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A cut of the devolution pie?
Fort Smith Metis Council approves motion calling for payments to indigenous members

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 24, 2014

If the Fort Smith Metis Council has its way, its indigenous members may be in for an unexpected payday as a result of devolution.

The council's board unanimously passed a motion in late January supporting the idea that, when devolution dollars are received after April 1 by the Northwest Territory Metis Nation (NWTMN), the council should receive a portion and about a third of that should be shared on a per-capita basis with members.

"It's the people's bit of getting money back from the resources that have been going out of the North to the federal government," said Ken Hudson, president of the Fort Smith Metis Council.

Although the amount of royalty money is undetermined, Hudson said about one-third should go directly to the people, and he estimated the per-capita payment might be somewhere between $400 and $500.

Garry Bailey, the president of the NWTMN, said it has not yet been decided what will happen to the money the organization will be getting as a result of devolution.

"We're definitely looking at it, but I can't comment until I get board approval," he said.

However, Bailey confirmed the funding will be coming to the NWTMN, not the Metis councils in Fort Smith, Hay River and Fort Resolution.

"We'll be the ones receiving the devolution dollars," he said.

Kara King, the president of the Fort Resolution Metis Council, said whether some money should eventually go to the local councils hasn't really been discussed.

"My board, at this time, we haven't really discussed any kind of payout to membership, but I can understand where Kenny is coming from and it's something that we have to discuss and at the regional level, too, on what the devolution dollars could be used for," she said.

King said the money will go to the NWTMN, which will decide what it's going to do with it - if it's going to hold onto it and use it for something in the region, or if it's going to disperse it among the communities.

Hudson said a per-capita payment, if it happens, would be just for indigenous Metis - those who can trace their ancestry in the South Slave prior to Dec. 31, 1921.

In Fort Smith, that would be about 1,200 people, including children.

"So you're looking at a good chunk of money that's going to be injected into the economy," said Hudson.

As for whether it might become an annual payment, he said, "We'd have to look at the amount of money in the years to come, and how much we'll get next year. Then the board of directors will decide whether or not we're going to continue this practice."

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