Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 25 - Evidence - October 23, 2012
OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:30
a.m. to examine and report on the legal and political recognition of Metis
identity in Canada.
Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning. I would like to welcome all honourable
senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the
Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or the web. I am
Gerry St. Germain from British Columbia, originally from Manitoba.
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters
relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. Today, we continue
to explore Metis issues, particularly those relating to the evolving legal
and political recognition of the collective identity and rights of the Metis
As part of our study on Metis identity, we recently travelled to
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest
Territories, where we held a series of public hearings and fact-finding
meetings on the subject. The complexity of the issue became even more
apparent during this travel.
We have been very impressed with the amount of engagement in the Metis
community and appreciative of the efforts of the witnesses who have given of
their time to help us grapple with the complicated question of identity.
We are similarly grateful to this morning's witness, Mr. Tough, who has
taken the time to travel to Ottawa from Alberta to share his expertise with
Before we hear our witness, I would like to introduce the members of the
committee who are with us today.
Present are Senator Lillian Dyck from Saskatchewan, the deputy chair of
the committee; Senator Watt from Quebec; Senator Munson from Ontario;
Senator Greene Raine from British Columbia; Senator Patterson from Nunavut;
Senator White from Ontario; Senator Patrick Brazeau from Quebec; and Senator
Jacques Demers from Quebec.
Please help me in welcoming Frank Tough, Professor of Native Studies at
the University of Alberta.
Professor Tough, we look forward to your presentation. We ask you to keep
it as concise as possible to allow time for senators to ask questions of
Frank Tough, Professor, Native Studies Faculty, University of Alberta,
as an individual: I am pleased that this committee invited me to present
today. My talk is entitled ``An Introduction to Metis Scrip.'' Because of
the scheduling, I was not able to present anything written that could be
translated in time, but a written presentation will be provided, and I
understand it will be translated later.
I have provided to the clerk attachments to that presentation, most of
which are historical documents. Attachment 11 is a published booklet
containing research that I directed explaining the Metis scrip system.
To ensure that I get through my presentation, I will begin by reading my
conclusions and findings and relevance. Professors are in the habit of
pontificating, and I want you to be able to get to questions.
On findings and relevance, the scrip system entailed the conversion of a
collective interest in Indian title into individual entitlements.
This presentation will not attempt to provide a full account of land
scrip irregularities, but sufficient historical documentation suggests sharp
dealings by the Crown and others when relating to the Metis.
To what extent the implementation of the Metis land grant provided by the
Manitoba Act, 1870, should have provided a collective land base is a matter
of ongoing debate. However, with the land scrip system, Metis grantees were
not afforded the protection of individual property rights that accorded to
other British subjects in Canada.
For a number of years, the Metis of Alberta engaged in several
legal/political campaigns to seek redress. I believe that this experience
contributed to the conditions that led to the creation of the Ewing
commission and legislation that resulted in Metis settlements in Alberta.
The historical experience of the scrip system is a fundamental aspect of
the relationship between the Metis and the Canadian government, and it has a
relevance to their identity and distinctness.
``Scrip'' is a term that refers to a voucher or a piece paper. I refer to
it as a coupon. It provides the entitled person with something. At the time,
Metis scrip was known as ``half-breed'' scrip and was issued by the Canadian
government to Metis individuals. Scrip coupons entitled recipients to lands
or to purchase land, and they were intended to extinguish Metis Indian
Under the Dominion Lands Act of 1879, Indian title and Metis claims were
connected by section 125(e), which reads:
To satisfy any claims existing in connection with the extinguishment
of the Indian title, preferred by half- breeds resident in the
North-West Territories outside the limits of Manitoba, on the fifteenth
day of July, one thousand eight hundred and seventy, by granting land to
such persons, to such extent, and on such terms and conditions as may be
A commission would be established upon recommendation from the Minister
of the Department of the Interior and would be struck by the Privy Council.
