Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 22 - Evidence - December 1, 2009


OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:32 a.m. to study the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, and other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.

Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good morning. I would like to welcome honourable senators, members of the public and viewers across the country who are watching these proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or on the web.

The purpose of today's meeting is to obtain a briefing from a number of Metis organizations setting out their current priorities and most pressing concerns.

[Translation]

Before we hear our witnesses, let me introduce the committee members who are present.

[English]

On my left are Senator Brazeau from Quebec and Senator Hubley from Prince Edward Island. On my right are Senator Peterson from Saskatchewan, Senator Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick, and Senator Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia.

Members of the committee, please help me in welcoming our witnesses. Representing the national body is David Chartrand, Vice-President of the Métis National Council. Bruce Dumont is President of the Métis Nation British Columbia. Audrey Poitras is President of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Robert Doucette is President of the Métis Nation — Saskatchewan. From the Manitoba Métis Federation we have Leah LaPlante, Vice-President. Gary Lipinski is President of the Métis Nation of Ontario.

Perhaps we could begin by hearing from Mr. Chartrand on behalf of the Métis National Council, after which others may have presentations.

David Chartrand, Vice-President, Métis National Council: Thank you to all the senators who have decided to join us this morning to hear our presentations. We will try to keep them as brief as possible, given the importance of such an opportunity. We will attempt to express our position on this issue as well as we can in a short time.

On behalf of the Métis National Council, I am pleased to appear before this body to set out the broad objectives and challenges of the Métis National Council in Canada. I will be followed by presidents of a number of our governing members.

The struggle for Metis self-determination and self-government began as soon as the Metis emerged as a distinct people and nation along the fur trade routes of Rupert's Land. Whenever our distinct interests were threatened, we organized and mobilized to fight for our rights. In 1816, our national flag was unfurled on the battlefield at Seven Oaks, where, under the leadership of Cuthbert Grant, we defeated the Selkirk settlers who attempted to restrict our economic activity. We waged a continuous struggle against the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly, both in the Red River settlement and before British parliamentary committees in London.

When Canada acquired Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869 without consulting the Metis majority in Red River, we formed a provisional government under Louis Riel that negotiated the admission of Manitoba as a province into Confederation. Under Riel's leadership, we established the second Metis provisional government in Saskatchewan in 1885 to pursue our land rights and responsible government.

The refusal of the federal government to respect our rights as a people and founding nation led to the Northwest Resistance of 1885. After some initial victories, our army, under the command of Gabriel Dumont, was overwhelmed by the vastly larger Canadian forces at the Battle of Batoche. Shortly thereafter, the Macdonald government executed the leader of our nationalist movement, Louis Riel. Almost immediately, Metis national organizations began to emerge in Manitoba and the Saskatchewan Valley.

During the Depression, Metis provincial associations formed in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Others would follow. Each of our provincial governing members today is led by representatives elected in province-wide ballot box elections. The Métis National Council was established in 1983 and comprises the provincial Metis governance bodies from the five western most provinces. By and large, our Metis governments have adopted the Westminster model of governance. Metis governments today are successors to the provisional government of Louis Riel.

In the face of our historic struggle to assert our nationhood within the Canadian federation, it has been the position of the federal government that it does not have constitutional responsibility for Metis as a distinct people, but history shows that Parliament has not hesitated to enact legislation applying specifically to Metis when it is in its interest to do so.

I refer to the Manitoba Act, 1870 and to the Dominion Lands Act of 1879. Both purported to provide land grants for Metis toward extinguishment of Aboriginal title; the first in the postage stamp, the province of Manitoba; the second in the rest of today's Prairie provinces. As for the implementation of these land grants by the federal government, the Supreme Court of Canada refers to the history of speculation surrounding the grants as a "sorry chapter in our nation's history.''

When Edmonton millionaire Richard Secord was charged in 1921 with obtaining Metis land grants through fraud, Parliament amended the Criminal Code to impose a time limitation of three years on the prosecution of scrip offences and nullified the charges.

Lower court judges in recent years have threatened to take judicial notice of the fraud permeating the land grant process. Since 1981, the Manitoba Métis Federation was been pursuing a lawsuit against the federal and Manitoba government for undermining the Metis land grants promised by the Manitoba Act. Since 1994, the Métis National Council and Métis Nation — Saskatchewan have been challenging the validity of scrip as a means of extinguishing land rights.

While recognizing Metis as one of the three Aboriginal Peoples in the Constitution Act, 1982, successive federal governments have refused to properly recognize our rights. The closest we have come in this regard was the Metis Nation Accord, which we worked out with the Mulroney government and the five provincial governments within our homeland as an adjunct to the Charlottetown Accord in 1992. That accord, for a start, provided for the federal and provincial governments to transfer to our institutions the portion of Aboriginal programs and services then available to Metis and to make transfer payments to our institutions. It also committed the federal and provincial governments to negotiate tripartite agreements on self-government as well as lands and resources. With the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord, we had to wait 13 years before we could re-engage the federal government on a nation-to- nation government-to-government basis.

In 2005, the Canada-Metis Nation Framework Agreement provided the political framework, and the Kelowna Accord the financial resources that would have enabled us to carry out our responsibilities as a government based on a recognition of our rights and the Crown's obligation to deal with us as a distinct Aboriginal people and nation. As these negotiated agreements fell by the wayside with the defeat of the federal governments, we have been forced to resort to the courts in order to have our rights recognized.

In the Powley decision in 2003, the Supreme Court recognized the Metis as a full-fledged and distinct rights-bearing Aboriginal people in a case affecting harvesting rights.

The federal government still refuses to recognize any of our rights beyond harvesting. We and our governments are not recognized in the federal legislation, and our people are excluded from a variety of federal Aboriginal programs and services, the foremost being education and health care. We are excluded from federal land claims resolution processes. This history forms the context of our repeated calls to the Senate and, indeed, to both Houses of Parliament, to urge the federal government to assume its constitutional and historical responsibility to deal with us as a distinct Aboriginal people.

While some of these events are somewhat removed in time, your roles in providing sober second thought can and should spur the Senate to seek to ensure that Parliament assumes its constitutionally mandated responsibility under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act. Failing progress on that, we are calling on the Senate to request that the Prime Minister refer the matter of Metis inclusion in section 91(24) to the Supreme Court of Canada.

We are asking the Senate to call on the Prime Minister to establish a Metis claims commission with a mandate similar to that of Indian Claims Commissions in order to restore the land base of the Metis nation.

We believe the Senate should pursue a process that addresses the exclusion of the vast majority of our people who attended church-run, government-sanctioned schools from compensation such as that offered by the Indian Residential School Agreement.

The Senate should also consider the need for legislation to address the contemporary challenges faced by our Metis governments. I say "governments'' because that is what we are. Metis governments are elected by thousands of Metis citizens, and that is how they are expected to perform by other levels of government.

Our population now forms approximately 30 per cent of the Aboriginal population, with the vast majority of these people represented by governing members and the MNC. We also have the fastest growing youth population.

While our governments have assumed some responsibility for matters such as skills development, employment, housing, child and family services and small business financing, we are denied the authority and financing to properly administer the various programs and services under our purview.

We believe that our right to self-government is an inherent right in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, but there is also a strong business case for the federal government to transfer increased responsibility to our governments. We believe we can provide lower costs and better solutions. The Aboriginal Human Resources Development Program is a case in point.

I have tabled with you today a publication called Metis Works. This publication highlights the tremendous success of this
$50 million program and the concrete results Metis AHRDAs are achieving. This is being achieved without the often- hidden long-term pension costs of the federal treasury.

Studies undertaken by the C.D. Howe Institute and the Centre for the Study of Living Standards have gauged the tremendous impact these programs are having, not only on people's lives but on increased education and incomes. More people in our labour force and higher incomes lead to greater tax revenues. We know we can accomplish the same successes in other programs and service areas.

