Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 18 - Evidence - May 15, 2012
OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:32
a.m. to examine and report on the evolving legal and political recognition
of Métis 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. They will either be
watching on the Web or on CPAC. I am Gerry St. Germain, from British
Columbia, originally from Manitoba, and I have the honour of chairing this
committee. The mandate of the committee is to examine legislation and
matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. In addition,
we have a specific order of reference authorizing us to explore Metis
issues, particularly those relating to the evolving legal and political
recognition of the collective identity and rights of the Metis in Canada.
The early meetings on this study have consisted of briefings from various
government departments, which have provided us with the formation, including
facts on the current federal programs and services, the status of Crown-
Metis relations, general statistical information and current legal issues,
among other things. We have heard from two legal experts on Metis issues,
who provided a legal context to discussions.
This morning we begin hearing from national organizations that represent
a Metis constituency, the Métis National Council and the Women of the Métis
Before we hear our witnesses, I would like to introduce to you those
committee members who are here with us this morning.
On my left is Senator Munson from Ontario. Next to Senator Munson is
Senator Larry Campbell from the great province of British Columbia. On my
right is Senator Ataullahjan from the province of Ontario; and next to
Senator Ataullahjan is Senator Brazeau from the province of Quebec. Next to
Senator Brazeau, just taking her seat, is Senator Greene Raine from British
Columbia. Next to Senator Greene Raine is Senator Meredith from Ontario.
Next to Senator Meredith is Senator Demers from Quebec. Last but not least,
we have Senator Patterson from Nunavut. Welcome, senators and members of the
Senators, please help me in welcoming our witnesses. From the Métis
National Council, we have Clément Chartier, President. With him is Marc
LeClair, Bilateral Coordinator. On the same panel we have Melanie Omeniho,
President of the Women of the Métis Nation.
We look forward to your presentations. I believe, Mr. Chartier, that you
will commence. As I told you, there will be many questions, so if you could
keep it as concise and precise as possible, it would be greatly appreciated.
Clément Chartier, President, Métis National Council: Thank you
chair and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity for us to
participate here today. We are definitely very pleased that you have
undertaken this initiative and have invited us here to hear our views.
During my appearance here in November of last year, I set out the two
foremost priorities of the Métis Nation that fit squarely within the scope
of your mandate to examine and report on the federal government's
constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First
Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.
For us, the first priority is the outstanding land rights of the Metis
people resulting from the unfulfilled provisions of two federal statutes
that had recognized these rights in the 19th century, namely, the Manitoba
Act, 1870 and the Dominion Lands Act, 1879.
The second priority is our current initiative with the federal government
to expand the relationship between Canada and the Métis Nation in a
practical way, through the negotiation of accords on governance and economic
development under the Métis Nation Protocol, entered into between the
Government of Canada and the Métis Nation in September 2008. I believe you
have a copy of the protocol.
I believe that the study you are presently undertaking on issues
respecting the recognition of the collective identity and rights of the
Metis in Canada addresses these priorities, and I welcome it.
The scope of your study encompassing Metis identification and
registration, access to federal programs and services, and the
implementation of Metis Aboriginal rights clearly speaks to the relationship
between the federal government and the Métis Nation.
I would like to start with Metis Aboriginal rights, in particular land
rights, as this has, to date, defined the legal relationship between Canada
and the Métis Nation.
Despite the recognition of the Metis in the Constitution as one of the
three Aboriginal peoples in Canada and in the Powley decision of the
Supreme Court of Canada, in 2003, as a full-fledged, rights-bearing
Aboriginal people, successive federal governments have maintained that our
land rights have been extinguished by law.
In practice, this means that, with the exception of the Metis north of
60, the federal government excludes us from its land claims resolution
process. Exclusion from this process entails exclusion from self-government
agreements and, by extension, a predictable and reliable form of
intergovernmental fiscal transfers rather than the unreliable and
dysfunctional form of financing under which we currently operate.
On December 13, 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the Manitoba
Metis Federation v. Canada and Manitoba land rights case based on
section 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870. This marked the culmination of a
30-year battle in the courts to seek justice for the unfulfilled Metis land
grants promised by the Manitoba Act, 1870, itself a result of negotiations
between the Metis provisional government of Louis Riel and the federal
government of Sir John A. Macdonald.
The Manitoba Metis Federation is seeking a declaration that will require
the federal government to enter into negotiations of a contemporary land
claims agreement, including self-government with the Métis Nation.
