The Métis Nation of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources made an historic agreement on Métis harvesting this past July
On July 7th 2004, at the AGA in Thunder Bay, the MNO and the Ministry of Natural Resources made an historic agreement that recognizes the MNO's Harvest Card system. The agreement at this point is very short and is set out in four points. The essence of the agreement is that MNR will apply its Interim Enforcement Policy to each MNO Harvester's Certificate holder who is harvesting for food within his or her traditional territory. This means that MNO Harvester's Certificate holders will not be charged unless they are in violation of conservation or safety standards.
To help MNO citizens better understand the Interim Harvesting Agreement, the four points are set out here with a brief explanation.
1. MNO and MNR agree that MNO will issue a maximum of 1250 MNO Harvester's Certificates for this year. The number of 1250 is for this year only. A mutually agreeable process for a change in this number will be developed subject to research and evaluation of the Harvester's Certificate system.
Explanation: MNO has been issuing Harvester's Certificates since 1995. Harvester's Certificates are issued under the MNO Harvesting Policy, which states that an MNO citizen can exercise the Métis right to harvest for food in his or her traditional territory in Ontario. MNO is confident that 1250 is sufficient for the 2004-05 harvesting season. In fact, in almost 10 years of issuing Harvest Cards, MNO has only issued approximately 1000 in total. However, in recognition of the fact that the number may need to be increased next year, MNR and MNO will establish a process for that potential increase. An evaluation of the MNO Harvester's Certificate Registry and some research will be undertaken to support the process for potential increases in Harvest Cards issued next year.
2. The MNR will apply the Interim Enforcement Policy (IEP) to those valid Harvester Card holders who are harvesting for food, within their traditional territories and pursuant to the safety and conservation values set out in the IEP in a manner, which is identical with its application to First Nations.
Explanation: MNR established the Interim Enforcement Policy after the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Sparrow in 1990. Sparrow established the Indian right to fish for food. The essential element of the Interim Enforcement Policy is that MNR will not charge status Indians who are harvesting for food in their traditional territory or treaty area. Now, after the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Powley and as part of this new MNO/MNR Interim Agreement, MNR will apply the same Interim Enforcement Policy to MNO Harvester's Certificate holders. In other words, MNR will not charge MNO Harvester's Certificate holders who are harvesting for food in their traditional territory. The Interim Enforcement Policy sets out certain conservation and safety standards, which will continue to be enforced against MNO Harvester's Certificate holders who violate those standards. Similar standards are set out in the MNO Harvesting Policy. Nevertheless, the essence of this MNO/MNR Interim Harvesting Agreement is that MNO Harvester's Certificate holders will be treated the same as status Indians.
3. This Interim Agreement will be for two years with the intention that it will be extended by mutual consent until a final agreement is in place.
Explanation: The Interim Agreement will last only for two years. During that time period both sides are committed to doing research. The research is necessary because there are uncertainties that have arisen due to a lack of historical information with respect to the existence and continuity of Métis communities in some parts of Ontario - most particularly in the south and east of the province. Research will provide the historical facts necessary to support what MNO citizens believe - that there are old and continuing Métis communities throughout Ontario. The hope is, that by the end of this two-year period MNO and MNR, on the basis of the research, will be able to enter into a long term agreement on harvesting.
4. Both sides agree that an independent evaluation of the MNO Harvester's Certificate system will be performed based on mutually agreeable terms of reference.<
Explanation: MNO has long asserted that its Registry is a unique and rich source of genealogical and historical information on Métis individuals, families and communities in Ontario. While MNO has made many assertions over the years about the validity of the Registry, no government authority has been allowed to examine the Registry files. As a result, government circles require certainty with respect to the Registry. MNO is confident that any uncertainties can be laid to rest, and in fact, must be laid to rest. Government must learn that the Registry is a reliable source of Métis genealogical information. However, until government has that comfort, it seems that moving forward on many fronts will be slow and difficult. Therefore, MNO has agreed to permit an independent evaluation of the MNO Harvester's Certificate Registry process - to provide the necessary assurance to the Government of Ontario. Please be assured that the evaluation is to ascertain the bona fides of the Registry only. The evaluator will be independent of both the government and the MNO. No personal information will be copied or stored by the evaluator. No lists of names will leave the Registry. The evaluator will merely look at a random selection of files to see if those files contain the necessary documents and family lines. The evaluation is a review of MNO's Registry system, not any individual's personal information. MNO and MNR are working on an agreement that will set out the terms of reference for the evaluation, which we anticipate will take place either late this year or early in 2005.