Senators, the cost of doing nothing is no longer sustainable. Failure to increase Metis participation in the economy will lead to higher welfare costs and increased costs to the health care system. We also need your support in reforming the existing financial system we are operating under today. The current system is not working and it actually impedes efforts to increase accountability. We support a more accountable, transparent financing system that promotes self- government, not undermines it.

We need to move toward long-term, sustainable block-funding arrangements rather than the current systems, which have us on bended knee, not knowing whether we are able to meet payroll and debt obligations. The existing system is set up for failure, and only through ingenuity and stretching the terms of the current contributions can we survive. We simply must change the system.

We have built a strong personal and positive relationship with the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians with this government.

The Métis Nation Protocol facilitates useful discussions on how to improve living conditions and pursue economic opportunities. However, in order for us to overcome the big historical and constitutional barriers to progress on our issues, our governments must be recognized within the context of the Canadian federation.

The recognition of our governments should take the form of federal legislation recognizing our right to govern ourselves under a Metis nation constitution. The legislation would recognize our constitution's initial powers, such as regulating our citizenship and a full devolution of authority over a portion of federal Aboriginal programs and services that are currently available to our people. It would also provide for reliable and predictable financing of our governments through transfer payments.

In the interim, we would like the Senate to strongly encourage the government to act with respect to our governments on existing Treasury Board guidelines providing for block funding or multi-year flexible funding of Aboriginal governments and organizations. We need Parliament to endorse the need to recognize that we, Metis governments, are best placed to operate programs and services to meet our social and economic needs. We can do it better, with better results and at lower costs.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. I apologize for the speed at which I read the presentation, but I know that time is limited.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Chartrand, Vice-President of the MNC and President of the Manitoba Métis Federation.

Do any other witnesses wish to speak?

Mr. Chartrand: Yes. Each of our presidents will be making a short presentation. It is important that our Metis governments present their statements from the provincial perspective. We will start with Mr. Dumont.

Bruce Dumont, President, Métis Nation British Columbia: Thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the Senate on behalf of Métis Nation British Columbia. Thank you, President Chartrand, for your address on behalf of the Métis National Council.

Métis Nation British Columbia has established clear objectives and priorities and remains a consistent, transparent and accountable Metis government. The immediate priorities of Métis Nation British Columbia are supporting Metis families and communities; supporting Metis governance and nation building; and advancing economic opportunities for our Metis citizens and communities.

Education is a vehicle for enhancing the life and opportunities of individuals, as well as a means to achieve collective goals. Metis education represents the opportunity to achieve not only economic renewal but also cultural renewal.

The Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996 notes that the destiny of a people is intricately bound to the way its children are educated. Language is an important part of our culture and defines us as Metis people.

In 2008, it was estimated that less than 1 per cent of the Metis population are able to speak the Michif language. The fact is that we are on the verge of losing the Michif language forever. Métis Nation British Columbia and their chartered Metis communities need to initiate programs that will eventually give us the capacity to have Michif speakers of all ages. This can be accomplished through intensive language immersion and activities that support intergenerational transmission.

According to the 2007 Office of the Provincial Health Officer report, Aboriginal people report higher incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases and shorter life expectancy. Data collected through the 2006 provincial survey and community consultation have shown the need for promotion of chronic disease awareness, development of a sustainable Metis Nation health program, the need for the province to recognize a citizenship card for things like health care, drug issues facing our youth and affordable or covered health benefits.

The current number of Metis children in care in the province of British Columbia is of great concern to all of us. It is imperative that Metis Nation British Columbia be actively involved in assisting Metis children and their families to access the best of Metis-specific child and family services, as well as preventive services to help children and families to maintain health, balance and wellness.

The rebuilding of our families and communities will promote education for our learners and participation in strong and sustainable economies provincially and nationally. This is our time to empower our fast-growing youth population in ways that will ensure a future of opportunity, success and prosperity and promote the knowledge of Metis languages, history, teachings and values.

Sport, recreation and play help to provide essential life skills such as confidence, time management, ambition and health. The Métis Nation British Columbia Ministry of Sport is a young ministry. The key issues are education and languages, Metis health, children and families, and youth and sports.

With regard to supporting self-governance and nation building, Métis Nation British Columbia truly believes that the key to success in closing the economic gap for Metis people and the rest of Canada is solid governance. Solid self- governance institutions promote and encourage nation building. Self-governance provides social change for Metis.

Métis Nation British Columbia has concentrated on developing solid governance since 2005. We have developed three levels of political involvement: a two-tiered legislative process, a judicial body and a bureaucratic structure that conducts the business of the nation while supporting the other institutions.

There are two key issues for Métis Nation British Columbia. The first is long-term support of the central registry and judicial systems. Second, the identification of Metis citizens is absolutely critical in building our nation. It provides Métis Nation British Columbia with a high level of accountability to our citizens. The key issues here are citizenship, nation building and Metis justice.

It is an opportune time to take a leadership role as Metis people to balance development opportunities and conservation of the earth through environmental protection and green development. Economic development is essential to improving the lives of all Metis peoples. The key issues here are dealing with climate change and fostering a green economy; skills development and training; infrastructure for housing; and supporting Metis educational institutions.

What are our current and immediate needs? First is economic development and skills development. Métis Nation British Columbia recently acquired a new training facility in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

In May of 2009, Métis Nation British Columbia submitted a proposal for $3.4 million under the federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Métis Nation British Columbia is seeking assistance for an approval of these funds as this is an investment not only to create a revenue stream for further economic development opportunities and investment but also to support education, culture, employment training, and it is the first land purchase for the Métis Nation British Columbia.

The MNBC is shovel-ready and has invested funds to ensure that this project is ready to go immediately upon arrival of the funds. The Province of British Columbia has already assisted with a $2.6 million investment to realize this opportunity. Economic development is a high priority for Métis Nation British Columbia and our citizens. We have an immediate need to support Metis business and are looking to expand.

The priorities are as follows: Métis British Columbia Venture Capital Corporation; increased partnerships with industry, oil and gas, forestry and mining; and a Metis-owned construction company. This will assist housing developments, future school renovations and Metis housing improvements provincially.

Regarding Metis housing in British Columbia, there have not been any direct investments in Metis social housing in British Columbia. There is a further need for low-income housing developments for single families and elders in British Columbia. The priority area is Prince George, British Columbia, as this is a central northern hub.

The data from the Métis Nation British Columbia surveys identify gaps that exist for Metis citizens, students, housing and elders in British Columbia, the percentage of Metis holdings requiring major repairs, and the percentage of mortgages in relation to household income.

In closing, we have had hundreds of years Metis ancestry in British Columbia.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Dumont. We will now go to Robert Doucette from Saskatchewan.

Robert Doucette, President, Métis Nation - Saskatchewan: Honourable senators and interested parties, I am a sixth- generation Metis from Northern Saskatchewan and presently the President of the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan.

Before I give my presentation, I want to acknowledge my wife, Betty Garr, and my children, Kyra, Brady, Breanna and Julia. Further, I want to acknowledge and thank the Creator for giving us this day to do the positive peaceful things necessary in today's world. Together, family combined with the Creator, life has meaning.

Honourable senators, I have five minutes as a witness to share observations on the many responsibilities of the federal government with respect to the Metis nation, First Nations and Inuit peoples. Needless to say, my colleagues and the presidents of the other governing Metis nations and the Métis National Council have outlined many of the issues eloquently, passionately and precisely. Therefore, I will not replicate those presentations.

As a father, as a Metis nation leader and as a Canadian, I think it is safe to say that Metis citizens have contributed immensely to the development of this great country called Canada, our home. I believe it is also safe to say that the Metis will continue, over the next millennia, to contribute, bring value and, hopefully, share in the fruits of our labours, just like every other Canadian.

For the record, Metis citizens and our communities have a long history of self governing from the Great Lakes, the Red River, Batoche, the territories and beyond to the Pacific coast. In the past, as it is in the present, Metis governments are democratic. In Saskatchewan, during these contemporary times, our nation reorganized in 1936 and over the past 73 years has been led by many capable Metis men and women leaders.