Commissioners would travel overland or along water routes to a number of
communities, visiting missions and trading posts, stopping to accept and
The scrip entitlements to which I am referring in the Northwest
Territories came in two types; money scrip and land scrip. Money scrip
allowed the purchase of homestead lands and other land tenures created by
the Dominion Lands Act. Land scrip could be applied to surveyed lands open
to homesteading and could be used to secure a patent of dominion lands to
the value of the scrip.
The allocations ranged from 160 acres/dollars to 240 acres/dollars. The
applications were standardized forms that collected a great deal of
information on the geography and the genealogy of the Metis.
If the claim was approved, the Metis grantee typically received a scrip
certificate. The certificate was proof of the validity of the claim and
could not be used to purchase or convert into lands. Certificates were often
purchased by third parties. The scrip certificates could be exchanged, which
was done by the Lands Patents Branch of the Department of the Interior in
Ottawa, for the actual coupons. To redeem land scrip coupons, the Metis
grantee would have to go in person to the Dominion Lands Office in the area
where he was interested in obtaining lands and locate the parcel of land.
This was referred to as the Rule of Location. Only once the Metis person had
located the lands could those interests be assigned or transferred.
I would like to deal with some irregularities concerning the location of
land scrip coupons. For a number of years, Metis in Alberta spoke out
against the scrip system. Along with the petition, several legal actions
were attempted. Irregularities in the scrip process, particularly around
compliance with the Rule of Location, were brought to the attention of the
Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice on several
In one case, about 1910, the L'Hirondelle brothers first petitioned the
Department of the Interior saying they wanted their scrip coupons back. They
said that they did not locate them and they did not transfer those interests
to anyone else. The Department of the Interior said no and then took the
Crown to the Exchequer Court and again requested the return of their
coupons. They lost at the Exchequer Court. Their lawyer filed an appeal with
the Supreme Court of Canada but an out-of-court settlement was effected
before that occurred.
In considering the request for the settlement, the dominion government's
own legal counsel's opined that should the petitioners ``in this case
succeed before the Supreme Court of Canada, there would not only be
hundreds, but thousands of cases of a similar nature brought at once if the
fiats were given, as there is no doubt that there were more forgeries and
impersonations in scrip cases in Western Canada than you can ever realize.''
After receiving that, a memo went to the Minister of Justice on how to
deal with this appeal, and it included a statement that the ``. . .
subsequent dealing with the scrip was admittedly tainted with fraud.''
In 1922, Metis from the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta
launched a petition and it arrived in the Department of the Interior. The
Department of the Interior did respond and that response is in the package
of attachments. The Department of the Interior's response to the position
. . . the scrip notes issued by the Department were delivered to the
grantee personally and it is not considered that the Department can be
held responsible for subsequent action taken in connection with the
location of the scrip, and if there were any fraud perpetrated in
connection therewith it was open to them to take the ordinary
proceedings before the proper Court.
Essentially, in this period, the response by officials from the
Department of the Interior was once we have provided the paper it is not our
responsibility, and they would often state that with respect to the
assignment of lands and the location of scrip they were extremely diligent.
The response also said that if you have a case, go to court. In fact,
they did. The next step they took was to take a case to court. This time it
was a complaint and in fact dealt with the non-compliance with the Rule of
Location. The complaint resulted in a criminal charge being laid against a
prominent Edmonton businessman, Richard Secord.
On April 5, 1921, a Metis woman named Flora Taylor testified at Secord's
preliminary hearing that she, at the behest of Secord, impersonated
Elizabeth Hislop at the Dominion Lands Office in Edmonton.
Charged with contravening section 467 of the Criminal Code, Secord was
committed to stand trial and remanded on bail of $5,000.
In those days, the Criminal Code of Canada did not treat lightly
instances of impersonation, forgery and the sojourning of perjury in respect
of property, and that also included scrip in lieu of land. Fraud was not
taken lightly in those days. Sentences could be up to 14 years.
