The president of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation says a lack of federal money is holding up its land claim negotiations.
Garry Bailey, the president of the NWT Métis Nation, says the federal Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations shortchanged his organization several millions dollars for the current fiscal year. The department also turned down additional $240,000 requested last December to pay for flights and accommodation for the negotiating team of about a dozen people to attend two meetings with Ottawa, he says.
The shortfall also meant staff couldn’t be hired to process nearly 2,000 people applying to be members of NWT Metis Nation, Bailey says.
Bailey says the negotiating process will face further delays without sufficient funds to negotiate, travel and consult with members.
He hoped their 25,000 square kilometre claim would be ratified this May, but that’s been pushed back to 2021.
“They doubled the workload but cut the funds,” Bailey says.
“People need to know what Canada is doing with the Métis people, to see what we are up against. We are trying to finalize this thing and if we are not given the proper funding, it really does not help the situation.”
Bailey says his negotiating team expected to attend twice as many meetings with Ottawa compared to a year ago.
Bailey issued a news release earlier this week outlining his concerns.
Bailey told CBC he’s known for months there would be a shortfall, but he wants to draw attention to the deficiencies, which he says are a problem for Indigenous groups across the country.
“Reconciliation is supposed to be the number one priority for Aboriginal people and finalizing our claims was one of the biggest things they were talking about and expediting them. [The feds] definitely need to put their money where their mouth is,” he says.
The NWT Métis Nation has been negotiating their claim for more than 20 years, and Bailey says he hopes that it receives more money during the next fiscal year.
CBC contacted the Crown-Indigenous Relations Department for comment, but did not receive a response by Thursday afternoon.
Related stories from around the North:
Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News
Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden
United States: Inuit leaders to advance Indigenous human rights, Radio Canada International