Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 16 - Evidence - February 7, 2017
OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:01
a.m. to study the new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit
and Métis peoples.
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (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 either here in the room or
listening via the web. I would like to acknowledge for the sake of
reconciliation that we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Algonquin
peoples of Canada.
My name is Lillian Dyck, from Saskatchewan, and I have the privilege of
chairing the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. I will now
invite my fellow senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, from Alberta.
Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine, from British Columbia.
Senator Beyak: Lynn Beyak, from Ontario.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.
Senator Boniface: Gwen Boniface, Ontario.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Watt: Charlie Watt, from Nunavik.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Senator Lovelace Nicholas, from New
The Chair: Thank you, senators.
Today we continue our new study on what a new relationship between the
Government of Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada
could look like. We will begin our study with a few meetings looking at the
history and what has been studied and discussed on topic.
Today we welcome Professor Brenda Macdougall, Chair, Métis Research,
Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa.
Welcome, Dr. Macdougall. We are very happy to hear from you. As you know,
our committee did a study on the Metis people several years ago, and it's a
topic that we don't often get a chance to look at, and we are happy that you
are here as one of the leading scholars and experts in the field.
Could you begin with your presentation, and then we will open the floor
to questions from the senators. It's likely that we will go past an hour. We
will take a break for a couple of minutes at about ten o'clock and then
resume. Please proceed, Dr. Macdougall.
Brenda Macdougall, Chair, Métis Research, Department of Geography,
Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa: Good morning, everyone, and thank
you for inviting me to attend. I was present at the last Senate hearing on
the Metis, and it's nice to see some familiar faces.
I was asked to give a brief history on the relationship between the Metis
and the government. I will start by being very blunt: it has not been great
until now. Our rights to land and self-identity have been, at best, denied
and, at worst, violently attacked. Canada takes very little interest in us,
choosing to ignore us at every possible turn since the middle of the 19th
We can address the well-known issues of 1869-70 when we actually
negotiated the creation of the province of Manitoba. The overt hostility of
the Macdonald government resulted in the militia being sent against us. We
managed to secure our lands rights in the Manitoba Act, sections 31 and 32,
and yet within 15 years, two thirds of the Metis population left that
province, and those people ended up landless. Most of them went west and
north into existing Metis communities that had been around since the early
On top of that, our leader Louis Riel was exiled. Despite being a duly
and democratically elected Canadian MP to the Parliament three times, he was
never able to take his seat as an MP in the house. Instead, between 1875-80
he was banished from his homeland.
We can then reflect on 1885, another fight for our land rights, which
ended up with the federal government sending the largest military force
against our people in the history of this country. Scores of our people died
on the field from starvation and, later, illnesses brought on by that
starvation. The men who were left were arrested and imprisoned, while Riel
was executed for treason.
Bear in mind that First Nations people suffered greatly after 1885 as
well. Eight men were hanged in the largest mass execution in the history of
Since that time, we have been consistently and methodically punished by
the state for our supposed transgressions. The result has been the loss of
our lands and the consistent denial of our indigeneity.
The argument from Canada, as written in school textbooks and once taught
in a lot of universities and sometimes still is, was that we were traitors,
perpetrators of violence against a peaceful government; we were aggressors.
The result has been the loss of land and the consistent denial of
That history ignores the dozens of petitions that were written by Metis
people requesting reserves, asking for protection of hunting and fishing
rights, offering to pay taxes if we could only be granted the land that was
rightly ours and allowed to transition into homesteading. Each and every
turn was ignored, and so other approaches were tried.
We attempted to enter treaty as indigenous nations. We managed to do this
in 1875 in Treaty No. 3. Two years later, we were unilaterally removed from
that treaty by the federal government.
Then scrip was introduced, which would allot us individual landholdings
which would then be converted to homesteads under the Homestead Act. I would
like to point out that scrip is not a treaty. Scrip is something that is
offered to an individual. You must apply and then you must meet the
requirements of the application process. What I can tell you is nobody I
know or have ever met still lives on the scrip lands that their families
were granted between roughly 1885 and 1923.
I'll point out Round Prairie in Saskatchewan. It was just south of the
city of Saskatoon.
In a class I once taught, we did research on their history and discovered
that by the 1920s, the people of Round Prairie were paying three to four
times the amount of taxes for their land as compared to the White settlers
at Dundurn, just a few miles down the road. As a result, most the people
ended up landless after they couldn't pay the taxes for those lands.
So the history of our people is one of movement, of being pushed further
and further west and then north into the margins of Canadian society. For
those people who were already in the North — there are well-documented
histories of Northern communities like Île-à-la-Crosse, Green Lake, Lac la
Biche, Lac Ste. Anne, Fort Chipewyan — they were already being told that
they were not Indian enough to take treaty and not White enough to be
compensated for the land expropriations when mines or military bases were
I'm collapsing and compressing a lot of time and historical moments here,
but the end result is that the Canadian state has consistently argued that
we were not "Indians'' for the purposes of law and therefore couldn't pursue
land claims. As a result, we have fought tooth and nail for every
programming dollar. We've gone to court over every hunting rights case, and
we have one land claim that is still in existence. The claim was filed in
1999 in Saskatchewan.
In the last decade, we have consistently won in the Supreme Court of
Canada in terms of hunting-rights cases and in terms of identifying who we
are, but I have to ask the question: To what end and to what cost? What was
the cost to all of us financially, for sure, but more importantly, what was
the cost to the honour of the Crown?
Now we have the Manitoba Metis Federation case where the Supreme
Court of Canada declared that the Canadian federal Crown had "acted with
persistent inattention and failed to act diligently'' and that it "could
have and should have done better'' when it came to dealing with the Manitoba
We have the Daniels decision of just a few months ago where again
the Supreme Court of Canada made a positive declaration affirming the term
"Indian'' in that legislation did indeed included the Metis and also
non-status Indians, after 100 years of making us a jurisdictional football
between provincial and federal crowns.
It was amazing that the federal government commissioned the Isaac report.
That report has 17 truly ground- breaking recommendations such as
establishing stable funding for the registries, which are section 35
compliant registries created by and for Metis, not by the government. The
Isaac report suggested the alteration or the complete scrapping of the
current land claims process so that we, as Metis, can pursue land claims
without going into the court system. He suggested setting up a framework
agreement with the Manitoba Metis Federation to restore the honour of the
Crown on issues surrounding the Manitoba Metis and their land rights. He
suggested assisting the Metis in being able to reconcile with Inuit and
First Nations, since we've been pitted against one another as we fought over
jurisdictional dollars. I don't have much faith that many of these
recommendations will be implemented in the spirit they were written, but
others could feel differently.
I paid attention to every report and inquiry we have had since the 1960s,
and I have noticed that they've become narrower and narrower and more and
more focused until the issue of land is completely taken off the table. I
emphasize land because this is what our early political leaders and my old
people tell me we came to Ottawa to get. We came to get land and we are
still landless today.
My question to you is, are things going to be different going forward? I
don't know. I hope in the spirit of reconciliation we can see some actual
dialogue on issues of land rights.
That's all I had to prepare. I'm certainly open to questions.
The Chair: Thank you Professor Macdougall. You gave us a very good
overview of history. We will now open the floor for questions for individual
senators to enquire more deeply into it.