The third part of my presentation deals with the official acknowledgments
of irregularities. Shortly after Secord was committed to stand trial, a
provision to amend section 1140 of the Criminal Code — statute of
limitations for ``half- breed'' scrip fraud — was inserted into Bill 138, a
bill to amend the Criminal Code, prior to third reading in the Senate. At
the time, Sir James Lougheed explained:
The intention is that if a prosecution for an offence is not brought
within three years of the date of its commission, then it is proscribed.
There is no provision for that in the Code at present. . . . This brings
it into section 1140 in the code, which deals with the limitation of
actions. There have been one of two cases brought, going back twenty
years, claiming that fraud was committed. Of course, the evidence in
connection with them would have disappeared long ago.
On July 21, 1921, the charges against Richard Secord were dropped.
Now, during that time there was a general election. On April 24, 1922,
the Member of Parliament for West Edmonton, Donald Kennedy, tabled a private
member's bill, Bill 54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, at the House of
Commons. The bill was intended to undo the section 1140 amendment that had
passed in the year prior.
This bill passed the House of Commons and went to the Senate. While
unsuccessful in the Senate, Bill 54 generated interesting debate in both the
house and the Senate. From that debate we learn more about the scrip system.
Apparently, on May 31, 1921, Sir James Lougheed received a memorandum
from parliamentary counsel and this was the rationale for the regional
amendment to section 1140 of the Criminal Code. This memorandum stated, in
The object of the clause is to provide a prescription of three years
with respect to any offence relating to location of land issued by
half-breed script [sic]. It is urged that there were a good many
irregularities amounting to fraud and perjury in connection with the
location of these lands, and parties are raking up these frauds for the
purposes of blackmailing. If this clause passes any such prosecution
would be proscribed as the offences were committed a long time ago.
This justification was remarkably candid and contradicts official claims
that the scrip system was based on perfectly executed legal instruments.
Apparently, there seems to be more concern about the blackmailing of those
who allegedly committed frauds and perjury than the original criminal
offence. This admission contrasts sharply with the assertion by Department
of the Interior officials that they were diligent about checking
Also in this time period, because of a public controversy, a legal
memorandum was prepared for the Deputy Minister of Justice. I would like to
read out a section of that legal memorandum of October 14.
It appears that the scrip was handed to the half-breeds by the agent
of the Indian Department and it was purchased, for small sums of course,
by speculators. However the half-breed himself was required by the
Department of the Interior to appear in person at the office of the land
agent and select his land and hand over the scrip. In order to get over
this difficulty the speculator would employ the half-breed to
impersonate the breed entitled to the scrip. This practice appears to
have been widely indulged at one time. The practice was winked at
evidently at the time and the offences were very numerous. The
transactions are ancient history now and the Department considered that
it would be in the best interests of all to pass this section in a way
of a general amnesty.
From this legal opinion, we can sense both the Justice Department's
knowledge of the scrip system and the rationale for the amendment: One,
scrip was obtained at a low cost by speculators; two, grantees were required
to appear in person at the local land offices; three, this requirement was
overcome by hiring impersonators; four, impersonation was widespread; five,
impersonation was tolerated; six, the impersonation occurred a long time
ago; seven, the amendment to the Criminal Code was a general amnesty; and,
eight, a conviction would throw a cloud upon the title.
During the course of this, the Honourable Senator Turriff addressed the
Senate on this issue and he said:
To my mind it is not a question whether or not this legislation helps
or did help Mr. Secord. The whole question to my mind is whether or not
it is advisable that these cases in which fraud was perpetrated — and I
think there is no doubt that in a good many cases fraud was committed —
should be opened up. The purchaser would buy the half- breed's scrip and
pay a certain amount of money on it, and he would put a proviso in the
agreement that the balance of the money would be paid when the owner of
the scrip was notified to come into the land office to make entry for
the land. In many cases these half-breeds lived four or five or six
hundred miles from the land office, and it was a matter of very
considerable expense to bring them in, and it is reported that in a good
many cases the party who purchased scrip would get some other
half-breed, not the owner at all, to go into the office and sign the
necessary papers and the transfer, and in that way save the expense of
bringing the real owner of the scrip into the land office, and also the
expense of paying the balance of the money that was agreed upon to be
paid. As I say, to my mind the whole question is whether or not it is
advisable to open up these cases.