Métis Nation — Saskatchewan leaders are elected through a one-person one ballot box process province-wide, a tradition we have carried throughout the history of this great nation.

Presently, the Métis Nation — Saskatchewan is governed by the Métis Nation Legislative Assembly, our supreme body. The Provincial Métis Council is representative of the 133 Metis communities and the more than 100,000 Metis citizens living across Saskatchewan.

Further, Métis Nation - Saskatchewan governs approximately 10 affiliates that provide programs and services to Metis citizens province-wide, ranging from economic development, education and training, addictions, and housing, to name a few.

I pose this question: How do we, as Canadians, working together, address the many issues facing Metis citizens with the goals of peace and prosperity for all in our time?

It seems in the history of Canada we have chosen confrontation, litigation and, at times, negotiation, to further the goals of this country at the expense of another.

In 1869 and 1885, a set of tragic confrontations between the colonial Government of Canada and the Metis has had an impact on our relationship for the last 140 years. A failed Metis scrip process, legal challenges with respect to Metis harvesting, land and other rights continue to negatively impact what could be a positive, peaceful coexistence.

However, there are a number of examples presently which Canada can replicate and move the yardsticks of prosperity for all of us, if they show the political will and think outside the legal and political boxes we currently find ourselves constrained in.

For example, in Saskatchewan, the Métis Act, 2001, was passed into law by the Saskatchewan government and has three main components to it. First, it recognizes the historic and contemporary contributions of Metis citizens to the development and prosperity of Saskatchewan and Canada. Second, it creates a bilateral process between the Metis nation and the Province of Saskatchewan to work on issues such as capacity building, land, harvesting, governance and education. Third, it has created the Métis Nation — Saskatchewan Secretariat as the administrative body to the Métis Nation — Saskatchewan. As a result, MNS is no longer registered as a non-profit entity. If the Saskatchewan government can implement this positive legislative process, why not Canada?

A second example which speaks to the process of reconciliation occurred in Saskatchewan on November 4, 2009. On this day, the Honourable Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, declared in the legislature that 2010 would be designated as the year of the Metis in Saskatchewan. This declaration is unprecedented as this has never happened in any other provincial legislature or the Parliament of Canada. Needless to say, with this declaration, Metis issues, our stories and history will be front and centre throughout Saskatchewan during 2010 and beyond. I thank Premier Brad Wall for showing courage in recognizing, respecting and affirming the role of the Metis nation and our citizens in the development of the great province of Saskatchewan. Premier Wall is leading the nation in the development of Metis- non-Metis relations. It would be a great point in the history of Canada if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of Parliament followed suit and declared 2010 the year of the Metis in Canada. A humble gesture can lead to healing and great things.

In closing, 2010 marks 125 years since the tragic events of 1885 when the Metis and the armed forces of the colonial government of Canada clashed. Presently, 124 years have passed since the dramatic events of 1885, which led to a low point in the history of our nation. However, true to the nature of our people, in the shadow of our despair, we look forward to the horizon called hope, based on the faith that the sacrifices of our ancestors will lead to respect and to the recognition that the Metis have played a significant role in the evolution of Canada.

Some have posited that history tends to repeat itself. However, as I look around this chamber, I see the face of this nation: all races, genders and members from all parties working together as a second voice for all Canadians. I believe throughout this morning you will take our presentation seriously. I have faith, which has been re-established through the ongoing work of the Senate, that you will, with honesty, integrity and respect carry our message forward with the hope of building a Canada where we all live in peace and prosper.

Finally, let us not forget the Creator, for it is the Creator who will help make this happen.

God Bless all of you and your families.

The Chair: Thank you. We will now hear from Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Audrey Poitras, President, Métis Nation of Alberta: Good morning, Mr. Chair and senators. Thank you for the opportunity to present today.

I am President of the Métis Nation of Alberta, which is one of the oldest Metis representative organizations in this country, established in 1928.

The Metis were present in the pre- and post-Confederation northwest territory, now Alberta, by the late 18th century. It is important to remember that Alberta was not always the wealthy province it is today.

Back in the Great Depression, Alberta was probably one of the poorest provinces and as part of that the Metis were the poorest of the poor. However, thanks to the hard work of the Metis Association of Alberta and the social consciousness of Premier Aberhart and the Alberta government, Crown lands were set aside for the Metis in 1938 to alleviate Metis property. As a consequence, Alberta is the only province in Canada where Metis have been granted a land base under provincial legislation.

Alberta also has the largest Metis population in Canada. The 2006 census reported over 85,000 people. The MNA is a province-wide organization governed by a 14-member provincial counsel. Our board is directly elected by its membership through province-wide ballot box elections, every three years on a fixed date in September.

We are accountable to an annual general assembly, which is the legislative body of our nation and as such it approves our constitution, bylaws, financial statements and major policy enactments. In short, we believe we have an accountable, democratic and representative governance structure for the Metis citizens of Alberta.

Regarding the relationship with the Government of Canada, I would like today to speak on two main issues: the recognition and affirmation of Metis rights and our funding arrangement with the federal government.

I think we all know that Canada has treated the Metis unfairly since the mid-1800s. For years, Canada tried to deny that we even existed. Throughout all of this, the Metis survived. We contribute to the Canadian tax base; we have fought in Canada's wars, where upon their return our veterans were found to be too Indian to be given veterans' benefits, while today we are considered too White to be given the same consideration of compensation provided to First Nations veterans.

We had hoped that after the 2003 Supreme Court of Canada judgment in Powley that government would recognize Metis as a rights-bearing people. In fact, by 2004 this was precisely what happened in Alberta, where the Government of Alberta entered into an interim Metis harvesting agreement with the MNA, recognizing Metis harvesting rights on Crown lands throughout the province.

However, when the government changed leadership in 2007, the new government unilaterally rescinded this agreement. We are forced to litigate for every inch of ground for every Metis person charged with a hunting offence. I am sure this was not the intention of the Supreme Court.

A similar situation prevails with respect to the Crown's duty to consult Aboriginal people. Again, in a series of decisions, the Supreme Court has essentially directed the Crown to act honourably and to consult with Aboriginal people whenever a Crown decision may impact an asserted Aboriginal right. When it comes to Metis, the position taken by the Government of Alberta is that Metis must first prove that they have Aboriginal rights before the duty to consult can apply.

By denying our rights, they deny us the benefit of the law that upholds the honour of the Crown and obliges the Crown to consult with all Aboriginal people.

What can the Government of Canada do about this? I believe several things. I believe the federal government is aware of the position taken by the provinces on the issue of Metis harvesting rights. I believe the Government of Canada has a moral and legal obligation to help us in this matter.

First, it should use its influence with the provinces to encourage them to arrive at a negotiated settlement on Metis harvesting rights and, where litigation is necessary, Canada should actively assist us with these court cases by intervening on our behalf whenever possible and by providing the necessary resources to pay for these expensive, time- consuming processes.

Second, on the duty to consult, Canada must lead by example. The federal government jurisdiction extends to many industries, including pipelines, nuclear power, waterways, fisheries, and so on. The federal government is currently developing a policy on the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal people and the Metis must be explicitly and comprehensively included in that policy.

Third, the Government of Canada must act to confirm Metis rights to self-government.

Many of you may be familiar with a piece of legislation called the Lobbying Act. That act imposes some pretty stringent requirements on anyone who communicates, either orally or in writing, with a federal official. However, municipal and provincial employees are exempt from the act, as are Aboriginal governments, specifically band councils and their employees, and groups with a self-government agreement or land claims agreement with the Government of Canada.

We maintain that we are an Aboriginal government and should therefore also be exempt as such. However, to federal officials we are nothing more than a non-profit organization since we have been forced to organize under a society's act of one kind or another. Non-profits are not exempted from the Lobbying Act and so now we have a point of contention and a source of evident discrimination against the Metis relative to other Aboriginal peoples.

