Sahtu Métis group to sign self-governance agreement in principle, a 1st for Métis in Canada
Métis in Norman Wells, N.W.T., will be one step closer in reaching a final agreement for self-governance after signing today's agreement in principle — making them the first Métis group in Canada to reach that milestone.
The signing of the Self-Government Agreement-in-Principle for the Sahtu Dene and Métis of Norman Wells will be at 5:30 p.m. MT Wednesday in the community of about 800 people, 37 per cent of which self-identify as Indigenous.
The agreement in principle is not legally binding; it's a foundation for negotiations for a final agreement.
The Norman Wells Land Corporation — which represents the Métis and Dene in the community — will become the Norman Wells Métis Government, according to the text of the framework agreement.
The new Norman Wells Métis Government would have the power to collect taxes, decide on membership and run their own child and family services, among other things.
The Métis government will also represent the community's Dene population.
Currently, it has 300 members in and outside of Norman Wells.
A 1st for Métis in Canada
Though a Métis government has been suggested as a possibility elsewhere in Canada, the land corporation is the first to sign an agreement in principle to create one.
Other Métis groups in Canada have signed regional agreements granting some level of local autonomy, like the Métis Nation of Alberta, which achieved recognition from the province for eight local Métis governments in 1989.
Métis Nation British Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government last year — the first stage on the path to a self-governance agreement.
History of Sahtu self-governance
The self-government agreements fall under the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, signed in 1993, which paved a way for Sahtu communities like Deline, Norman Wells, Colville Lake, Fort Good Hope and Tulita to pursue self-government agreements.
That agreement codified that the Sahtu Dene and Métis were responsible for more than 40,000 square kilometres of land in the Mackenzie River valley. The area is rich in natural resources and there are constant proposals to develop various sites there.
In 2014, the community of Deline was first to be self-governing. It took Deline more than 10 years from the agreement in principle to achieve a final agreement.
Norman Wells signed its framework agreement in 2007.
The agreement specified a timeline for these negotiations, saying both parties would make "best efforts" to sign an agreement in principle in four years.
It took three times as long.
In August last year, the Norman Wells Land Corporation, and territorial and federal governments initialed the proposed agreement in principle.
On Wednesday, that agreement in principle will be signed. The next step is signing a final agreement — which could potentially take years.
Negotiations toward a final agreement are underway, according to a news release from the federal Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations in August.