Again, his account clearly contradicts the Interior Department's official
position that the scrip system was perfectly legal. As a long-standing
resident of the northwest and a political leader — he had been a senator and
member of Parliament and a former Commissioner of Dominion Lands — Turriff
was a reasonably well-informed person about these matters.
I think I can end it there.
The Chair: I have a brief question, professor. How was the
identity of the Metis in that era determined? They were not known as Metis
at that time. They were just known as half-breeds, were they not?
Mr. Tough: In the English language, yes, generally.
The Chair: What were they referred to in the French? The Michif?
Mr. Tough: Perhaps sometimes. Probably ``les Métis.''
The Chair: In your research, have you been able to establish how
they established who qualified for scrip?
Mr. Tough: Yes, and this can be reinvestigated as well. It goes
back to the Manitoba Act, where they simply state that any White blood, no
matter how faint, any Indian blood no matter how faint, qualifies them as
half-breeds, and it therefore entitles them to one of the various grants or
In terms of the definition that came forward from the implementation of
the Manitoba Act and the thinking of the North-West scrip commissions,
nothing said you do not qualify for scrip unless you wear a sash or unless
you say that you are a member of the Metis Nation. There were no cultural or
political identity qualifications for this. It was to deal with an interest
in the Indian title that created a property right. The definition was very
convenient and simple in that it simply said the presence, no matter how
faint, of White blood, and the presence, no matter how faint, of Indian
blood creates a mixed blood or half-breeds that qualify for this.
The applications that were used in the North-West scrip were quite
elaborate and detailed. In a certain sense, they were asking people if they
considered themselves to be half-breeds. Usually there are three generations
of information on these scrip applications, which have been put in a
database, and part of them have been put up on a website so you can look at
them for yourselves.
For three generations, generally, they ask who your parents are and
whether your parents are White, Indian or half- breed. They ask for that
sort of information on the mother and father. This provides information on
the applicant and the children. There is considerable genealogical
information in this process, and often it is backed up with ancillary
documentation, such as copies of baptismal records.
The Chair: Was this confined to a specific area?
Mr. Tough: Yes, it was.
The Chair: What was that, sir?
Mr. Tough: It changes over time. In terms of today's reference, we
would say Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, North
of 60, Peace River country. Much of the scrip was created prior to those
modern political boundaries that came in 1905 and 1912. In the original
postage-stamp province of Manitoba, it was through the enactment of the
Manitoba Act and a special piece of legislation in 1874 that that grant of
$160 in money scrip is combined to that part. Elsewhere it is under the
Dominion Lands Act. In the first lot of commissions, which went from 1885 to
1887, it was dealing with the treaty territories, so it was dealing with
Treaties 1, 2 — sort of — 4, 5, 6, and 7. Actually, the commissions are
explained in this attachment. I have mapped these out.
After that, the territory coincides with the treaty territory, and so
with the adhesion to Treaty 6 in 1889, they not only take an Indian treaty
adhesion but they deal with, in their view, the claims of the half-breeds.
After that, it is always at the same time as treaty commissions. However, it
did not occur for Treaty 9. It occurs for Treaty 8, Treaty 10, the adhesion
to Treaty 5, and Treaty 11.
Senator Dyck: Dr. Tough, you focused a lot on scrip and you were
talking about scrip application. Is it possible, or do you know that there
are some communities that have been left out because they chose not to
apply? Do we have any idea as to how accurate the scrip records are or
whether, during the process, whoever was going out to collect the
information, they actually went to all the places they were supposed to go
to? In other words, it seems as though the database is to some extent
reliant upon the validity of the scrip historical record.
