Only one legislative step is left before the $310 million dollar Metis settlements self-government deal becomes law. As it nears the end of the law-making process, the legislative process is surrounded by a flurry of activity.
The four bills have now been given royal assent and are awaiting proclamation, which is the moment at which they become law. Metis MLA Pearl Calahasen expects proclamation to take place around mid-July.
The legislation consists of Bill 33, the Metis Settlements Accord Implementation Act; Bill 34, the Metis Settlements Land Protection Act; Bill 35, the Metis Settlements Act and Bill 36, the Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act 1990.
In conjunction with the bills, several positions have been created and many meetings are taking place.
One of the more high profile positions is that of commissioner, who will be jointly responsible to the Alberta government and the genera council for insuring the new laws are properly implemented. Dennis Surrendi, a former senior official with Alberta municipal affairs, has been appointed to the post. His position becomes law upon the passing of the implementation bill.
In addition, a task force has been put in place to set up the rest of the commission. Harry Supernault of East Prairie has been named as settlement liaison person. He works with former municipal affairs employees, which includes Ian Redmond, Cameron Henry and Bill Millar. The task force has 13 members.
Also a number of settlement people have been recommended by the settlements to sit on a seven-member semi-judicial body to be known as the Metis Appeals Tribunal (MAT). Archie Collins of Elizabeth settlement has been recommended as chairman, Dennis Cunningham of Peavine as vice-chairman, along with Terry Gaucher of Peavine and Alberta Wanuch of Paddle Prairie.
The Federation of Metis Settlements meets almost weekly in Edmonton to discuss the new laws.
A crucial part of the legislative package will be the Metis Settlements Accord Implementation Act through which the $310 million will flow.
Bill 34 is the result of the settlers' quest to secure their lands. This bill, which will become the land protection act, will guard the settlers from further loss of land. The only way lands can be lost is by permission of the Alberta government, all eight chairpersons from the settlements, a majority of the people from the settlement affected and a majority of members from all settlements.
Although some members - particularly from Paddle Prairie - are not comfortable the general council will hold land under the new law, federation president Randy Hardy says "it will be next to impossible to lose land."
The general council will be established as a corporation and controlled by the 40 council members of the eight settlements. Each council has five members, of which one is the chairperson. Each council will have one vote on the general council.