We have similar issues with certain provisions of the Income Tax Act. I do not believe it is necessary for the Government of Canada to change the Constitution to recognize our status as Aboriginal governments. The Federal- Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act already recognizes Aboriginal governments, defined as First Nations governments, Metis governments and Inuit governments. Canada should simply clarify or correct any ambiguity under this act so that our representative organizations are actually included under the term "Metis governments.''

Next I will speak about funding arrangements. We are very dependent on government, and above all the federal government for most of our funding. While we appreciate the funding, we do have a number of issues with federal program funding as it applies to Metis governments. First, we receive far less in terms of resources than any other Aboriginal government. Second, the funding we do receive has, for the most part, remained static or has been cut back in recent years. Third, our funding is subject to unreasonable delay and arbitrary action by federal officials, which impairs our financial stability and our ability to deliver programs.

Report after report has shown the excessive oversight and reporting burdens placed on Aboriginal governments. However, federal departments have been slow to embrace these measures. Instead, under the guise of enhanced accountability, federal officials are scrutinizing our spending more and more, and are creating problems with our funding flows and holding up contribution agreements.

There is a real disconnect between what the government says it will do in terms of reducing burdens on Aboriginal governments and what it is actually doing. It is also really unfair for the government on one hand to impose tough deadlines on us while doing nothing to speed up funding approvals under its own administration.

For example, the MNA submitted two projects under the federal stimulus program this year. Both were shovel ready and both proposals were submitted on time, early this spring. It is now the beginning of December and we have yet to even receive a letter confirming or denying our proposal. Is this any way to do business?

In the longer term, the key to our success will be to get out from under the federal government's thumb. Our objective is to develop our own source of revenue and to become more independent. For that to occur, however, the Government of Canada must pay more attention today to economic development initiatives for Metis people and Metis governments; a whole series of issues must be considered.

Suffice it to say that First Nation paradigms will not necessarily work for Metis. We need a Metis-specific approach to economic development; one that will give us the ability to partner with industry and to share in the economic development that is taking place in our Metis homeland.

Fundamentally we need to change how the government deals with us. We want to develop a more respectful, productive relationship with the Government of Canada.

Gary Lipinski, President, Métis Nation of Ontario: Good morning Mr. Chairman and honourable senators.

To begin my presentation, I want to add to President Chartrand's helpful presentation on the Metis nation's history and our legal claims against the Crown. It is important for this committee to appreciate that Ontario Metis, as part of the Metis nation, faced a somewhat different political and legal reality with respect to how the Crown historically dealt with our land claims and Metis rights.

In Ontario, instead of attempting to deal with Metis claims through a deeply flawed and fraudulent script system, Crown negotiators for the historic treaties in Ontario responded that they had "no mandate'' to deal with Metis claims when our people pressed to have our collective lands and rights interests recognized and protected.

One notable exception is the Rainy Lake Rainy River Half-breed Adhesion to Treaty 3, whose terms and promises with respect to the Metis' rights and lands were subsequently ignored and broken by the Crown. Both the federal and provincial governments dogmatically espoused this "no mandate'' mantra to the Metis throughout the Ontario treaty- making process.

Of course, the upshot to the Crown's refusal to deal with Metis claims in Ontario means that our lands, resources, cultural and economic rights have not been limited or extinguished in any way in the province. This is exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada recognized in Powley. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that since Treaty Commissioner Robinson refused to deal with the collective rights and interests of the Metis in the 1850 Robinson-Superior Treaty, the Metis' rights and interests continue to exist today and are constitutionally protected. Simply put, neither level of government can rely on this "no mandate'' excuse when it comes to dealing with Metis' rights. The Métis Nation of Ontario strongly supports the Métis National Council's recommendation for a Metis comprehensive claims process to be established in order to begin Metis claims rather than continuing to litigate on these issues.

Further, on an issue that is specific to Ontario, I have recently written to Minister Strahl as well as the Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs asking them both to ensure that Metis are engaged in any future treaty commission in this province.

It is important for this committee to understand that the 2003 Powley decision was enhanced further in 2004 when the Supreme Court of Canada held that the Crown has a duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal people prior to making decisions that can negatively affect their rights. Since Metis communities have continuously protected their rights throughout much of Ontario and Western Canada, this duty is triggered and owing to us. If our rights, interest and way of life are not considered, many of the developments occurring in or planned on Metis traditional territories have the potential to be delayed or even stopped. This new legal reality must change the Crown's longstanding "wait and see'' approach when dealing with Metis rights. Wilful blindness or denying the existence of Metis rights is no longer an option if the federal government does not want to see even more Metis litigation and delays in the Canadian economic recovery.

In Ontario, I am pleased to report that following the Powley decision the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Government of Ontario negotiated an agreement which recognizes Metis harvesting rights and regional rights bearing Metis communities in the province. This agreement remains the only one of its kind within the Metis nation. Based on this agreement and the recommendations from the Ipperwash inquiry report, the Ontario government has been working with the Métis Nation of Ontario to assist our communities in building the necessary technical capacity in order to engage the provincial Crown on consultation-related issues.

Unfortunately a key partner — the federal government — has been missing from this collaborative work. To date, we have not seen any concrete commitments from the federal government on how we can work together to build capacity in this important area.

While there appears to be some federal progress on the Crown's duty to consult with First Nations, Metis communities continue to be excluded or they do not have the necessary capacity to effectively participate in consultation and accommodation processes.

From the Métis Nation of Ontario perspective, strategic and sustained investment in this area is required by the federal government pursuant to the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Powley, Taku, Haida and Mikisew. These investments should include the consultation of the Powley implementation resources currently provided by the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Metis identification, registration and research. Further, these resources need to be increased in order to begin to deal with Metis consultation and accommodation-related demands.

These types of investments will assist in ensuring Canada's economic recovery does not hit consultation-related speed bumps. They will also enable communities to play a more effective role in protecting our traditional lands and resources while also ensuring our people benefit from the wealth generated on Metis traditional lands.

This type of access to and participation in economic development is key to Metis citizens and communities reaching their full potential. Personally, I am a firm believer in the statement that one of the best social programs we can ever create is jobs for our people.

In Ontario, over the last decade, we have seen the direct benefits from the employment created through Metis- specific investments in the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy. We must continue to build on that successful model. A key tool for tapping into the full economic potential is supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. Unfortunately, in Ontario, Metis do not currently have Aboriginal capital corporations like our western cousins in order to assist entrepreneurs in starting new businesses or expanding existing ones.

This gap in coverage is particularly unsupportable in the current economic climate in Ontario and, according to the 2006 Census, the Metis population of Ontario is second largest in Canada, following Alberta. The Métis Nation of Ontario is optimistic that any up-and-coming announcement by Minister Strahl on Metis access to the federal government's Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy will address this gap coverage in Ontario. Based on discussions with the Ontario government, I know the province is willing to partner, but the federal government must show leadership with concrete commitments in order to ensure that Ontario Metis begin to benefit.

Ideally, the up-and-coming Metis nation multilateral meeting on economic opportunities will provide a much needed kick-start from the federal government in order to build on what Metis governments are already doing with provincial governments. Quite frankly, talk is cheap, but concrete federal commitments will spur action and results.

In closing, I want to thank the committee for providing us the opportunity to present to you today. I am hopeful that today starts an ongoing process between the Metis nation and the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

Leah LaPlante, Vice-President, Manitoba Métis Federation: Senator St. Germain and honourable senators, the Metis were the founders of the province of Manitoba, and we continue to contribute to the political, economic, social and cultural fabric, not only of Manitoba, but all of Canada. The MMF was created in 1967 as the province-wide democratically elected government of the Manitoba Metis. We have a longstanding history of providing responsible and accountable governance on behalf of the Metis community in Manitoba, using the constitutional authorities that they delegated to us. The MMF has over 43,000 adult voting members. Our governance structure consists of the president, seven vice-presidents, fourteen directors and a representative of the Metis Women of Manitoba. In addition, over our seven regions we have nearly 140 local associations with over 400 elected representatives at the community level.

