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Ontario Boosting Métis Economic Development to the Tune of Millions

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Ontario’s government has put $30 million behind an initiative to assist in the economic development of the Métis of the province.

The historic agreement, signed on June 20, culminated years of work by the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) to create an economic development arm that supports Métis entrepreneurs and businesses, the MNO said in a media release. The parties created the Métis Voyageur Development Fund and signed a memorandum of understanding on economic development between the MNO and the provincial government.

The goal is for the fund to make strategic investments that contribute not only to Ontario’s economy but also to the welfare of its Métis peoples and communities. It is patterned after similar funds and capital corporations fun by Métis in western Canada such as the Louis Riel Capital Corporation in Manitoba, the Clarence Campeau Development Fund in Saskatchewan and the Apeetogosan Capital Corporation in Alberta, the MNO said.

Under the agreement, the Ontario government has committed $3 million per year over 10 years to buttress economic development for Métis businesses. It grew out of the MO-Ontario Framework Agreement signed in November 2008. The two parties will also work together to procure fund contributions from the federal government.

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“Today’s announcement represents a historic breakthrough for Ontario Métis,” said MNO President Gary Lipinski in a statement. “We will finally be able to provide much-needed support and assistance to Métis entrepreneurs and businesses in building the economies of Métis communities, while also contributing to Ontario’s overall economic growth.”

In addition the province is contributing $16.6 million to bring cellular and broadband services to remote communities, according to the Chronicle Journalnewspaper, plus $45 million to train aboriginals in mining, energy, forestry, tourism, and agriculture, and almost $5 million to extend natural gas services to Red Lake, Balmertown and Cochenour.

The Métis, descendants of fur traders and Native women, fought for years to be recognized as a distinct aboriginal group in Canada. In the 2006 Census, 73,605 Ontarians identified themselves as Métis, the MNO said.