honour that.”
Even more troubling is the confirmation, in the Globe and Mail, that Thomas Flanagan is a part of “a small inner circle” that influences Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party behind the scenes.
Flanagan has called us an “economically marginal, in-cohesive assortment of heterogeneous groups” which “lack internal unity, political power, and social influence.”
In his eyes, our inclusion in the Constitution was “regrettable” and strategies “to minimize the damage caused by the thoughtless elevation of the Metis to the status of a distinct ‘aboriginal’people” should be implemented.
In good conscience, we could not sit back and let this election move ahead without our people knowing what is at stake.
We have a responsibility to inform our people. At the end of the day, the choice rests with every Metis Nation citizen.
We are proud of our role in building this country and we should not shy away from having a say in its future.
As leaders, all we can do is provide you with the power of information. It is your vote. You have the right to decide who gets it.
Regardless of what your choice is, I encourage you to exercise your democratic right on January 23rd.
Clement Chartier, president, Metis National Council, Ottawa
Notwithstanding clause essential
It was with considerable shock and dismay that I heard Paul Martin declare his intention to repeal the notwithstanding clause of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms if the Liberals form the next government.
This clause is a vital safeguard to ensure that our society cannot be tyrannized by an overweening judiciary.
In effect, the clause allows for a careful balance of powers.
And it is not absolute. The clause puts a limit of five years on any parliamentary decision to employ the notwithstanding clause, requiring that such a decision would need to be renewed by Parliament after five years if it were to continue (and then only for a further five years).
Given that Martin has in the past promised to use the clause if the courts overstepped what he considered legitimate boundaries, it is impossible to believe that this promise reflects any real conviction on his part that the clause is inappropriate.
It seems rather to be a poorly considered short-term political strategy born out of political desperation — a very dangerous way to shape constitutional reform.
Appropriate checks and balances are essential in any democracy, institutional structures to ensure that no single part of government is able to exercise unrestrained power.
The notwithstanding clause is a critical and carefully constructed mechanism to balance the power of the Canadian parliament and the Canadian courts.
Let us hope that Martin’s ill-considered declaration of intent never has an opportunity to be realized.
Barrett W. Horne