We represent in excess of 140,000 Metis citizens, as their government and the voice. In this role, the MMF continues to protect, promote and advocate for the political, legal, economic and social rights of our citizens. In advocating for our citizens' rights in the face of inflexibility and often lack of recognition by federal and provincial governments, the MMF has been forced to use the courts to protect our Metis community.

Despite the Supreme Court's landmark Powley decision and the subsequent 2009 Goodon decision in Manitoba, many of our Metis citizens practicing their cultural traditions to harvest for food for their families are still being harassed by provincial conservation officers.

In addition to our hunting rights legal challenges, there is a second legal challenge. We are before the courts for the MMF versus Attorney General of Canada and Attorney General of Manitoba. This has become commonly referred to as the "Metis Land Claims Case.'' This case deals with historical grievances. We argue there is a fiduciary duty under section 31 of the Manitoba Act whereby 1.4 million acres of land were to be reserved for the Metis children. This promise of land was never kept.

A third legal challenge entails the duty to consult, and my colleague has gone into depth on that issue. We have always taken the position in our hunting, land and resource-related struggles that negotiation is always preferred over litigation. Unfortunately, Canada does not provide the legal or research funding support necessary for the MMF to protect their citizens' rights. In fact, in our federal contribution agreements, this is explicitly disallowed and our proposals for separate litigation funding are declined.

There is no indication that Canada is taking sufficient steps to implement recognition of the Metis within all of their federal departments. We believe Canada must take a leadership role to ensure our rights and interests are recognized, affirmed and given operational status.

Our greatest political challenge is the recognition by the federal bureaucracy that there is a third order of government recognized by the 1982 Canadian Constitution. The MMF is still referred to by officials as an organization, while there is no explicit recognition of a Metis government, a Metis nation or a Manitoba Metis community. An example of the lack of political recognition is our Canada-Manitoba MMF tripartite self-government negotiations. Despite the irony of the initiative title, the federal and provincial negotiators will not allow any language referring to Metis government, the Metis nation or a Manitoba Metis community.

Another example of the implications of our Metis government not being recognized is while many of our elected representatives are considered politicians and not employees for the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act, they are not considered politicians for the tax allowance allowable for federal, provincial and municipal politicians.

The MMF, along with our affiliated agencies, authorities and corporate bodies, has shown impressive growth over the past decade. To keep up with the realities of continuing growth and ever-expanding expectations, opportunities and challenges, we must have the necessary infrastructure to support a rapidly growing and increasingly complex governance framework involving very significant levels of resources in terms of staff and direct and indirect administrative program funds.

Currently, the governance core funding from the federal government to the Manitoba Métis Federation is totally inadequate. This core funding, known as basic organizational capacity, is $460,000 a year. Despite promises, there has not been a significant increase for over a decade.

Also, as a Metis government, there must be predictable and timely funding for our governance and programs. In practice, however, there are consistent delays in the review and approvals of work plans, signing of contribution agreements, acceptance of reports and issuing cheques. For instance, under the post-Powley initiative, our agreed to 2009-10 work plan and budget for $1.47 million was originally submitted in February 2009 and, as of yet, we have not received a contribution agreement. We recommend we move forward and develop a new fiscal relationship, allowing for flexible multi-year funding.

Economic development for the sustainability of our governance institutions is a top priority for our leadership in Manitoba. With our federal and provincial partners, we completed a Metis economic development strategy earlier this year. If economic development is a priority for the federal government, this strategy provides a well thought-out plan for investing in our Metis government. The MMF, as the governance for Manitoba's Metis people, has much to be proud of.

Thank you for the opportunity to share information about ourselves and to share some of our dreams for the future, as well as some of the road blocks that are holding us back. We aspire to assist in the health and wealth of the Metis citizens in Manitoba.

The Chair: In view of the fact that I am in a bit of a conflict today, being a Metis person, I will allow honourable senators to carry on with questions.

Senator Hubley: I would like to thank you for your presentations. At this time, I would like to remember briefly Thelma Chalifoux, who is also Metis and former chair of the Aboriginal Peoples Committee. We have been fortunate with the leadership of this committee.

I would like to ask a question of Audrey Poitras. You have a very strong governance system within your Metis community. We have been doing a study on governance and we realize the importance for communities to have that in place. Has your system been set up for some time? Is it similar to other provincial systems?

Perhaps we might have comments from other provinces that have similar systems and how they are working, how they were set up and how you view your governments.

Ms. Poitras: Our system has been set up for quite some time. Our province is divided into six regions, and 12 of our elected representatives who sit at our provincial table are from those regions. We have a judiciary council, which deals with many issues as far as bringing them forward to the Metis and as part of our electoral process as well. We have an appeal process for our membership registry. Our provincial process was established in about 1986, and we have gradually made changes to improve it and arrive at the system we have today.

Senator Hubley: Would anyone else like to comment?

Mr. Lipinski: One of the provisions requiring each of the governing members to be a part of a national body is that every governing member relies on an electoral policy or code in that they are elected by province-wide ballot box elections. Every citizen within our respective registries can vote, participate and run for elected positions throughout our province. I think most provinces are pretty much in a similar situation.

Every citizen and every member participates and runs in province-wide ballot box elections through pre-cleared codes.

Mr. Chartrand: We are the only Aboriginal people in Canada that maintains the process where we are elected directly by our citizens and province wide. In fact, I always chuckle when I tell my premier occasionally that I have a bigger land mass or election than the little riding he is elected in.

It is important to understand that we do not get funded for this process; we pay for it ourselves. It is a substantial hit on our small government budgets, but it is such an important, pivotal situation for us. We have maintained it since the 1800s, and every member and citizen has the right to vote for a president and a vice-president in elected bodies across our home lands. That is where we find ourselves. The government demands it but they do not want to fund it.

Senator Hubley: Is the three-year election system on a specific date nation-wide?

Mr. Chartrand: No. In fact, in Manitoba, it is four years and three months. Everyone else is three years and some.

Mr. Dumont: We at Métis Nation British Columbia have a four year process. We are broken into seven regions. We have seven regional directors: president, vice-president, chairperson for women and a chairperson for youth. We also have a Senate with seven senators. That is our judicial arm. We have gone away from the Society Act. We have a secretariat for administration, and we are fully self-governing with all legislative institutions in place.

Senator Campbell: I am a little confused in reading the documentation here. The Constitution explicitly recognized the Metis as one of Canada's three distinct Aboriginal peoples. Is that correct?

Mr. Lipinski: Yes.

Senator Campbell: Then I have difficulty in understanding why anyone would say that Metis are a provincial responsibility. I hate that term "responsibility'' because it is like I am dad, you are not.

The Constitution lays out clearly that you are distinct first people. For some reason, we cannot get the federal government to do that. Can you explain that to me?

Mr. Chartrand: I have been in politics for a long time. With no disrespect to our first prime minister, the fluctuation of unwritten policy that lingers in the Houses of Parliament states that Metis are not a people of a nation that we will recognize. We seem to squabble with that whole issue. As you stated, I am a proud Canadian and I believe so much in our Constitution, yet it is not abided by with certain governments.

A good example to reflect on is Health Canada. Their policy is strict. They are only responsible for Indian and Inuit; no Metis. Sooner or later, some government will have to be courageous and abide by the Constitution of this country and reflect that through policies. In my presentation I have asked that the Senate and Canada implore Parliament to move and put in place an act, policy or statement that forces all the departments and institutions to recognize us as a distinct people and abide by the very Constitution that every government is supposed to be following in this country.

That is a question that you should pose to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada: Why is it that we are an Aboriginal people with distinct and definite rights and a special place in Canada, yet the government does not want to recognize those? That is the question that should be posed to Parliament.

Mr. Doucette: I want to add to Mr. Chartrand's comments. When you look historically as to why this has happened, it relates back to the Metis scrip process whereby the federal government has taken the position that we extinguished our Aboriginal title to rights and land. It has impacted upon us greatly. I will use myself as an example. I have post-secondary education. Our First Nation and Inuit cousins get 48 months of funding where they do not incur any debt. They also get another 10 months to get a masters degree. Personally, for 17 years I have had a running court battle with the federal government over this issue. I have told them that I am a section 35 protected Aboriginal person. They have said that I have to pay back my $15,000 student loan. They have already collected $21,000 on that $15,000 loan, and they want another $23,000. That is how they are treating a Metis person in Canada.