Senator Sinclair: I was not aware there was anybody else that was
ahead of me, so I'll jump in first. Good morning, professor. How are you? I
appreciate the presentation that you have done, and I thank you for
I wonder if you might talk to us about the potential impact that you see
over the most recent set of Supreme Court decisions, particularly the
Daniels case. In particular, what impact do you think that will have on
the issue of federal jurisdiction, the issue of how it impacts section 91.24
of the Constitution Act, 1867? What in the future is going to be the
relationship between the Metis people and Canada as you see it?
Ms. Macdougall: I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know the nuances of
law in the cases. I saw with Daniels an affirmation absolutely that
the court was going to reconcile with the constitution of Canada of 1982, so
the inclusion of Metis in 1982 as a federal category of indigenous people is
now reconciled with section 91.24 for the purposes of law, not for the
purposes of culture or society. We will be treated in a way that allows us
to have a relationship with the federal government, because up until now we
really don't have a relationship with the federal government in any positive
or meaningful way because there is no conduit for us to openly access the
Take for instance the land claim in northern Saskatchewan. It was filed
in the courts in 1999. My hope with section 91.24 is that we could actually
take that case out of court and move it into a negotiated arena now. I don't
know if that will happen. I don't know if it's possible for that to happen,
but that would be my hope, to have a dialogue about the land rights of Metis
in northwestern Saskatchewan as opposed to a pitched battle in court.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you.
The articles that I've read concerning the Daniels decision, the
Blais decision, the Powley decision, and all of the most
recent decisions in the Supreme Court all eventually get around to asking
the question without really answering it; that is, what does it mean for who
is going to be a Metis in the future, both legally and otherwise? I wonder
if you have any thoughts about what this committee should say, for example,
in the future about who should be included in that federal jurisdiction now
that the court has said the federal government has a responsibility and a
special relationship with Metis people. Who do you think it should include?
It would appear that there is a dispute growing insofar as the
Manitoba Métis Federation case is concerned that the Metis Federation is
making a very clear distinction between the Red River Metis who have French
ancestry and the so- called half-breeds who are not of French ancestry.
Would you share your thoughts?
Ms. Macdougall: One the unfortunate outcomes of colonialism has
been that we fight and argue with each other over issues that should not
concern us all that much. Yes, there are some disputes between political
organizations and between governing bodies as to who is and who is not
Metis. But I do take solace in the reality that Metis governing bodies have
been developing registries for a long time, and those registries have become
more and more systemized over time. The questions they ask are much more
consistent across jurisdictions. There is a vetting process within the Metis
community, and always has been, as to who can be a part of those governing
I do want to point out that those governing bodies don't necessarily
represent all Metis people. There are lots of Metis who do not join
governing organizations for a variety of personal reasons or for a variety
of cultural decisions. That's a choice not to belong to that organization,
and therefore it's a choice perhaps not to participate in some of the
section 91.24 possibilities or the MMF case itself.
The other positive outcome of the MMF case is that the MMF in fact opened
up its membership to people outside of the province of Manitoba. This is the
first time an organization has done that. The governing bodies currently sit
clearly within provincial jurisdictions; Metis nation Saskatchewan, Manitoba
Metis Federation, Alberta, Ontario. The MMF has actually invited people
whose families were disbursed after 1870 to be readmitted into the MMF
family. That criterion has become more expansive in some respects, and at
the same time perhaps it has become narrower for others. Those are debates
they need to work out within their communities. It's unfortunate they work
their way out so publicly.
Senator Sinclair: I'm curious about the question of who is a
Metis. Maybe we can just boil it down to that question. Who do you think
eventually will fall within that definition? The backgrounder to that that I
want to bring to your attention again is historically the organizations that
have represented Metis people have also represented non-status Indians, as
they were called. As a result, there developed a practice of many Metis
organizations also including non- status Indian people. Years ago, of
course, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples took on that larger group. Do you
think, though, that distinction is worth considering any more?
Ms. Macdougall: You are right, absolutely. The early governing
bodies absolutely were Metis and non-status Indian organizations. There
became a split or divorce, as some people have called it, after 1982, and
certainly after Bill C-31 and the idea that non-status people would regain
status. That happened, of course, but perhaps not as easily for many people
as they thought possible. There are still a lot of non-status people within
the Metis governing bodies for sure, and I don't think there is any
particular move to remove them.
It's important after Daniels to recognize there are still
non-status Indians in this country, and that will probably never change. We
know with the way that the map of Bill C-31 is that more and more people
will become non-status over time, if not quickly. This may become a looming
Metis and non-status have different issues, but that does not mean we
can't work in support of spaces, and that's what those first governing
bodies did and that was the strength of those bodies. They worked in support
of one another and not in contradiction to each other. I have the same
concerns that we have a growing and looming contradiction that is brewing,
and that it's unresolvable in some quarters.
As for who I think the Metis are, the Metis come from historic fur trade
communities. Certainly the Canadian government had no trouble identifying us
in 1985, and yet there is this question that we are somehow difficult to
identify today. We are exactly where we got left. We are still in
predominantly Western Canada but also parts of Ontario and British Columbia.
In the twentieth century, many people had to move out of those jurisdictions
for work, so trying to gather up what one person called "the scattered
leaves of Metis'' that are spread out all over this country will be a
Maybe part of that challenge is resolvable by other governing bodies
opening up their memberships to people who had to leave their provinces and
homes. There are people from Saskatchewan who are in B.C. because of
resource mining. If Saskatchewan actually opened the memberships to those
people to allow them to have their political body be from their original
place, then perhaps we wouldn't have these conflicts.
I don't know. I'm not in those governing bodies. They will have to work
out those issues. I do think the MMF has set a precedent that is quite
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Welcome. You mentioned scrip land. Is
this land that's only available to Metis and not available across the
country to any Aboriginal people?
Ms. Macdougall: The scrip land was historically issued starting in
Manitoba and then in the three Prairie provinces as a whole, so Saskatchewan
and Alberta and parts of the Northwest Territories, between 1885 and 1923.
By the time it was issued in 1923, it was money scrip that was offered, so
people were eligible to apply for a cash payment for extinguishment of what
was identified as their half-breed title or their half-breed rights to land.
It was only available in those jurisdictions. There were no scrip
certificates issued in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick or B.C., and it was
only in that really small window of homesteading. Scrip was converted from a
certificate that essentially extinguished your title to a homestead
allocation under the homestead act of 1880, so it just became real property
as opposed to collectively owned and occupied space.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: I asked that question because, as you
and some people here know, there is Crown land set aside for Aboriginal
people. Are you not recognized as an Aboriginal person to access these
Ms. Macdougall: So the scrip was a particular way of dealing with
an outstanding claim to land in a way that didn't create reserves and didn't
create ongoing federal responsibility to the people who applied for them.
You didn't have to be Metis to apply for scrip. We know of First Nations
families that applied for scrip, just as Metis people could, in fact, go
into treaty as individuals under a recognized First Nations chief. However,
by doing that, you legally became an Indian, so you ceased to be a Metis
person. Those culturally Indian people, Cree, Dene or whoever, who took
scrip ceased to be Indians under the law. It's part of this balancing act
that we walk in terms of terminology because of Canadian law.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you for your answer.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much, and I would like to ask a few
more questions about scrip. Was the definition of what it was for clearly to
extinguish all rights to ask for title to land ongoing? How did it
transition to money instead of giving a piece of land, a title for a
homestead, and during that transition, was it well-defined? Did the person
entering into that agreement understand what they were giving up?