Mr. Tough: It is, and any data process has mistakes and errors. At
some points, they did invoke cut-offs. As someone who has been involved with
the database of all these applications, there sure seems to be a lot of
There was some flexibility. For example, someone had missed a commission
in '87. First, they could also apply in writing. Up to about 1892, a lot of
applications were submitted, either at a local Dominion Lands Office or
directly to Ottawa. Often they had the encouragement of some scrip
I suppose the area where there might be some ambiguity concerns is what
they referred to as ``Metis born in the British territory'' and then had
taken up residence in the United States. At one time there was a controversy
because it seemed to be totally driven by speculation. In fact, scrip
commissions did take applications of Canadian Metis residing in the United
States in places like Lethbridge. You have to look at the individual cases
in terms of whether or not their residency at any particular point in time
affected their qualifications for scrip, but we have the application then.
I think the coverage is not too bad. Possibly one error — and I think the
commissioners were attentive to it — is that people without that faint bit
of White blood — that is, pure-blooded Indians — would be encouraged by the
value of scrip to apply for scrip. There was a controversy in northern
Alberta in respect of people applying for scrip who really were not Metis.
That became controversial and the system had to respond to it.
I do not think there are large numbers of people left out. In fact, we do
get a lot of people applying twice.
Senator Dyck: As you may know, our committee went on a two-week
trip to Western Canada and the Northwest Territories. We heard from a couple
of communities where they felt they had been left out of identification as
Metis. It seemed, if I remember correctly, that in some cases they were
communities that were in the northern part of what is now the Prairies or in
the Northwest Territories, which were fur trade posts and which may or may
not have been part of Hudson's Bay; they might have been the North West
Company. There seems to be this thread that somehow they were not enumerated
as being Metis by the scrip system or whatever other system.
Is that possible? In fact, we were given a copy of the book in B.C.,
which I have not yet had a chance to read, which talks about communities
that were left out.
Mr. Tough: I do not have expert knowledge on the B.C. situation.
We do know that the treaty scrip commission visited the Peace River country,
but we do not have applications for people residing in the Peace River
country that I have been able to find. I do not know to what extent the
nature of the entitlement affected where the commissioners were willing to
make these grants.
However, in the case of the Peace River country, those were dominion
lands, federal lands.
Senator Dyck: You said in your presentation that you had a map.
Does that outline what might be considered to be the Metis homeland?
Mr. Tough: I have reflected on what might be considered the Metis
homeland, based not so much on scrip applications but on other factors. I
sometimes show that map in a PowerPoint, but I have not provided it here. In
fact, I am quite at a loss, as a professor, trying to speak without
PowerPoint; it really throws me.
Be that as it may, I am trying to work on the historical geography of the
Metis Nation, and I am beginning with the fur trade and the notion that the
parkland was of central purpose to the Metis homeland. You had the large
concentration of Red River, which I regard as a metropolis of the Metis
Nation, not the only Metis. I do not subscribe to the view, as sometimes it
is misrepresented by others, that all Metis have to have some connection to
Red River. Red River is simply the metropolis of the Metis Nation, a
metropolis of the fur trade.
At the other end of the Carleton Trail that travels through the parkland
is the Fort Edmonton area, Lac Ste. Anne and St. Albert, where you have
another large concentration of Metis people. That system is the backbone,
and relating out of that you have a network of cart trails.
The fur trade unified three environmental zones: the grasslands, the
parklands and the bush in the North. They were unified by the fur trade
systems of transport and commerce. The Metis played an important role in
that. The York boat brigades travelled from Red River up to the port and
then up to York Factory, which was the transport backbone of the fur-trade
system. Often this was done by half-breeds or Metis and it created a
On the land that network was created through the cart trails. What ended
up happening is that pemmican was moved from the grasslands by the Metis in
their carts into the parklands, and the Hudson's Bay Company purchased this
pemmican and distributed it in the North. You then had a net transfer of
calories into the North, because these people would have had a hard time
without it. The fur trade unified this. The Metis played important roles.
Large district headquarters are often also the place where you get a
half-breed or Metis population because of the employment created by the fur
trade and the seasonal labour pool that they specialized in. There is a
historical geography to the Metis people. I am trying to approach it first
from what these networks are that existed prior to 1870 and to what extent
they corresponded to people who identified as being Metis or half-breeds.
