The Metis Definition Question(s) !
My View and Why !
by: michael j. durocher LL.B.
The definition of who is a real Metis has reached new heights. The Metis National Council has passed a resolution that states that for one to be a member of the MNC, he or she must show lineage to the prairie Metis. This means that groups of Metis and their organizations, who do not fit the criterea, are being left out. The organization that I belong to is being exclusionary and I do not like it. Who are we to say whether Metis from Labrador, or the N.W.T., Nunavut are Metis or not? If you really think about it, the whole group of us are Metis; the Treaty and Non-Status would be hard-pressed to bring forth a full-blooded Indian. Blood-wise it is almost impossible - so, why are we still arguing who is Treaty, who is Metis and the have-nots are Non-Status. Well, that's not fair when we are all the same. We are fighting over government hand-outs. Now the Metis are fighting over who is the "real" Metis. We are all Metis! Get it!
The Metis National Council has been dealing with this question since 1998 under the heading of "The Metis Nation Agenda". A lot of money has been provided by Heritage Canada and other PMO programs for the Metis on this project. Each provincial affiliate received allottments of funds for the purpose of holding community consultations. Meetings were held in Vancouver, others in Toronto, Edmonton, and numerous other meetings between the MNC president and its provincial affiliate leaders. These meetings were held in Ottawa and various other cities across the western prairies. Lucrative contracts were awarded to their friends to draft up thought processes of different possible Definitions on Metis, the Youth, Metis Hunting Rights and Service Delivery of programs. I have always thought that non-profit or government-funded organizations must advertise for "goods and services"? Each year, a revised version of last years' report was declared a continuation of the Metis Nation Agenda by the same consultants. In other words - most of the money was used to prepare for and hold provincial AGMs for the last few years.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent on community consultation, but I hear in most affiliate provinces from grassroot Metis of not knowing anything about the Metis definition issue. The only ones that knew anything about it were again usually local presidents, some board members, staff and not too many that were not close to the local. Saskatchewan did a fairly good job with community consultations, however, most of the other affiliates did not do very much.
What this means is that they are telling the government of Canada that the Metis and the only Metis under S.35(2) are descendants of Red River Metis, Dominion Lands Act Scrip recipients which predominantly took place in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. What they are saying is that Labrador Metis, Metis from N.W.T., Metis from Nova Scotia, Acadian Metis that they are no longer Metis. I don't agree. The main issue really is about land. The only way the MNC can ever have a chance at a land claim is to declare Rupert's Land to be their's.
Without a landbase, one cannot be a nation that is what the MNC is trying to convince the federal government. TheMNC is saying leave all those other people out, they can go to the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the umbrella for Non-Status Indians and now soon-to-be non-status Metis. The scary thing is that the federal government will find the MNC idea a very lucrative idea because it becomes a much smaller group, thus easier to intimidate and therefore, control.
My question is this: England took land away from dozens of different tribes of First Nations and called it Rupert's Land. Who are we to come here now and declare that Rupert's Land is now Metis Land? What about all those various Indian Bands that lost their respective territories? It is bad enough that many of these Indian Tribal groupings were split up because provincial boundaries did not consider and respect territorial rights of Indians. Look at Saskatchewan and on either side there are groupings of Indians that are related, have the same dialects and cultures, but they are split by provincial boundaries.
I believe we can have a Metis Nation that includes all the various Metis from across Canada. Like our cousins the First Nations, have different groupings because of provincial boundaries. Why can't we have Red River, Sakitawak Metis, Labrador Metis, NWT Metis, Northern BC Metis, Fort William Metis, Acadian Metis and of course Quebec, under the MNC flag. The more, the merrier.
When it comes to land, I want to own my own piece of land. I want my family to own a piece of that land, with the title in some safety deposit box in the bank. I don't know if I want some organization of politicians to take charge of my land. This proposition reminds me of a cooperative - 99% do not succeed. Get the point. I would like to see some sort of legislation that would protect Metis owned land from being wrongfully acquired by non-Metis. Some sort of Metis Land Titles Office. If a guy wants to sell his land then the MLTO would make sure the new owner is Metis. It sounds so rigid but we don't want to see another situation when scrips were first introduced and basically a hundred percent of the land ended up in the hands of speculators. There needs to be some mechanism to control ownership of the land. But, we can't simply say we want a quarter of Canada, you know, take it away from the White people government and the other Indians that may have a personal interest in some land. But, I do want my own piece of land that I can call my own.
I was born a Sakitawak Metis with Cree and Dene roots, and Quebec blood that would have travelled through the Red River. Don't forget that English and French Metis worked side-by-side; they always made sure their side was equally represented in their community. This was evident in Red River, Batoche, Ile-a-la-Crosseand many other Metis communities. Look at Sandy Point, our grandfathers were English (George Gardiner) and French (Ambroise Morin) and our grandmothers were sisters. Our great-grandfathers had done the same; one English (Robert Gardiner), one French (Felix Morin) had married sisters. It is unfortunate that many English and non-French Metis today are being threatened to be declared a non-Metis by the Metis National Council and its Provincial Affiliates just because they can't trace their roots to the Red River or prove that a descendant had received Dominion Lands Act Scrip. Its a shame that the MNC is doing this when their own Metis grandchildren have so little Metis blood. Even the Metis through outside marriage have thinned out the Metis blood. I still maintain someday we are going to need blood quantum and DNA to prove status as a Metis. How else can we do it?
I care for all Metis from across this country. I get a lot of email from all over North America. I get lots of queries for genealogy information. I have even received information about Durochers from as far away as Louisiana and Florida who have roots to Quebec and possibly the Red River. Joseph Durocher, my dads namesake, is a public defender in Florida with roots from the Cajens. We may be related. It is so cool. There are Metis on every corner of this continent. You guys have to keep calling, writing, and emailing your MPs, contact Ralph Goodale, the Federal Interlocutor for Metis. Express your opinion on this matter, it is very important. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
(Most of my writings will be a compiled into one book titled "From The Trapline To Law School". I still haven't decided when I want to publish it. No Rush.)