Ms. Macdougall: Scrip is an incredibly complex legalized system
that evolved in multiple ways over time. It changed a lot between 1885 and
1906. I'm not the leading expert on scrip because it is so precise and
complex. Frank Tough has been the leading expert on scrip for many years,
and his work is probably the most precise in his attempts to actually track
scrip over time.
What I can tell you about it, though, is that it wasn't clear to people
how or when they could apply. People did apply in multiple jurisdictions.
The scrip registries are all collected in Library and Archives Canada. The
original documents all still exist. All the scrip certificates still exist.
They're all in library archives. Registries were kept by the treaty
commissioner. The treaty commissioner is also the scrip commissioner. After
1885, the following day or a few days later after a treaty was negotiated,
they would start the scrip process where people would fill out the
The applications themselves change over time. What the application looked
like in 1885 is not the same as it looked in 1923. They became more detailed
and more questioned-oriented. I used the scrip applications from a source of
genealogical information. They are incredibly detailed about who people are,
where they were located, how many kids they had and the names of their kids.
They could apply for deceased children. This is about extinguishing as much
as possible the idea of title.
Did it legally extinguish title? That's a question that's still in the
courts because it's not a treaty. Is scrip capable of extinguishing title?
The royal proclamation says the way that title is extinguished is through
treaty. Scrip is an individual allocation of land. That's the question, and
that's the question going forward in the land claim in northern
A lot of Frank Tough's scrip research was generated to answer those very
questions you're asking. We don't have answers to them even yet. Metis would
say it didn't extinguish their title; the Crown is saying that it did.
Senator Raine: Just to follow up, when we talk about title, many
Canadians and many listeners probably understand the fee simple title to
property that you own and have your house on, and that is titled to you as
an individual. Then there is Aboriginal title, which is a title collectively
for a land base that is very difficult to change.
Ms. Macdougall: Right.
Senator Raine: I know that in some jurisdictions in the U.S., for
instance, that system of collective title broke down. But in Canada it seems
like many First Nations people still want to have collective title.
So what we have done here is the individual has said, "I'm not so
interested in collective title, but I want to sign this document so I have
something for myself as an individual.'' Am I right that that was going
through their heads? It's fascinating that you have done a lot of research
in this area. I want to know, did the people think that what they got from
signing the agreement, that they would never again be part of a collective
Ms. Macdougall: I'm not sure that that's what they understood or
that that's what they wanted. The context of scrip is in the post-1885 era,
where people had just gone to war against the state and were being punished
The other context is that up to 1885 we've already watched the unfolding
of several treaties, right? Treaties 1 through 6, 7, I think heading into 8.
What they saw from treaties was that treaties were actually being used
against people. They were being put on reserves, which were not places that
they wanted to be, in locations that they didn't select themselves. Metis
people watched the federal government's starvation policy against people who
refused to go on reserve or in any way contravened Indian Act and Indian
agent directives. In the 19th century, treaty is not a great thing.
The fact that it became this way of preserving your collective rights is
something that I don't think most people post- 1885 could see. I don't think
a lot of First Nations people saw that either. That's a 20th century
perspective of the treaties; it's not a 19th century understanding or
reality of the treaties.
People who chose to take scrip I think were choosing not to be under the
yoke of the Indian Act, but that's it. That didn't mean that they ceased to
be a community. That didn't mean that they ceased to be a collectivity.
Bear in mind, scrip lands are only in the south. They are only in
homesteaded, surveyed regions. For people in Île-à- la-Crosse who applied
for scrip, for instance, or Green Lake, those lands aren't surveyed, so they
cannot take scrip lands in their home. They can't keep their community
together, but they can take scrip and sell the scrip certificates to
speculators and get at least some money while staying put. I don't know of
any family from Île-à-la-Crosse who left that area to take up homestead in
Senator Raine: I'm really interested in the situation. As I see
it, from early on, the people in southern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan
were fighting to be part of the formation of Manitoba and to be recognized
as citizens from there. "We are here. Settlers are coming in. Land is being
organized into a province, and we want our rights to be established.''
Eventually, it wound up in war. After the war is when the scrip system came
At that point, in the population of Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan
area, what percentage of the population was treaty First Nation people that
were on reserves, not necessarily where they wanted to be, and what
percentage were Metis, well-established communities, and what percentage
were settlers and newcomers?
Ms. Macdougall: We can't give those kinds of demographic
breakdowns. What I can tell you is that in 1870, in Manitoba, what we came
to understand as the postage stamp province of Manitoba, not modern
Manitoba, in 1870 there were 10,000 people enumerated. Approximately 8,000
of those people were Metis, whether they were Scottish half-breeds, whether
they were French Metis, whatever class you want to put to that, but 8,000
people out of those 10,000. I'm not good with numbers here, and I don't
remember the precision of the numbers, but 600 to 700 people were First
Nations in the understanding of Manitoba at that time. It doesn't mean
today. And then the smallest percentage was relative newcomer arrivals from
Ontario plus the older Hudson's Bay Company non-indigenous men that were
Winnipeg is a fur trade fort. It's a series of fur trade forts, so there
is a non-indigenous presence that goes back to those forts. I can tell you
that, but I can't tell you what the percentage breakdown is between Metis
and First Nations in other locations.
Census data is relatively unreliable in the 19th century. It's relatively
unreliable today. It depends on the question that is asked, but it also
depended on the enumerators, because in the 19th century the enumerators
were asking Indian agents and missionaries. They weren't talking to people
directly. A missionary might declare somebody Metis if they were
appropriately Catholic, but not Metis or more Indian if they weren't
appropriately Catholic or Anglican. They counted the people in their church.
They didn't count the people they didn't know because it didn't matter to
them. So we can't know that information. Censuses tell us something about
census-takers more than it tells us about the people themselves,
Senator Sinclair: What was the source of that data?
Ms. Macdougall: For the Manitoba data?
Senator Sinclair: Yes.
Ms. Macdougall: The population was enumerated in 1870, and so it's
the first Canadian census that was taken in the Manitoba region.
Senator Sinclair: So census data for 1870?
Ms. Macdougall: Yes, it's a Canadian census, 1870.
Senator Sinclair: For what was called Manitoba at that time?
Ms. Macdougall: Yes.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you.
Senator Oh: Thank you, professor, for your presentation. Last
Friday, Minister Bennett signed an agreement with the Metis of Ontario to
establish a framework for the negotiation of rights and claims by September
of this year.
Ms. Macdougall: Right.
Senator Oh: Based on the previous cases, could you comment on what
would be the most likely outcome of this deal? Is there anything that you
wish was prioritized?
Ms. Macdougall: I don't know what they're planning on talking
about. I know that consultations will start fairly quickly in Ontario Metis
communities around that framework agreement.