Senator Patterson: Thank you for the excellent presentation.
Professor Tough, you said at the outset that scrip was intended to
``extinguish'' Indian title, I think was the term you used, yet Metis now
claim scrip as proof of their descendants and their Aboriginal rights. You
know that we are focusing in our study on how to define ``Metis.''
Could you say how important your research on scrip is in helping us to
determine who is Metis in light of the recognition as having Aboriginal
rights in the Constitution?
Mr. Tough: Unlike other Aboriginal people, such as those
registered under the Indian Act — and we may object to the terms and
conditions that are applied — the Government of Canada did not create a
registry of Metis people. Any meaningful benefits flowing from Aboriginal
rights have to be able to define the beneficiaries. Through a combination of
various historical documents, I believe that objective and verifiable
information can come forward on the genealogies of people whose descendants
can trace back through family trees and genealogies.
There is the northwest half-breed scrip system. There is also an
affidavit collected in Manitoba for the children's grant and the adult
scrip. We refer to those as the Manitoba affidavits. None of this is
actually perfect; they were not thinking about our needs 120 years ago. The
way they organized data is challenging to a social scientist today.
Another key document is the 1901 census. The 1901 census might be
referred to as a racial census. Everyone was given a Y, R, W or a B. It was
under the heading of colour, whether they were Red, White, Black or Yellow,
and by that they meant racial categories, not your skin tone. We have a
racial count in Canada. The other thing that they were instructed to pay
close attention to was the mixing of Indian and White blood. These people
were to be identified as French breeds — I know this language is very
objectionable but this is the technical language that was used — and
Scottish Cree half-breeds. They were to fill those in.
The census enumerators were not always competent and did not always
follow the instructions, but the 1901 census provides us with some insight
into the names of people who had mixed blood. This information is detailed
at the level of the individual, the family and geographical areas.
The interesting thing is that, as I understand it, the Government of
Canada and the court system believes that since 1870 there has always been a
clear distinction between First Nations Indians, who are Aboriginal, and the
Metis who are not Indians. However, you do not find this clear distinction
in the census of 1901. Both First Nations and Metis people were colour-coded
with an R. In that case they did not distinguish between them.
To the extent that the challenge of whom the beneficiaries of the rights
are, a great deal of work has been done. It is not an impossible task. These
records will assist. People can create the verified objective, documented
family trees that will take them back from the 1901 census into this
entitlement process, and they can go back into fur trade records. There are
considerable fur trade records in the West that will show this beginning of
a people, where a mixing of blood was a necessary condition but not a
sufficient condition. A necessary condition concerns the social, political
and economic factors that contribute to the development of a new people. In
my opinion — and my research tells me this — a lot of it has to do with the
Senator Patterson: You say this can be researched and documented
and there is quite a bit of evidence that can be gathered. Obviously you
have done a great deal of work yourself in this connection. Is that
gathering of research and historical data around the fur trade and the
networks, as you described it, a project that should be undertaken to help
resolve this burning question that our committee is addressing?
Mr. Tough: I would recommend that the empirical work based on
written historical documents continue, yes.
Senator Patterson: It is fascinating to hear the stories you tell
about the abuse of the scrip system, which we have certainly heard about in
our work. I know you are based in Alberta, and I think the Province of
Alberta is unique in Canada in having granted Metis lands. Could you comment
on that? Was that action on the part of the government, in your view, a
response to the injustices that have been uncovered?
Mr. Tough: Yes, I believe so. First, we have the L'Hirondelle
case. They go to court and try that case. It does not work out. We get
evidence of how the scrip system was really operating.
