AMC Stands with Chiefs of Ontario, Urges Federal Government to Halt Unilateral Advancement of Bill C-53 Without Free Prior and Informed Consent

November 16, 2023

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) are unwavering in their commitment to protecting the rights of First Nations and are urgently calling on the federal government to halt the expedited progression of Bill C-53 into legislation without obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of First Nations. This proposed federal law would recognize the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) as holding section 35 rights under the Constitution without credible factual or legal grounds.

The Chiefs of Ontario have been sounding the alarm about Bill C-53 and the dangerous precedent it will set by creating a slippery slope for false claims. “First Nations in all regions will be aware of the growing spread of groups falsely claiming Métis or First Nation status on the basis of distant ancestry. Canada’s actions will only encourage groups asserting false claims across the country,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “First Nations strongly support the recognition of Indigenous rights but reject the creation of rights by governments for groups that did not exist historically as culturally distinct, stable, political identities.”

In Manitoba, several First Nations have ancestral territories extending into present-day Ontario and Saskatchewan—two provinces directly affected by Bill C-53. Passing Bill C-53 is contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Article 26, which recognizes and affirms that First Nations have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that we possess.

“Métis people, many of whom are our relatives, arose after contact with the Europeans. Unlike First Nations, they have not existed on these lands since time immemorial with their own laws and nationhood,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Bill C-53 has the potential to unjustly recognize Métis as rights-holders in First Nations Treaty and ancestral territories where they have no connection or rights. Further reducing First Nations’ Treaty territories directly threatens the ability of our people to express, to the fullest extent, our inherent and Treaty rights, which are inseparable from the land.”

“What’s important for everyone to know is that First Nations in the Ontario and Manitoba regions are unified on this issue, along with First Nations from all regions across what is now known as Canada,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare.  At the June 2023 Assembly of First Nations Annual Chiefs Assembly, Chiefs-in-Assembly unanimously passed Resolution #44/2023 Protect First Nations Rights and Interests from Unfounded Métis Rights Assertions which affirms that no land, air, or water-based inherent and constitutional Métis rights supersede the inherent, constitutional, and human rights of all First Nations.

The AMC and COO remain committed to protecting First Nations rights and demand that Canada fulfill its Treaty obligations to First Nations in accordance with UNDRIP. As such, Grand Chief Merrick and Ontario Regional Chief Hare presented to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAN) on November 2, 2023, and firmly asserted that the principle of free, prior, and informed consent cannot be compromised and urged INAN members to table this bill and not to rush legislation that has unforeseen impacts for First Nations.

“Bill C-53, in its current form, represents another avenue for the Canadian government to perpetuate the colonization of First Nations,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “There is no assurance from Canada that our input will shape the development of proposed Métis Treaties, ensuring they respect our rights. As our Treaty partner, Canada should prioritize fulfilling existing commitments rather than initiating new treaty negotiations using our ancestral territories. It prompts us to question why this bill seems to be moving through the legislative process so quickly.”

AMC and COO continue to call for Bill C-53 to be withdrawn until Canada does its due diligence to consult with First Nations and verify the MNO’s claims.

For more information, please contact:

Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Chris Hoyos, Director of Policy and Communications
Chiefs of Ontario

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) peoples.

About the Chiefs of Ontario
The Chiefs of Ontario support all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction and their chosen expression of nationhood. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ChiefsOfOntario.