I don't know what people want to prioritize. I would hope that the
prioritization goes to land and then things successively down the list. But
Metis communities are like other communities. They have priorities that are
around making sure their kids get education and making sure that health care
is dealt with and the same kinds of concerns that other people have. So from
a personal level, those might be the things that a lot of people prioritize
over land, which is kind of an abstraction. I think a lot of people think
land can never happen, right? So I think that maybe the priorities might be
lower. But my hope would be that we start a real dialogue around land rights
in this country. I don't know that that that will happen.
Senator Oh: Are Metis scattered around, or do they have certain
communities that they are heavily in?
Ms. Macdougall: What the Metis have done since the 1960s, and in
some cases the 1930s, is they have created governing bodies. Those are
organized into regions. Those are organized into local community councils,
and those exist within very specific geographic spaces, while the people may
live within any kind of geography around it.
I used the phrase "scattered to the winds,'' and I meant that only in the
sense that people had to leave their homes or the places that they
considered their home territories, but they have reconnected with other
Metis people in other jurisdictions and have created governing bodies to
help themselves out in those places. There is a fairly organized structure
of governance bodies, but people are fairly geographically dispersed.
I also want to point out that according to the last Canadian statistic
numbers, Metis are predominantly urban, and they are predominantly urban in
the Prairie provinces, with outliers being in British Columbia, Ontario and
Quebec. Jobs are in cities.
Senator Tannas: On that, you mentioned governing bodies or
governance. What are they governing? What rules do they make up and how do
people abide by those? I'm thinking plowing roads and so on, but it has
nothing to do with that. What does that have to do with when you talk about
a governing body?
Ms. Macdougall: The early Metis political organizations
established local councils in various community jurisdictions. Their
responsibility was to deal with government on behalf of the people, to talk
about land, to talk about hunting rights and to talk about education.
Education was one of the first things that people really started organizing
around, to make sure that kids got into schools. In the 1930s in the West,
universal education was not a thing, so making sure their children got grade
school education was a big thing then. In the 1960s, it was pursuit of
university education and opportunities to go to school. It is those kinds of
Senator Tannas: So more advocacy than real government? I mean,
nobody was bound by a decision? There was nothing that anybody was made to
do, et cetera?
Ms. Macdougall: No.
Senator Tannas: It was advocacy. Thank you.
Ms. Macdougall: There is a big part of advocacy that goes with
governance, but it is predicated. The way that those organizations are set
up are very much predicated on what you would think of as democratic
principles of elected leadership, of choosing those elected representatives,
of being at council meetings to make decisions on what the priorities would
be in any given year and of developing documents that lay out those
principles. There is governance in that form of structure, yes, absolutely,
but they have to "advocate on behalf'' because when you're landless, there's
really not much to govern on the ground.
Senator Tannas: That's right.
Ms. Macdougall: That said, people have been very articulate and
very proactive within their local governing councils and have been for many,
many years. Metis people are very politically driven people — for very good
reasons, probably. However, 1869 wasn't an aberration. The way that they
structured that governance model in 1869, the councils of 40s and the
smaller councils, are the kinds of things that still exist today. Modern
governing bodies sort of model themselves based on the 1869 provisional
council, and the 1869 provisional council is very much based on an older
Buffalo hunting model or an older hunting model of how to bring people
together for short period of times to move forward economically, politically
and socially, and then how to disperse when you don't need to be governed
quite that much every day.
Senator Tannas: Thank you.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, professor, for that wonderful
presentation. My question is a practical one. We sit around our committee
tables here and in the halls of government and we use terms and descriptions
in our deliberations, but for people watching at home who don't know the
history, how did it evolve from the very beginning? They hear the terms
Indian, Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit, First Nation, and they don't know exactly
who was here when we started and how it evolved. Could you give a brief
history for those folks watching at home?
Ms. Macdougall: Specifically about the Metis? I'm just clarifying.
Senator Beyak: About everything.
Ms. Macdougall: Everything?
Senator Sinclair: Good luck.
Ms. Macdougall: There are indigenous people that are here when
Canada arrives. Those are the people that we currently think of as being
First Nations, Cree, Sahtu, Anishinaabe, Dene and Inuit. Metis people are a
post-contact people. That's absolutely the easiest way to describe us. We do
not have a history here that predates European contact. Our birth or
ethno-genesis, as the language puts it, is the intermarriage between fur
traders — not settlers, fur traders — and indigenous women. That is Scottish
and French fur trading men primarily, not necessarily exclusively, and Cree,
Anishinnaabe and Dene women — again, predominantly but not exclusively.
Metis people lived in the fur trade, but they lived according to family
principles that are very much based on First Nations traditions. We have
large extended families. We live in large kinship groups. We operate
fundamentally like you would think that bands operate historically while
being tied to fur trade activities as our main economic driver. Metis people
have always worked in all aspects of the fur trade, from interpreting to
fishing, for instance.
The place we get to in the 20th century, though, is that we live in a
very complex legal code that Canada has developed about who all of those
people are and what rights they have as a consequence of those things. In
1982, Canada decided on the phrase "Aboriginal'' as the umbrella name for
those three different people: Inuit, Metis, First Nations, although the
language in the Constitution is "Indian.'' Really what they're talking about
in the Constitution are legal Indians.
Indian and Northern Affairs maintain the registry of who is the legally
recognized Indian population in this country. That has nothing to do with
culture. It's not people's language, it's not their families, it's were you
on the Indian registry or not. That is the most systemized legal structure
that we have that identifies one particular population. There isn't a
corresponding structure really for Metis and Inuit people.
Around that, we have a system of legal codes dating back to the
Constitution, 1867 that starts off this whole process. So we have legal
categories, but we have cultural categories and we have linguistic
categories. The way people think of themselves starts at the family level.
Who is your family? What's your name? Who are your grandparents? How do you
associate with one another in community? Then it spirals out from there. Are
you from a reserve? Are you from the North? What geography are you from? We
talk about those kinds of things. We have different ways of talking to each
other to try and place ourselves within appropriate frameworks that are
cultural and linguistic as opposed to being legal and Canadian.
Senator Beyak: I want to thank you for a very comprehensive
answer. That answers a lot of questions that I get asked routinely.
Senator Christmas: Thank you, professor. I have really learned a
great deal this morning. I'm curious about your thoughts about whether or
not Metis originated or are resident or have a role in the Maritime
Ms. Macdougall: This has been one of the growing discussions. The
shortest answer I have to that is I don't really know the answer to that. I
know that bodies are springing up in the Maritimes that identify themselves
as Metis. My question around that is usually: Are you Metis or are you
non-status Indian? I understand why people might not want to be non-status
Indians. The minute you put "non'' in front of something, it's a nothing;
right? It's a nothing word. Really, are you Mi'kmaq? Are you Maliseet? What
First Nations tradition is it that you're coming from?
I share the perspective of most Metis scholars and most Metis people that
we cannot be reduced to the sum of our mixed blood. I reject the notion of
being mixed blood. I'm not a mixed blood; I'm a Metis person. I have a
family. I have a tradition. I have a language. I have a place in this world
that is Metis and is not a fraction of my blood quantum. If people are using
the word "Metis'' as a way of expressing a fraction of themselves, I can't
relate to it.