We have a petition that goes to Prime Minister Meighen on November 11,
goes to the Department of the Interior. We have a five-page internal
memorandum and the two-page response to Atkinson and Lafferty. Before that,
people in Ottawa are aware that there are serious problems with the location
of land scrip that amount to perjury, impersonation and fraud. They do not
actually admit that in their response to the petition to Lafferty and
Atkinson. At the end they say if you do have a case you can take it to court
The firm of McDougall & Secord were very much involved in the acquisition
of money and land scrip. There is a case with respect to a complaint made
about what had happened with Elizabeth Hislop's scrip. Flora Taylor
testifies for some time about it. It is taken seriously enough that there
will be a proper court hearing on it. There is debate in the Senate
afterwards. You have the amendment, 1140 of the Criminal Code, and then the
debate is about, well, was it done for Richard Secord? Perhaps it was a
coincidence, right? Lougheed makes it sound like housekeeping. The problem
with that argument is, when you look at what is in 1140, there is not a long
list of limitations on prosecution. Certainly they did not turn around and
then say, ``We need to try this limitation on other tenures of the Dominion
Lands Act.'' They did not go on and say, ``If there is fraud with respect to
homestead or coal lease or a ranching lease, there is a three-year limit of
prosecution.'' At this time, the three-year limit prosecution came because
almost all of the land scrip had been located by then, so it basically shuts
down any prosecution on the question of fraud.
My other curiosity about this is there seemed to be no interest in the
Department of the Interior about the fact that a public Crown asset was
being obtained under dubious circumstances. There is the problem of the
entitlement of the individual Metis, but there is also the public Crown
interest in the lands which are being obtained in a curious sort of way.
Once all of a sudden this happens, then there is great debate about
whether it was retrospective or not. If you read through, we provide some of
them in the attachments. One of my recommendations is that the Journals
and the Debates of both Houses of Parliament should be online. I
was trying to put some of this together to get better copies, but it is not
online, which is astonishing, actually. The originals are very well indexed
so you can do your own research on that.
Once that happens, it becomes a huge controversy in Alberta. Then there
is the election in 1921 and the fall of the Unionist government. Of all of
the seats in Alberta — I know you want to check this out for yourself — not
a single Conservative was elected. It was the Progressive Party, the United
Farmers of Alberta and Labour. This issue had become a political issue in
the election campaign, and Meighen attributed it as part of the reason why
they lost seats in Alberta. The United Farmers of Alberta, which became also
the provincial Government of Alberta, had knowledge of the operation of the
scrip system. This goes directly to your point about whether there is any
connection. They actually campaigned on that issue up until the late 1920s.
The other contributing factor is this is the Metis getting organized
themselves and making allies with people. Part of the impetus for the
organization of the Metis in Alberta has been focused on this problem of
scrip fraud. The United Farmers of Alberta are still in power in 1930. They
set up a commission. The commission comes forward. The commission does not
explicitly base the rationale for the lands on any sort of right or title or
past problems. You will not find that in there. The connection is the Metis
drive to organize themselves politically, and a government, the United
Farmers of Alberta, are aware and somewhat sympathetic with this problem,
and then the Social Credit Party makes this legislation in the late 1930s.
I believe that this activity, particularly in the province of Alberta,
was a contributing factor to setting aside a large land base for the Metis
Senator Raine: This is a fascinating subject that you have been
researching, and one that most Canadians are totally unaware of.
My question goes back to the actual scrip commissions that travelled
across enumerating half-breeds, as you say, based on any amount of mixture
When they did that and the purpose for enumeration was to issue a piece
of paper to people who probably could not read, having done a fair amount of
research on this, do you think the people at the time realized what that
piece of paper was for, what it meant? It obviously had a value because I
would say that shortly after receiving the paper people wanted to give them
money for it.
Do you think that, for the most part when they sold their scrip, it was
because they did not want to take up any land for some reason?