Senator Campbell: We have a tendency to want to throw this issue on to this government, but the fact of the matter is that it has been the attitude of government since we became a country.

What role does INAC play in this matter? Do they just say, "We are clean on this one; we are not there?''

Mr. Chartrand: INAC's policy is that they are responsible for Indian and Inuit only. That is the standing position of INAC. In fact, the only department that we have a direct affiliation with is the federal minister's interlocutor with responsibility for the Metis, which falls under OFI. That has now been thrown into the INAC department. It will cause many complex situations because the way INAC operates directly with First Nation and Inuit is not the way that OFI operates with us. There will be a clash of policies there. INAC's position is that they do not recognize their responsibility. The $11 billion that we hear about and our citizens hear about back home, in the media or in the newspaper, has nothing to do with us. It is only directed toward First Nations and Inuit.

To show you the complexity of the situation, we have done a study that shows the Metis people in this country pay over
$1 billion in taxes. Our budgets from Ontario to British Columbia are $90 million. Our question is, where is the $910 million that we pay in taxes going? I can provide this reference to the Senate, if you are interested in seeing it. The institute made it clear that if a small investment was further made to our Metis citizens, we would be paying $33 billion in taxes by 2026. We would be paying $81 billion to the GDP by 2026, as a result of a small investment by Canada.

The challenge we face is that they do not want to accept the responsibility to sit down with us because they pass us back to the province and say, "You are responsible, not us.'' The province says, "No, go back to Canada. Canada is responsible, not us.'' The Metis have been a political football that has been lingering for decades in the system, no matter what governments come in, whether Liberal, Conservative or NDP.

Senator Campbell: That will not happen.

Mr. Chartrand: It will not happen, but I did not want to insult the NDP. The question should be posed to sitting governments: Why are we not respecting the Constitution of this country? Why are we breaking the law of Canada?

Mr. Lipinski: Your question goes to the heart of many of the problems that each one of our presentations tried to address. As Mr. Chartrand was saying, it is a hot potato. No one wants to grab it; they keep shifting us back and forth. It has been an ongoing problem for more than a century in this country.

I want to refer you to Mr. Chartrand's presentation on behalf of the Métis National Council. In his presentation on page 8, I will reiterate one paragraph that specifically addresses how we may move forward on this issue.

While some of these events are somewhat removed in time, your roles in providing `sober second thought' can and should spur the Senate to seek to ensure that Parliament assumes its constitutionally mandated responsibilities under section 91 (24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Failing progress on that, we are calling on the Senate to request that the Prime Minister refer the matter of Metis inclusion in section 91 (24) to the Supreme Court of Canada.

We have to move on this. We think that 124 out of 125 years is enough. We have had Prime Ministers in the past, most recently in front of every provincial and territorial premier and Aboriginal leader, specifically in the Kelowna Accord, say publicly that the Metis are a federal fiduciary responsibility. Some sitting prime ministers have declared Metis a federal responsibility, yet the bureaucracy and the officials always go back to the pre-standing position. Movement on this point would be extremely helpful to the Metis.

The Chair: I do not think you can blame the bureaucrats in the system. It is the politicians who have to take the lead. They are responsible.

Senator Peterson: Mr. Chartrand, in your presentation, you indicate that to overcome the big historical constitutional barrier, you have to be recognized within the context of the Canadian federation. You suggest that this could be achieved in the form of federal legislation recognizing your right to govern yourselves under a Metis nation constitution.

I imagine that would attract the land base issue. Would that be the stumbling block in trying to achieve that set-up by the government?

Mr. Chartrand: That is a good point. The standing position sometimes of Canada is that one cannot have self- government without a land base. The Metis federation is still in the courts and has been since 1981. We are in the Court of Appeal waiting for that decision, and we will be in the Supreme Court of Canada by next year.

At the end of the day, it is fundamentally clear that if Canada would take the responsibility to bring this to the table and treat us on a government-to-government relationship, it would go a long way. At the same time, Canada would find itself in the situation where it can actually ready itself for the cost effects that may come in the future. One of the things that governments are forgetting is that as we attain more and more of our rights — and we will go to the courts if necessary — Canada will have no choice but to follow the law of the land. In doing so, it will have to put in programs, processes or developments that respond to that situation. It may be wise for Canada today to try to deal with this issue. At least, it will know who it is dealing with. It will know the significance of the impact, the number of citizens and its growth, and the partnership that can be established.

I do not see how Canada keeps on ignoring the great opportunity that exists here. Using the reason that we do not have a land base for not recognizing us, the Maori people in New Zealand proved that to be wrong. Why does that still exist? I do not know. That is a question we have to ask the advisers to the ministers who keep on sending documentation or advice to the effect that they should not sit down in a government-to-government relationship.

It boggles my mind despite the fact that I have been in politics since I was 18 or 19 years old and worked with the Justice Department for years. We sometimes have the best legal experts in this country and internationally advising us, and they, too, are perplexed about why the federal government still holds this position. Where do they get it? It has no standing or practical support in law, yet they still take that position. That is a question pointed out by President Lipinski.

We ask the Senate to challenge this issue. Section 91(24) would probably solve this issue once and for all. We are not afraid of it. Let us go to the Supreme Court of Canada. Our problem is that we cannot afford it ourselves.

Mr. Lipinski: Obviously, the Metis nation will have land claims issues. Those will undoubtedly go on for some time. Hopefully they will be resolved through negotiations but, as has been stated, if not, we will end up in further litigation at great cost to everyone.

There are examples of self-governing institutions that exist in Canada without a land base. I give the example of the Law Society of Upper Canada, one of the oldest self-governing bodies in Canada. It has existed for quite some time.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I represent New Brunswick, and I notice that there is no one from Atlantic Canada here today.

Mr. Chartrand, do you know of any specific issues concerning Atlantic Canadians that I could take into consideration?

Mr. Chartrand: We represent the historic Metis nation, which accounts for about 90 per cent of the Metis populous in Canada today. Our position is that our traditional homeland extends from Ontario to British Columbia and from the Northwest Territories to the United States.

Senator Stewart Olsen: That is what I learned in school.

Mr. Chartrand: I would be interested to know what school taught that, because in school we were taught that we were traitors. They never even told us that we were a people.

We represent the historic Metis nation. History has proven who we are. We maintain our governance within that traditional homeland. If people call themselves Metis in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, that is their prerogative. We represent our citizens from Ontario west and from the United States to the Northwest Territories.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I am quite confused about funding. You say that INAC is responsible for Inuit and Aboriginal funding.

Mr. Chartrand: Indian, not Aboriginal.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Who funds you?

Mr. Chartrand: Chuck Strahl is the minister responsible for INAC and for the Office of the Federal Interlocutor. We get some funding from there. They have a small budget. In fact, I think our budgets are getting bigger than theirs due to provincial and economic work we have done at home.

Most of our program funding comes from Canadian Heritage or Human Resources and Skills Development. That is on a program basis rather than a government-to-government basis, and most of that is annual funding. We argue that it should be multi-year funding so that we can plan ahead.

Programs are supported by various departments, but there is nothing concrete. The Office of the Federal Interlocutor does not have a broad scope of resources to work directly with our issues in a broader contest. They have only small pockets of dollars.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Who pays your salary?

Mr. Chartrand: My salary is paid by my government. We charge administration management fees for operating several businesses. Let us compare my budget to the budget of an individual senator. Under the Manitoba Métis Federation I have seven regional offices, a provincial office and 140 local entities to which I must report regularly. We get $420,000 from Canada to run all of that. The rest I earn from businesses, management fees and structures.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Your own people take the responsibility to fund their own organizations?