Senator Raine: Senator Christmas, we did a very interesting study
about three years ago on Metis identity. What Professor Macdougall is saying
is really the conclusion we came to in the study, which is that only Metis
people really know if they're Metis. As Professor Macdougall says, it has
nothing to do with blood quantum. It has to do with the culture and tracing
their roots back through familial connections, right back a long time. I
think that the answer is that there may be Metis people living in the
Maritimes whose family came from the Manitoba area.
Senator Christmas: Yes.
Senator Raine: The fur trade extended to Quebec as well as out
West, and so there is definitely a linkage. Am I correct, Professor
Ms. Macdougall: I think people came back east, for sure, but I do
think that you have to exist within a community context, and I don't mean
like a village. You have to exist within an extended family of community at
some point in order to make that assertion of yourself, and I think that has
to still be active today.
What I really want to be clear on is that I know that people think that
the word "Metis'' just means that it's a mixed thing and that anybody who is
mixed must obviously be a part of this word because that's the origin of the
word "Metis.'' In English, it's the same thing with "half-breed.'' Those
words mean the same thing. They are not magical words. The word "Metis''
evolved very clearly in the 19th century and into today to refer to a
people, a nation. It doesn't refer to random individuals with mixed blood.
Those people might be non-status people. There needs to be a better
dialogue in this country about the word "non- status,'' or the word "non,''
or why we have a nothing word to describe people who are, in fact, First
Nations, and those people need to have a space certainly in this room, but
also in this country, to have an open dialogue about what it means to be
disenfranchised like that. That disenfranchisement is similar to a Metis
disenfranchisement, but it's not the same. We came to the same place through
colonialism, but we came at it from different places. So we need to have a
better conversation about that.
The Daniels case is very clear. It's not about Metis people. It's
about Metis and non-status people being recognized as legal Indians for the
purposes of law.
Senator Christmas: I want to thank Senator Raine for her
clarification. I didn't realize that the committee had worked on that
I appreciate Professor Macdougall's distinction between blood quantum and
cultural and linguistic ties. I certainly appreciate that.
In the Maritimes, at least from the Mi'kmaq perspective, we never knew or
understood that there was a Metis population among us, but we had understood
that there was an Acadian population. That goes more towards the cultural
and linguistic traditions rather than blood quantum. I appreciate those
definitions and your clarification.
Senator McPhedran: Professor Macdougall, thank you very much for
your presentation here today. Your skill with language, often plain language
— which isn't always easy for professors to do — has really made a
difference for the wider learning in our country and beyond.
My question is geared more to the future and to you as a scholar. I've
had the privilege in transitioning from being a professor to being a
senator. Over the years, many of my students have been of Aboriginal origin,
and many of those students identify as Metis in Manitoba. If you could tell
us what, as a scholar, you think would be the most helpful changes to the
education system and, in particular, the transition from high school to
post-secondary options, I'd be very grateful for that.
Ms. Macdougall: For Aboriginal learners?
Senator McPhedran: Metis students.
Ms. Macdougall: The thing about Metis people is because we haven't
had a lot, we fight hard to be in places that we're in. My experience with
Metis youth in university is they actually don't need a lot. They just need
a door to be opened. They're political from their families; they're
political from their communities. They're outspoken. They look after
themselves pretty well. When they feel excluded from something, they're the
first people to push their way in and say, "We've been left out, and you
need to stop doing that to us.''
I never really worry about them in that respect, but I do worry about the
way that curriculum itself has unfolded. There continues to be this legacy
of language around mixed bloodedness that is unhelpful, and it certainly
doesn't clarify anything even from a First Nations or Inuit perspective.
Everybody has some mixed blood, right? We need to stop using that kind of
language because it's not reflective of who we are.
I realize you can't force professors to teach things the way that you
want to teach them. We have academic freedom to be able to do the kinds of
things that we want, but that doesn't mean that we can't work harder in
departments to create structures of inclusion around language and around the
ways that Aboriginal history is taught.
My big shock coming to Ontario from the West was that high school
students here are still taught that Louis Riel was a traitor and that he
deserved to be hanged. It is mystifying to me that in the 21st century that
is still acceptable grade school and high school curriculum. He's not
described as a founder of Manitoba. Even if you don't agree with the
principles of the resistance of 1869 or 1885, in a democratic country, you
have the right to protest against your government. That's what happened.
Those things are problematic, and I think that they lead to a level of
structural discrimination that is powerful and that we haven't gotten out
from under yet.
Senator McPhedran: I have a supplement to that, just to go a
little further into the policy field.
As we sit here, across the way there's a meeting going on around
indigenization of universities. Let me ask you about your thoughts on
universities taking not only leadership policy positions but investing in
indigenization, identifying, as we have at the University of Winnipeg, for
example — Lakehead University is another example — designated leaders within
the organization and also identification through consultation with students
and faculty of courses that are mandatory courses. May I have your thoughts
Ms. Macdougall: I have taught mandatory Aboriginal studies
courses. I certainly did it at the University of Saskatchewan. They were not
mandatory for all university students; they were mandatory for kids in
certain programs. I think they are a disaster from a teaching perspective in
some respects. I know that that's antithetical. When people are forced into
a classroom that they don't want to be in, they are not learners. They are
We have to start addressing racism much earlier, because the reaction
that you get in mandatory indigenous courses is often racist ideas and
thoughts: Why should I have to learn about this? What has this ever done for
Canada? I want to learn about real things. I don't want to talk about the
legacy of the past. Why can't people just get over it? If we don't start
addressing that in the K to 12 grades, it's too late by the time they get to
first-year university for that to be a meaningful, mandatory course. I
absolutely believe we can change the education process leading up to
university so that we can have a better relationship between students and
the curriculum in university.
That said, I'm not saying that students themselves are personally racist.
I'm saying there is a whole baggage of thought that comes with you when you
come into a school or university structure where you have never learned
about indigenous people, where you think, because of media or any kind of
popular idea, that these are just people who are living off of you, good
tax-paying Canadians. We hear that all of time. Then why should it be a part
of your curriculum? So it starts earlier.
I do believe, though, that there is a way of transforming the
universities in such a way that courses become better equipped at dealing
with Aboriginal topics in a range of classroom experiences. For instance,
the Indian Act is the largest, most overarching piece of legislation around
indigenous people. It affects Canadians. It doesn't just affect First
Nations people. It affects all Canadians. Why don't Canadians know it
exists? Why don't they know the provisions of the Indian Act? Native people
Those things must start much earlier. People need to know where their
land rights came from. It's not just a matter of signing treaties. How do
you get fee simple title to land? What is the responsibility of that? Those
are the places that you start so that by the time young people get to
universities, their world is already transformed by a different way of
thinking about their place in this country, one that includes native people
from the very beginning and not an add-on. We're not add-ons in classes. I'm
opposed to the idea that all you need to do is add a native module and stir
and somehow you have indigenized the university. That doesn't do anything.
That just treats us as the add-on.
Senator McPhedran: What would you like to see?
Ms. Macdougall: I would like to see strong native studies
programs. Where native studies exist and where it is strong and supported,
it has been transformative. I would like to see native studies mandatory in
the K to 12 system. Again, when it's supported and intellectually robust, it
has been transformative. If we have those strong spaces in the K to 12 and
in the university system, then we have strong classes that can support other
programs; law, medicine, education, social work. In my experience, native
studies reflect an indigenous way of being in a university or in a school
Senator McPhedran: Thank you.