Mr. Tough: There are sort of two questions there. The first one is
the problem of informed knowledge of the process. I would say that they did
not have good information about it. We know this because most of the scrip
applications, most declarations, are signed with an ``X.'' I also think they
would not have good knowledge that by consenting to apply for scrip that
they were somehow giving up any interest they had in Indian title. I do not
think that is evident. There are no real questions on most of the
applications. As wonderfully standardized as they are, it drives me nuts
trying to make a database when they ask slightly different questions from
commission to commission. There is nothing in there that says ``I am
consenting to given up Indian title by applying for scrip. I am consenting
to give up all of my Aboriginal rights.'' There is it nothing of that nature
I think that the term ``coupon'' captures the relationship, and that is
it was something that was of interest to some other party more than the
Senator Raine: I think commissions were seeking out people who
were being given scrip in order to extinguish demands; they wanted to limit
the number of people they agreed to look after, if you like.
Do you think there was intent to give something with a monetary value to
people who were not interested and did not want to stay on one piece of land
and be a farmer? These people were not farmers.
Mr. Tough: Many of them were not. Many of them had subsistence
gardening at Red River.
Senator Raine: They already had a place for that and they had a
Mr. Tough: Yes. If they were occupying river frontage, up to a
certain period of time the Department of the Interior would survey river
lots for settled communities outside Red River. That happens in places like
Prince Albert, although it gets extremely bureaucratic around the survey
There is a disconnect between the treaty process and in dealing with the
Metis on the southern prairies. They did not get into dealing with things in
Manitoba until the 1870s. By 1876, Treaty 6 was done. With the commissions
in 1885, 1886 and 1887, as I think your question was inferring, people
withdrew from treaty. People are allowed to withdraw to apply for scrip and
they give up their Indian status. This amounts to about 29 per cent of the
claims that are recognized and affirmed in the period of those commissions.
Some of them then go back into treaty.
William Pearce, who was involved with the Department of the Interior and
was a surveyor for a number of years, saw that as an attempt using scrip to
reduce the number of treaty people and therefore, I believe in your words,
people that would have to be looked after. Scrip could be used to that end.
Also, of course, if a band with reserve land base lost many of its
members because of people applying for scrip, then there is pressure to
surrender the reserve because there are less members and less need for land,
so why not surrender part of it? This actually gets quite intricate.
The Chair: Professor, do you work at all with the Métis National
Mr. Tough: I have a research relationship. I know President
Clément Chartier quite well. Basically, when there was a good flow of money
under the post-Powley implementation, that money came to the
University of Alberta as research contracts. I conducted research for the
Métis National Council not as a private consultant but in a contractual
relationship with the University of Alberta. That is why we know what we
know, and that is why we had an online historical database built, which
provides text summaries. There are a few broken links and copies of the
There is also a component that allows Metis individuals to build their
own family tree online. One of the first things it does is runs off and
looks for all sorts of possible matches. It is very organized. It is hosted
by the University of Alberta. It is publicly accessible. The big complaint
about my database is that I need to put more data up there.
The Chair: In your research, have you tried to determine what the
thought process was in 1982 when Metis were added to section 35 of the
Mr. Tough: No, but there were participants. I occasionally watched
As a non-Aboriginal person, it seems so logical that they are an
Aboriginal people with existing rights and should be included in the
Constitution. With respect to how that occurred, there are some people who
object to it because it was politically expedient. I do not think that is
particularly relevant any more than the Magna Carta was politically
expedient on the part of the sovereign when faced with a lot of pressure.
As a non-Aboriginal person, it makes a great deal of sense. I would go
further to say that in our original British North America Act, Indians and
lands reserved for Indians could easily be read as Aboriginals and lands
reserved for Aboriginals.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Honourable senators, we have to go in camera now. I would like to thank
Professor Tough for joining us this morning, for his presentation and for
bringing his expertise and professionalism to the subject at hand.
There is supporting documentation, but it is not fully translated. I
believe that if I had a motion from the members of the committee and
unanimous support, we could allow this and make it available to committee
members. They are historical documents; some of them are not translated. In
fact, many of them are not translated.
If it is the wish of the committee to move a motion that this be made
available to committee members, I would entertain that motion.
Senator Dyck: So moved.
The Chair: All those in favour?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried unanimously. The information will be made
available to members of the committee.
Thank you again, Professor Tough.
(The committee continued in camera.)