Mr. Chartrand: Our people pay taxes to the federal government, which is supposed to give back our money to be used within the system. If you look at it in that context, it is no different than funding the Senate. Canada funds its governance instructions, and it should be the same for the Metis government.

In fact, we suggested to Prime Minister Mulroney the possibility of receiving a supplement from the taxes that we pay to govern ourselves and operate our own infrastructure. In that way, we could pay our way in Canadian society by creating development. That was never grasped by the bureaucracy. We currently manage our own affairs in our own businesses and try to make ends meet with little.

It is sad that we sometimes do not get our funding until the year is over. It is November, and Canada owes me $3 million or $4 million. I borrow from the banks to operate. It is questionable whether I make payroll. That is up to the bank now, but that is not the way to do business.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for your explanations. Forgive my newness to the file.

Mr. Chartrand: That is how you learn.

Senator Brazeau: My first question deals with definition. As far as I understand, in order to be a member of your provincial organizations you must self-identify, be of historic Metis ancestry and be accepted by the Metis nation. Is there a limit to how an individual can become a member?

For example, Mr. Doucette explained that he was a sixth generation Metis. Is there a ceiling on the application process that someone must fill out to become a member? Could there be ninth, tenth or fifteenth generation Metis members of your provincial organizations?

Mr. Chartrand: First, we are provincial governments, not organizations.

It is clear from our point of view that we represent the historic Metis nation. There is no time line, and if citizens want to just walk away, that is up to them. They have to self-declare, which I think is the most important aspect.

As long as they continue to self-declare and can show connection to the Metis nation, they have the right to declare their citizenship. They have to prove that to the government by showing through their genealogy their connection to the historic Metis nation. In that way, citizens' rights will always be protected.

Senator Brazeau: My second question deals with election processes and the population. Census data tell us approximately 30 per cent of the total Aboriginal population in Canada are self-identifying Metis, so that is approximately 400,000 individuals. You say in your presentation that the Metis nation represents the vast majority of those citizens.

You may not have the numbers off the top of your head, but how many individual members do each of your provincial affiliates have?

Mr. Chartrand: I will use the example given by Vice-President LaPlante. We have 43,000 registered voters aged 18 and over in the federation government. That does not include children and those who have yet to declare. We have people coming to our office daily declaring their connection to the historic Metis nation. Universities have done guesstimates of this. Statistics Canada has never done a proper Metis enumeration, although we have asked for that. At one time they offered to fund 50 per cent of that if the province would pay the other 50 per cent, but that never came to fruition.

There are over 100,000 Metis in the Prairies and the numbers are growing quickly in Ontario and British Columbia, so the numbers are vast. There are definitely over 400,000 self-declared Metis who fit within our homeland base.

Senator Brazeau: I would appreciate if you would each send to the clerk of the committee the number of members in your respective provincial organizations. That is important.

I asked that question because I heard that the election process provincially is a one-person/one-vote system.

Is it one member, one vote, or is it that any Metis citizen has the right to vote in your system?

Mr. Chartrand: In fact, it differs. For example, the Assembly of First Nations is elected by their chiefs. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the group to which you belong, was elected by 100 people at the annual meeting, very different from our system. We are elected by thousands of citizens who have self-declared to be part of our government and who are on the voters list. We have chief electoral officers. The Associate Chief Judge of Manitoba was our chief electoral officer for three terms.

We have a stringent system that ensures that every citizen has the right to vote, but they have to go through the process and declare their historic Metis nation connection and they have to be on the electoral list, which we produce publicly across our homeland.

Senator Brazeau: Your voters do have to be members of your provincial organizations?

Mr. Chartrand: Yes. Our provincial governments; I will correct you again.

Senator Brazeau: Here is my dilemma: There are almost 10,000 Metis in the Metis settlements in Alberta; there are tens of thousands of Metis individuals who fall outside Eastern/Northwestern Ontario; there are Metis in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories; and there are Metis, obviously, in Labrador. I mean no disrespect, but I fail to see how you can call yourself governments when you are excluding potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals from being able to participate in your processes. I would like an explanation for that because I do not understand it. Perhaps it is my fault, but hopefully you will shed some light for me.

Mr. Chartrand: I will do my best. I do not know if you know the Metis governments well. If not, I invite you to come and get a better idea of how they operate.

As I said, we represent the Metis people in our historic homeland from Ontario westward. We are in constant dialogue with the Northwest Territories. They used to be part of our Metis nation government, but that changed with the national requirement that in order to belong to our Metis nation government, you have to have a ballot box election system for citizens to vote. At that time, the Northwest Territories was not ready to go to the ballot box system. They kept going with the delegate system. They now want to come back into the framework of the partnership.

The same situation applies in the United States. We are in dialogue with our citizens and cousins in the United States. They now want to join our international government.

People in Labrador may claim to be Metis, and that is their prerogative. We do not oppose them. That is their view. We know who we are. We are a Western base from Ontario to British Columbia, to the Territories, and to the United States. History has proven who we are. The facts are clear.

I might be a bit older than you, Senator Brazeau, so I will provide you some history. I have been in politics for some time. No one in Eastern Canada even declared himself a Metis until after 1982, when we won the battle to get clarity on the Metis being part of the aspect of citizenship in this country.

When you look at the structure and the mechanism, the Metis nation represents about 90 per cent of the citizens who self-declare in this country, and we are proud of our geographic homeland. Law is law. Law is established by the Supreme Court of Canada. To be part of a nation, you have to show your historic connection to your lands, and so on.

I will not go into great detail, but cases have come before the courts on the East Coast, and they have decided that potentially there is no such thing as a Metis in that area. That is up to them. They will continue to fight that battle and I wish them well. However, from our perspective, the Metis are a Western-based phenomenon, and history can prove that.

Senator Brazeau: Let me correct you. I had the privilege of working with the individual who negotiated the term "Metis'' in the Constitution Act of Canada, Harry Daniels, whom you know very well. In terms of the discussions I have had with him in the past, and that he has had with others, and some of the materials that he has written — unfortunately, he is deceased — his view, when he negotiated the term "Metis'' was that it meant every single identifying Metis across the country, and not just in Western Canada. I want to correct you on that.

I do not mean to be confrontational. This exercise is about raising the level of debate and gaining more awareness of some of the issues. You keep using the term "Metis citizens within your organizations.'' Would a Metis citizen in Manitoba who is not a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation be entitled to vote in your elections?

Mr. Chartrand: If the person self-declares as a Metis and meets the genealogy requirements. By 2012, every citizen of the Metis people in Manitoba must have the genealogy. That is a position unanimously adopted by close to 3,000 people at our annual assembly.

Senator Brazeau: They have to be members of your provincial organizations to be entitled to vote?

Mr. Chartrand: They have to be members of our provincial government, yes.

Senator Brazeau: What about those who are not members? Do you represent them as well?

Mr. Chartrand: Of course I do. They are addressing that issue by coming and self-declaring their citizenship.

I will give you a good example. The Associate Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba had to step down from a case, claiming conflict. I question why he feels he is in conflict. He is not a Metis, but his wife, after 40 or 50 years, decided to declare that she is a Metis citizen. She felt that she needed to step forward and declare herself. The judge stepped down from a Metis case based on the fact that there could be a conflict of interest. It still boggles the mind why that situation comes about and why even the chair of this committee says he may be in a conflict of interest. It is like saying you cannot ask questions of the First Nations people because you are First Nations, or you cannot ask questions of White Canadians because you are Caucasian.

The issue is clear: We represent all of our Metis citizens in the province of Manitoba. Those who want to come forward to vote in our elections have to go through a process. Just like voting in a Canadian election, you have to show your identification and you have to register. It is the same process in our government.

Senator Brazeau: I have a quick piece of advice with respect to section 91(24) of the Constitution. As you are probably aware, there is an ongoing case called the Daniels case, which seeks to rectify the responsibility of non-status Indians and Metis that would fall within the concept of that section. Perhaps you would consider intervening in that case. It is the Daniels case, with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. That is an opportunity that would cost a lot less than sending this to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Chartrand: First, I want to go back to the Harry Daniels comment that Senator Brazeau made. Mr. Daniels may have told you something in confidence about himself, what he felt the term covered. At the time, he was negotiating. However, it is clear who the Metis people are, and I will make that statement again.