Senator Pate: Thank you for joining us, Professor Macdougall. I
found all your comments very interesting and some of the other material
you've written very helpful.
Could you share where you see some good examples of both K to 12
curricula for young people going through the school system but also some of
the better indigenous studies program you know of across the country?
Ms. Macdougall: The province of Saskatchewan has had a K to 12
native studies system since the mid-1980s. I was not a beneficiary of it, as
I had graduated by that point, but they worked very hard to develop
curriculum materials widely available for the school system. The
Saskatchewan school boards worked closely with the Office of the Treaty
Commissioner to develop treaty rights packages, with Gabriel Dumont
Institute to have Metis curriculum, so they really shine in the area of
First Nations and Metis in the in the K to 12.
In British Columbia, the K to 12 system with Aboriginal studies and
Aboriginal content is probably leaps and bounds ahead of most provinces at
this point. It is very B.C.-focused, as it should be, but the range of
opportunities in British Columbia to take classes at every level is quite
strong. They have great curriculum material.
As for what I think are the best university programs in terms of native
studies, the highlights in Canada are absolutely Alberta, Saskatchewan and
Trent University in Ontario. They have the most dedicated faculties. They
are not without problems. All universities have their own quirks, so I won't
get into that, but they absolutely have probably the largest student
populations and the most dedicated faculties. They would be followed by
Winnipeg and Manitoba, for obvious reasons.
Where there is a density of population, you see a fulsome richness of
curriculum opportunities in the K to 12 system, and then you start to see it
play out in the university structures.
Where universities exist where people think there aren't any Aboriginal
people, you see this sort of diffuse sense of all things Aboriginal.
Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are probably not as strong because they
don't see themselves living in a province affected by indigenous people on a
daily basis. The Prairie provinces do, and British Columbia does.
If you want to look at international models for Aboriginal studies, the
University of Arizona is by far and away one of the leaders in American
Indian studies, as they call it. It is an amazing program. There is the
University of Minnesota. There are other great programs, but those are the
ones I look to in terms of thinking about how we can do things differently
or if I can do something differently. Those are the places I would look to
Senator Enverga: Thank you, and sorry I was not here when you were
making your presentation.
You mentioned the Indian Act earlier today while you were being
questioned. Is there anything there that you think has to be replaced or
changed that would greatly benefit the Metis people? Is there anything you
would like to suggest?
Ms. Macdougall: The Indian Act only pertains to Metis in the sense
that it defines us as not being Indians. There is a clause in the
definitional section about Metis. It's a piece of legislation that is, at
its core, colonial, oppressive and destructive. It's not really up to me to
decide whether it exists. That's up to the people who live within it.
But I think the first thing to consider is that the federal government
holds power and control over the registry, and communities and people do
not, and so the very fact that you have people who are legislated or not
legislated into existence is a problem in this country. What other people
are so defined?
But again, it's not up to me whether that document will continue to
exist. That should be up to the people who live under it and live with it
daily. But it should be recognized for what it is. It's colonial and it's
Senator Enverga: If it were up to you, what would you want changed
in the Indian Act?
Ms. Macdougall: If it were up to me? I don't want it to exist. I
think it's legislation that shouldn't exist. I think there are better ways
to deal with the issues that are inside of it. But, that said, you can't
just yank something out from under people. It has been around since 1876;
it's based on pre-Confederation legislation. A lot of work needs to be done
to build a different framework for people to live effectively and healthily
with its absence.
Senator Raine: Thank you again, and I just want to look at going
forward. You talk about land as an issue that you are very preoccupied with,
recognizing there are other supports or things that Metis communities would
maybe have as a higher priority. If there was a way to get some land for
Metis people, how would you envision it?
Ms. Macdougall: I think realistically it's probably not going to
be a land base that most people live on, because we have already relocated
and created structures inside of cities. But land is money, in one respect.
It's a resource and a thing you can use to build capital with. It's a place
that should be ceremonial and speak to your history. It might be different
things in jurisdictions. I'm not talking about one piece of land, or maybe I
am; I don't know.
The thing is this might seem unclear because I can't conceive of a world
where we would actually have land, so I have never thought past that
process. I grew up in a city. My father grew up in a city. My family has
been urban for over 100 years now. But for somebody who is from northern
Saskatchewan, that vision would be very different. They would see their
trapping, their ability to collect medicines and a place where their
children could be on the land and learn the things they are supposed to
learn from their old people. That would be very different for them than what
I could conceive of for myself. It's about talking to different kinds of
communities to find out what that would look like and what it would mean to
them. Having been a person from the city who goes out on to the land with
her elders, I absolutely recognize the need for that and the specialness of
So I don't know. I can't articulate that because it has not been my lived
experience on a daily basis. But I know that it's important to those people
who are in those places still.
Senator Raine: The Metis rights, such as hunting, trapping and
fishing, those kind of rights, do you think that they should be restricted
to certain land bases for the people who are attached to the communities
around those land bases, or would they be portable rights that a Metis
person could hunt or fish anywhere?
Ms. Macdougall: No, I think those rights are collectively held by
communities, and they have to be exercised in the place those communities
Senator Raine: By the community?
Ms. Macdougall: People will disagree with me, but that's the way
that I was taught.
Senator Raine: Finally, are there any national parks that belong
to and celebrate and are special places of Metis history and culture? Do
these exist? Are there any special places already preserved that are
controlled by another agency that could be controlled by Metis people?
Ms. Macdougall: I will return to your first question, and then I
will deal with the Parks Canada issue.
I do want to be clear that when I say "community,'' I'm not talking about
a site on a map. The village of Île-à-la- Crosse is one thing; the
traditional territory of the people of Île-à-la-Crosse is a very different
thing. I am in no way restricting this to the site of the village or 20
kilometres around the village. Again, that's an ongoing conversation that
would have to happen with those communities to decide where their space is
and how they conceive of space. I wanted to clarify that. I'm not
pinpointing this as only this.
Yes, there are parks that are important to people. Batoche National
Historic Site is number one for many people. It's a site not only important
to the people who fought there. Every year thousands of people come to Back
to Batoche Days, and there is a Metis piece of land across the road about a
kilometre north of the national historic site. But it's Batoche itself
that's important, not that little piece of land where Back to Batoche Day
There were a number of Metis families that were moved out of Jasper.
There were First Nations communities that were moved out of Jasper. There
were families moved out of Prince Albert National Park.
The thing about national parks is they exist on Crown land, and Crown
land exists on indigenous land. I would suspect that a lot of them are quite
important and sacred in some respects, but those are the ones I would
immediately think of just off the top of my head.
Senator Sinclair: I want to go back to a question that Senator
Tannas asked you earlier on about land base. You yourself have referred to a
need for a land base. There was a question of a land base, and I think you
may have addressed it again in a different way in this last question from
It has struck me from time to time that many people equate indigenous
land rights or indigenous rights with regard to land as requiring a land
base. Therefore, if you can't establish indigenous title that affects other
people's title, then you don't have a land base and therefore you don't have
the right to govern. I wonder why we don't think about indigenous governance
in a different way.
