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McMurray Métis Celebrates Victory!

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Yesterday McMurray Métis celebrated a landmark victory at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre.

More than 130 Métis members gather to celebrate the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, stating that 200,000 Métis and 400,000 non-status Indians across the country are now considered Indians under the Constitution Act of 1867. In attendance were Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake, Ward 4 Councillor Jane Stroud, and Ward 1 Councillor Colleen Tatum, who brought greetings on behalf of the municipality.

McMurray Métis Treasure, Cindy Plunko, delivered this memorable speech:

Good evening. My name is Cindy Punko. I am a lifelong resident of Fort McMurray and I am on the board of directors of the McMurray Métis. I wanted to welcome you all here today and start by saying congratulations! I also wanted to acknowledge our elders and thank them for all they have done for our community. I also wanted to thank the politicians who have joined us today to celebrate.

I wanted to take a moment to recognize that this is also a victory for our non-status cousins. We are thrilled for what this means for you, and we are so happy to share this victory with you. Thank you for all your hard work and advocacy. I can guarantee you, that we will continue to support you and fight along side you as we embrace this bright future together.

Today is a historic day. What happened today will change the course of Canada. It will have a profound impact on how the Métis are treated by government and industry. It will improve our quality of life. And most importantly it will have great implications for our children. How they grow up, how they feel about themselves and how they will be treated by the federal government. This court ruling will go a long way in bringing healing and justice to our communities that have so often struggled.

By being recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as an Indian under the Indian Act it acknowledges our history as a founding peoples of this country. It recognizes our contribution. It confirms what we have known all along, that we are a distinct aboriginal people with a unique culture and way of life.

In 1885, the Father of the Métis Nation Louis Riel, had this to say about his fight to have the Métis people recognized. “I am more convinced every day that without a single exception I did right. And I have always believed that, as I have acted honestly, the time will come when the people of Canada will see and acknowledge it.” Today his prophetic words have been realized.

So what does this mean? That governments or industry will no longer be able to ignore us. That they cannot simply trample on our rights. That we will no longer have to try and fight for progress through the courts, but rather through respectful conversation as equals. We still have a long way to go, but this ruling will make the road ahead easier.

The Métis of Wood Buffalo is now calling upon the Government of Alberta, to recognize this change. We need an off-settlement Métis consultation policy that is fair and just. We are eager to work with you to develop it, but we will no longer accept the status quo.

I would like to acknowledge all those who have come before us in our mission to be recognized in this way. The generations of Métis leaders including Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont and of course Harry Daniels, the former leader of the Saskatchewan Métis, who brought this case forward over a decade ago, yet never lived to see this day. I would like to thank them, and the countless Métis and non-status activists who year after year, fought to keep our traditions alive despite violence, displacement and discrimination. I would also like to thank, my fellow McMurray Métis board members, our staff and volunteers and of course all of you.

We look forward to working with our counterparts in the Métis Nation of Alberta and the Métis National Council. We all have much to celebrate today.

The Métis are a timeless people whose lineage is shared with our First Nation and non-status cousins. This shared past extends back long before recorded history on this continent. So I found this quote fitting. In 1964 amidst the turmoil of the civil rights movement in the United States Dr. Martin Luther King, had this to say “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Today I feel like justice has finally been served.

Thank you.