Senator Brazeau: There are public documents.

Mr. Chartrand: It is clear. We know who our citizens are. History has proven this. Every senator around the table can pick up a history book and get a sense of the Metis people's traditional historic homeland from Rupert's Land onward. The law is clear, and it has set forth the framework of how rights are achieved by a nation. I wanted to share that with you. Mr. Daniels cannot defend himself because he is no longer with us.

I think the situation will change if the Senate were to follow some of the recommendations we have made here today, to go before Parliament and ask government why they are not funding these situations. The Metis people find themselves in a minority and economically weak at times. We cannot afford to take on cases, cases that would benefit all Canadians. We leave it to the Senate to ask why that is not happening. If I were to take on even intervenor status in the Daniels case it would cost a lot of money.

Those are matters that we must reflect upon. Can we afford these cases while we are still fighting about the duty to consult and about matters that we thought the Supreme Court of Canada had already settled? We are still going before our provincial governments and the private sector to make it clear that the law is the law and you must abide by it.

The federal government has a duty and responsibility, and we encourage the Senate to ensure that financial resources are available so we can take on those cases. Then perhaps we would not have to go the route of section 91(24). However, this will take time, money and energy.

Mr. Doucette: To answer Senator Brazeau's three questions, the Métis Act recognizes the MNS as the representative body for Metis in Saskatchewan.

With respect to programs and services, all Metis people who come before our affiliate services for programs and services, whether it is housing, employment and training or education, are entitled to receive that service and program.

With regard to the elections and our basis of government,
in 1816, at the Battle of Seven Oaks, we asserted our nationhood. In the 1800s, from a little place called Fort Qu'Appelle, they sent petitions to the colonial government outlining our position and our bill of rights.

The Métis nation government in Saskatchewan has repeatedly sent petitions, including in 1885, asking the government to respect our right to nationhood. In the last election in Saskatchewan, any person who said they are Metis and declared such was entitled to vote. We are now under way in developing our citizenship to represent all the Metis in Saskatchewan. I wanted to share that.

Senator Raine: It is confusing to people when you say that a Metis person is someone who self declares, et cetera, because it seems to open up the membership much more broadly than I now understand it to be. I would like to congratulate you on the fact that many Metis people are coming forward to re-establish their roots.

The committee has just done a study on governance. Obviously, you do not have a reserve situation; your people are spread throughout your jurisdiction. How do you deal with mail-in ballots?

Mr. Chartrand: Mail-in ballots are no different, I believe, than for the Canadian electoral system. We have a process established for people to do their mail-in ballots, even from hospitals. We have also gone into jails, as another step. We are looking to ensure that citizens have a right to vote, even though they are incarcerated. We are ensuring that every citizen, no matter where they live, will never have their democratic right to vote taken away. It is important to our nation. It is also important to echo here something that is paramount in our democracy and what we stand for in Canada. Here are the little Metis nations with $400,000 to run an entire government. Elections cost us $150,000 every four years, and we have to pay it ourselves. It is something Canada demands from us, or they will not give us programs to deliver to our citizens.

I want to echo what Mr. Doucette said to Senator Brazeau. We also serve every citizen, even though they do not vote for us. They have a right to all of our programs and services. We serve thousands of citizens every year, and our model of success is the democracy and ensuring our people's voting rights will never be taken from them.

I would also state to Senator St. Germain and Metis MPs generally that when we discuss issues before Parliament, there is no need to declare conflict of interest. It puzzles us because you are supposed to deal with every person who appears before this Senate committee, and his or her rights should not be curtailed because he or she happens to be lucky and fortunate enough to be a Metis person in Canada.

The Chair: Let me clarify that point. I do not see my affiliation as inhibiting my ability, but I do not want to be self serving, and I would sooner present my credentials at the beginning, so that the viewers and anyone who is interested in this whole process knows that I am a Metis person. That is important. The fact is that there are certain times that you have to abstain from voting or doing something if you are in direct conflict. I am not in direct conflict, but my conflict is that it is my people who are before us here today.

Senator Raine: When you have your elections, if a person has self identified as a Metis and lives in Quebec or in the Maritimes, is he or she able to vote in the election?

Mr. Chartrand: In fact, if our Metis citizens from any of our homelands move anywhere, they have the right to vote for us. They can move to New Zealand and will still have the right to vote for us as long as they are on the electoral list. Their opportunity to vote for their leadership will always be there and protected by our governments.

The Chair: I thank the witnesses for their excellent presentations. I am not sure whether this is the first time that the Metis have been before this committee to present their case from Ontario to the West Coast, but given that they are listed under section 35 of the Constitution as Aboriginal Peoples, it is important that they be given the same opportunity as other Aboriginal Peoples in this country.

I thank all of you for the good work you have done to maintain the culture and heritage of the Metis people. Without people like you, it would have died. I recall when I was young and growing up that we were treated as children of a lesser God. When I declared that I was Metis in 1983 in the House of Commons, a shock wave went through the community. "He could not have said that; he could not have admitted that.'' Nobody knew what I was. I can assure you that we have made great progress, and you have presented yourselves well.

Honourable senators have gleaned a great deal of information about this important segment of our society. We will attempt to fulfill some of the requests that you have made.

Do you have a closing comment, sir?

Mr. Chartrand: On behalf of the Metis people of our nation, I want to thank honourable senators for this opportunity. I know the study you have undertaken is complex and challenging, given the bureaucracy and the infrastructure of federal government, especially when it comes to Metis.

I leave this thought that I hope will come to mind when you read documents and you come to the word "Aboriginal.'' Sometimes that word has been a difficult challenge for us. You will see in the media: Aboriginal people entitled to $11 billion under INAC; Aboriginal people announced this or that ; Aboriginal people for this. However, when you read the fine print, Metis are not included. I ask you as senators to pose the question: Why are the Metis not included? The word "Aboriginal'' has hurt us more than it has helped us. We have been pushing hard on this issue of nationhood.

If Canada wants to state that they are providing services for First Nations, good for them, but use the word "First Nations.'' If you are funding Inuit, use the word "Inuit.'' If you are funding Metis, use the word. All taxpayers have the right in this country to know how the money is being spent. When the word "Aboriginal'' comes before you, ask whether Metis are included. I assure you that most documents that come to you will exclude us. Metis will not be included when you look at the policy.

Again, on behalf of Metis citizens, I want to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

You are right, Senator St. Germain. Since 1988, I have been elected to different segments of our Metis governments, and it is the first time we have come together as an entire government to sit before you. You can help yourself one day by not calling us "organizations.'' Call us "government,'' and we will start from there.

The Chair: We will now suspend for a couple of moments to clear the room. We will go in camera, after which we will return to open session.

(The committee continued in camera.)

(The committee resumed in public.)

The Chair: We are back in session. We will do our press conferences in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and we will go to Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina and Moncton.

Senator Campbell: Subject to change.

The Chair: Subject to change; subject to the discretion of the steering committee.

Senators who will be travelling will be the chair, the deputy chair and one female senator.

Senator Campbell: What if a committee member from the particular area wants to be present? If you are in Vancouver, I can fly to Vancouver to be there.

The Chair: If it is at all possible we should have a woman there, but if it does not work then we will have a senator from the region.

We have to have approval to buy advertising space on APTN website.

Senator Campbell: So moved.

The Chair: We would like to have the option to fund for interpretation.

Some Hon. Senators: So moved.

The Chair: Also, we wish to have a motion that we can table the report with the clerk.

Senator Campbell: So moved.

The Chair: We need a motion to fund radio production.

Senator Campbell: So moved.

The Chair: Senators, do you agree that the clerk should prepare a budget for the items discussed?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall we consider to have adopted that budget today?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Is there anything else? If not, the meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)


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