The City of Toronto, for example, covers about 640 square kilometres, and
yet it probably owns less than 10 per cent of the land in the City of
Toronto. Most of the land is owned privately, yet it governs 630 square
kilometres of land. That's true for almost every major city and municipality
in this country. Municipalities don't own their land, yet they govern the
Do you have a thought about why we don't think about indigenous rights in
the same way, particularly Metis rights? In particular, I wonder if you
might comment upon the Metis Settlements Act of Alberta, the Northern
Community Councils Act of Manitoba, and I think there is similar legislation
in Saskatchewan that recognizes the right of northern communities,
predominantly Metis communities, to govern themselves through provincial
legislation without actually owning any land. Could you talk about that?
Ms. Macdougall: Yes. First, you kind of blew my mind with
that idea. I had not thought of it in that way.
Senator Sinclair: That's what I do, blow people's minds.
Ms. Macdougall: You have given me a lot to think about with that
one basic premise. I don't know why we couldn't think about it differently.
Alberta is the only place that has a designated Metis land base. It comes
out of the 1930s, it is provincially legislated into existence, and there
are eight settlements. The settlements, I believe since the 1980s, govern as
a settlement council. They have an overarching settlement council. I'm not
sure when that legislation came into being. They used to be run individually
and independently, and now they have the settlement council that oversees
the eight settlements.
They deal with all possibilities of things around those settlements:
hunting, trapping, fishing, logging and belonging. They have a different
system of registries than the Metis Nation of Alberta. They see themselves
as independent of the Metis Nation of Alberta, so they have a relationship
but they don't feel governed by the MNA. They are an absolute model.
There were similar colonies in Saskatchewan. None of them exist any
longer. There were farm colonies set up in the 1940s under the CCF
government. They don't exist anymore. They weren't legislated into existence
in the same way, so they don't exist.
I think it's possible for those things to exist. I think any kind of
possible model could be considered. The idea that you can govern a land base
that you don't own, that could be really powerful. I don't know what that
would mean. Yes, you blew my mind.
Senator Sinclair: On a totally different topic, I was interested
in your reaction to Senator McPhedran's question about the University of
Winnipeg's mandatory course. You said that you felt that mandatory courses
were a disaster because most students don't want to be there. I speak from
experience when I tell you that just about every course I took in first and
second year university, and in first and second year law, were mandatory
courses, and I didn't want to be there. It was mainly because the professors
were so awful. Looking back, I recognize that those courses gave me a really
good foundation for what I studied later on and have turned me into the
wonderful human being that I am today.
Senator Tannas totally agrees with me. I am a wonderful person.
Then later on you talked about the importance of students being properly
educated about indigenous issues. Could you expand a little bit upon how we
give students a proper foundation without making it compulsory education?
Ms. Macdougall: I regretted saying the word "disastrous'' the
moment it came out of my mouth. Sometimes my brain engages before my mouth
goes, or vice versa. I guess my point is that, like you, I have taken
mandatory courses that I have despised — probably everybody in this room has
done that — and some of them absolutely are required.
I struggle with native studies being mandatory for a couple of issues.
One is that people then see those as race-based courses that have nothing to
do with them. The minute you put "Aboriginal'' in front of it, then it
doesn't mean anything in their personal lives, when of course it does. Maybe
it's a way of sneaking that in on people without them realizing that it's
happening. It's trying to find a balance in all of these sorts of natural
My background is history, so I'll pick on history a little while. If we
teach the history of this country differently from the very beginning — that
is, from a perspective of not necessarily a harmonious history but a shared
history starting whenever it's appropriate to start talking about history
and social studies — then I think that you start to see the world
If you introduce books into classrooms that are by indigenous authors or
about indigenous things earlier than a specialized course on Aboriginal
literature in university, I think people start to see the world differently.
It is the same for introducing these ideas early in math or in science.
There's a man in northern Manitoba who has developed a curriculum that he
teaches. He goes into schools and teaches about star systems from a
storytelling perspective, which is really transformative and amazing. He's
one guy in Manitoba that goes into almost every school, and it's not a
regular part of the curriculum offering.
I think there are ways of making this natural and not always so specific
that, all of a sudden, you are getting this curriculum now. That is, we're
going to do Canadian literature, and now we're just going to talk about a
few Aboriginal things and then we're going to go to world literature. Then
maybe we'll talk again about a few Aboriginal things, but it's always just
I do think we can do this better from the start. That does require an
overhaul of the K to 12 system, and it starts to change minds by the time
you hit university — not just of students but also of future professors,
because future professors are a product of the K to 12 system in this
country. You can't just unplug that. That's probably dissatisfying in some
I think you do need mandatory courses to move through programs, but I
would like to think that by the time we get to university, it's already so
natural to have Aboriginal people as a part of the discussion and the
dialogue that it shouldn't have to be special. So that when you're in law,
if there's a specific course on indigenous legal structures, you already
have all the background information you need because it was already a part
of your education. It's not a surprise to learn that there's oral tradition
in law school. You already knew it when you heard it.
The Chair: Thank you. I will follow up with a supplementary on
that. I'm glad that you brought up the "R'' word, "racism,'' because I think
that is a big barrier, certainly on the Prairies.
Once we begin to start teaching our history differently in K to 12, will
there be benefits? Resistance to change often comes because of people who
see giving equality rights to Aboriginal people as taking away something
from them, and there's a lot of resistance to that. Is there a way to get to
the point where we can articulate a future whereby everybody benefits? I
think the Office of the Treaty Commissioner in Saskatchewan started that
dialogue by talking about "we are all treaty people,'' but I think everybody
has to see a benefit so that it's a win-win solution. How can we get to that
win- win position?
Ms. Macdougall: I think part of that comes from leadership. One of
the reasons that we see each other in opposition to each other is because
that's the construct that we live under. Yes, it is colonial, but we have a
government and have had governments — I don't mean this particular
government or previous governments — a structure of government that sets up
these binaries between us. We hear regularly, "If we put more money into
Northern schools, it will take something away from the Southern schools, so
maybe you don't want that,'' instead of,''Education is important regardless
of what geography it's in. Why are we underfunding some schools and better
funding others? What kind of structure of financial distribution can we
create where there's parity?'' We live in a government construct that
constantly pits people against each other.
When I was a kid and people talked about divide and conquer in western
movies, I just thought it was something that happened in movies. It's a real
thing. The pie is this big. The pie is infinite; we just have to decide how
we're actually going to create parity instead of division within that
structure. I'm tired of hearing about people and the pies. Why does somebody
get three quarters and I get a fraction? We have to stop talking in that
language, where things are divisive. This is actually moving us all in the
right direction. I'm a cynic, so I don't know that that's going to happen,
but all I'm saying is we have to change the way that we actually vocalize
Senator Tannas: We had a fellow historian here recently who said
that he believed that it would take 100 years to get us to a position where,
with indigenous peoples, there wasn't an issue of what about me or what
about us — harmony and parity, essentially. Do you believe that? Are you
that cynical, too?
Ms. Macdougall: I don't see it happening in my lifetime. Is it 100
years? I don't know. I think things have changed a lot, even since I started
teaching at university, where I see more openness and more willingness by
young people to start having conversations that they wouldn't have had 20
years ago, but being open and willing to have a conversation is not the same
thing as transforming structures. We're talking about transforming
structures. Just as it will take a long time to get rid of the Indian Act,
if that's what eventually happens, it's not just about getting rid of the
Indian Act. It's about changing the structures of Canadian governance that
created it in the first place. That takes time. Again, I'm not saying that
the Indian Act is going to disappear or that I have a right to that
conversation, but as an example, that's not just about the Indian Act.
That's about the structure of Canadian government as a whole. I don't see it
happening in my lifetime, but I think that incremental changes might happen
in my lifetime.
Senator Tannas: I know this is outside your field as a historian.
In my lifetime, I have not seen an incremental change deliver answers to big
problems. What I have seen is sudden change that has delivered answers to
Ms. Macdougall: Yes, radical.
Senator Tannas: Is there an example that you can guide us with?
We're trying to come at this study from a history point of view and get
ourselves grounded as to what's there, but really we're looking for some big
answers here. For me, and I know for many of us, we came here to really try
and make a big difference. I'm not prepared to accept 100 years of children
growing into adults and all of the missed opportunities and tragedies that
go with that. Could you give us any kind of hints about where we ought to go
as we search for big answers?
Ms. Macdougall: I agree with you. Radical change is scary and it's
uncomfortable, but it's probably what's required. It's hard to step off the
edge of that ledge because you don't know what's at the bottom of it. People
don't want to go through pain before they actually experience the benefit.
And let's face it, it's going to be painful.
One of the things I talked to my students about last year when the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission report came out — and I said it to them at
least once a week and met with them twice a week — was if we are serious
about reconciliation, what does everyone think they can give up to make
somebody else's life better? What can you sacrifice? If we start thinking
that we might have to sacrifice for somebody else to have something, then I
think that you start to think about radical change. But let's be clear,
people have to give something up.
Senator Tannas: Amen.
Ms. Macdougall: Canada has to give something up in order for it to
Senator Tannas: That's right, exactly.
Senator McPhedran: I do want to circle back to the discussion,
largely because it's important both for those viewing and also for the
record to pick up on the theme that you've just been discussing with Senator
Tannas around big changes.
I very much appreciate you revisiting your statement about indigenization
requirements being a disaster. I really do want to put on the record that
that's not at all my experience as a professor in one of the first
universities to actually do this. Yes, we did see forms of racism in
responses among a very small number of the faculty. Yes, there have been
comments that have been difficult to hear for many of us, including many of
our students of Aboriginal origin.
I want to suggest that this must not be seen as either/or. Either we
focus on K to 12 or we focus on post-secondary. We need a big package. We
need major, deep changes in these systems, and we need them to be systemic.
I think you addressed that historically, the value of that, in a very
I want to just share the fact that about two weeks ago, I was able to be
at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, which is a school
for Aboriginal youth. In speaking with them about the transition to
post-secondary, one of the points that they made was the reality of living
in a racialized community. Most of them are not urban in their origin. There
seems to be this very significant gap. There are many gaps, but one of them
seems to be the transition from high school to university. The barriers are
When I talked a little bit informally about the indigenization that we're
going through at University of Winnipeg, this seemed to be a very heartening
idea for these students. What I have found within the student population is
that there's a tremendous appetite among students who are not of Aboriginal
origin, particularly after the TRC. You don't even have to put a title in
front of it. You just say "the calls to action,'' and they know exactly what
you're talking about.
As one of the very important tools for systemic change and for following
through on the pathways to reconciliation, I want to circle back and just
suggest that indigenous requirements really do have a place.
Ms. Macdougall: I want to be clear. I didn't say that indigenizing
in university is a disaster. I was just talking about mandatory first-year
courses, which in my experience have not gone particularly well. It doesn't
mean they can't go well in the future. Part of that is about leadership.
When you have mandatory courses without a lot of support and leadership for
those courses, things are going to go poorly very quickly. That's the
experience that I had teaching large first-year courses to people that
didn't want to be there. Their programs required them to be there, but then
their programs didn't take on the leadership that explained why they needed
to be there. Leadership matters, leadership in university, leadership in a
government structure, but I in no way mean to imply that indigenizing itself
is a disaster or a mistake. But saying it and doing it are two different
things. We can all say we want to indigenize, but if we don't put the
leadership, the resources and support structures in place, then it will
fail, because we need that. My cynicism is around that piece of it.
I'm looking at the artwork around this room. To be able to walk into a
building and see beauty is an amazing experience. You walk through the law
building now at the University of Saskatchewan and it's a thing of beauty.
It's a small thing just to put artwork up, but it has such a huge mental
effect on people to be able to see themselves in the structure because they
can see themselves on the wall.
I do want to be more precise about what I meant when I said it's a
disaster. Absolutely students need to feel welcomed. They need to feel like
they have a place in that. Part of what they need is life skills if they are
coming from rural communities. I just had to work with a student about
paying attention to signal lights. I thought she was going to get run over
on the first day on campus because she had never been in a place with
stoplights before. Once we got that sorted out, she was off and running,
It's dealing with those kinds of small life skills that you don't even
think are important because they are a part of your daily relationship to
the space that you're in. For some people, having a bank account is a huge
thing. Going to a grocery store that is not the Northern store and actually
seeing what food prices look like when you live in the South, that's a huge
So it's not just about education. It's about life skills. It's about all
sorts of things, but there has to be leadership for these things to work.
Leadership from faculty members in departments up to presidents of
universities, from the Prime Minister down through the MPs and the staff,
all of those things have to be in place.
Senator Raine: My question is very appropriate coming after what
you've just said, because I believe that education is not resident in K to
12 and universities. It's around us all day every day. We're bombarded with
CBC is our national broadcaster. I personally like CBC, and I listen to
it all the time on the radio, but I'm also very aware of the wonderful job
being done by APTN, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, especially on the
production side, but they don't get the exposure because their viewership is
deemed to be just for Aboriginal people, but it isn't. Do you think that CBC
could be doing a better job on rebroadcasting some of those wonderful
programs to the general audience and using an advertising model, public
service type of advertising, especially this year, the one hundred fiftieth
anniversary, to teach all of us these issues?
Ms. Macdougall: Sure. APTN is great. It's been around for a long
time. It's been around since before it was APTN. All of the northern
broadcasting that used to be done is now rolled into the APTN model. The
Arctic broadcasters were amazing back in the 1970s, and they have become a
part of APTN in a really amazing way, so sure.
Could CBC do it or could we start to see that APTN is actually for all of
us and not just for indigenous people? That would also be an interesting
conversation to have. I don't know how you make people responsive to media,
Senator Raine: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. We have run out of time. We need to look at
a budget this morning as well. I would like to thank our witness, Professor
Brenda Macdougall, for appearing before the committee today and giving us
some wonderful background information and answering all the questions from
the senators. Thank you very much.
We have a budget to look at, and this is the budget to be able to
translate our report on Northern housing into Inuktitut. Following a special
budget application study on best practices and ongoing challenges relating
to housing and First Nation Inuit communities in Nunavut, Nunavik,
Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories, we have prepared a budget for
$16,700. That has been distributed. This is for the fiscal year ending March
31, 2017. We are asking that it be approved for submission to the Standing
Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration following a final
review by the Senate administration that will be overseen by the
Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure.
We need a motion. Senator McPhedran. Is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Motion carried.
That's it. The meeting is adjourned. Thank you very much, senators.
(The committee adjourned.)