We are awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, which may
alter the way the federal government views the rights of the Metis, as the
Manitoba Court of Appeal has already upheld certain principles that should
have significant implications going forward. The ruling will also affect our
land claims covering the rest of the Prairie provinces and northeastern
British Columbia, where scrip was issued by a series of federal half-breed
commissions pursuant to the Dominion Lands Act of 1879.
I had proposed in my earlier appearance that expanding the existing land
claims process or establishing a new Metis claims commission to settle our
claims would offer a useful alternative to costly litigation. It would bring
the relationship between Ottawa and the Métis Nation more in line with
Canada's legal responsibilities as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in
the Powley decision.
Not only did the court rule that the Metis are a full-fledged
rights-bearing Aboriginal people with constitutionally protected harvesting
rights, it also established a test of objectively verifiable criteria for
membership in a Metis rights- bearing community that was remarkably similar
to the national definition of "Metis" adopted earlier by the Métis
National Council. According to this national definition, a Metis is a person
who self-identifies as such, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry, is
accepted by the historic Métis Nation and is distinct from other Aboriginal
The Supreme Court basically concurred with us, ruling that being of mixed
European and Indian ancestry did not in itself make one Metis. In addition,
the court ruled one had to prove an ancestral connection to, and acceptance
by, historical Metis communities.
In a number of post-Powley cases, courts have confirmed the
existence of regional historical Metis rights-bearing communities in our
traditional homeland between the Upper Great Lakes and the Rockies. The
courts have also ruled against claims to constitutionally protected Metis
harvesting rights of mixed ancestry groups outside our historical homeland,
such as those in Atlantic Canada, on the grounds that there was no evidence
of historical Metis communities in these regions. Again, that is the court's
The Supreme Court in Powley also required governments to provide
resources to Metis organizations to identify their rights-bearing members.
This led to federal support for the Métis National Council's five provincial
affiliates, or governing members, to establish membership or citizenship
registries based on the MNC's national definition of "Metis."
However, rather than viewing registry funding as a constitutional
obligation, the federal government has treated it as yet another program.
Like other federal programs accessed by Metis, the funding is delayed,
unreliable, and often leads to layoffs of key personnel.
Compare this to the attention and funding the federal government pays to
its own Indian registry and you will see the extent to which the federal
government respects Metis rights. Membership or citizenship is a critical
function of Aboriginal self-government; predictable and reliable financing
to maintain registries will never be achieved if this function is subject to
the whims of federal bureaucrats. It can only be secured through a Metis
This is the only way the federal government can be held to its
obligations and is also in its interest to do if it wishes to ensure that
only those who meet objectively verifiable criteria are included in Metis
rights and self-government arrangements.
In the application of the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate in its
delegation of these obligations to proponents of major economic projects,
the federal approach to Metis people is again haphazard. The result is that
industry routinely ignores or heavily discounts our interest in the planning
of major projects throughout our homeland, as is the case with the proposed
Northern Gateway pipeline.
As for Metis access to federal programs and services for Aboriginal
peoples, we are denied access to most of them because of the federal
abrogation of its constitutional responsibility to deal with Metis. This
results in the exclusion of Metis from federal Aboriginal education and
health care benefits.
In its recent budget, the federal government terminated the minimal
Health Canada funding provided the Métis National Council for health
research and coordination for research work of its governing members. It
also terminated funding for the National Aboriginal Health Organization, or
NAHO, despite joint efforts by the Métis National Council, the Assembly of
First Nations, and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to have NAHO, First Nations,
Inuit and Metis centres transferred to our three respective national
However, what I found most disturbing was the Minister of Health citing
the opposition of the three national Aboriginal organizations to the
corporate governance of NAHO as an excuse to wipe out the three centres that
could have worked fine within the governance structures of the three
national organizations — a classic case of throwing the baby out with the
The exclusion of the Metis from federal Aboriginal post-secondary
educational financial assistance makes no sense and speaks to Ottawa's lack
of understanding of the life situation of Metis youth. While the gap in high
school graduation rates between Metis and the general population has been
reduced considerably, the gap in university educational attainment remains
immense, due largely to financial barriers faced by Metis youth.
It cannot be overstated how great the return on our investment in Metis
post-secondary education would be if these financial barriers were removed,
in particular those erected by the federal government's exclusionary policy
A recent study by Saskatchewan's only Metis professional degree program,
the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program, or SUNTEP, for
urban teachers offered by our Gabriel Dumont Institute, shows that since the
first of its more than 1,000 graduates since 1984, SUNTEP has increased
provincial GDP by $2.5 billion and provincial government revenues by $1
The Métis National Council's five governing members have tried to
mitigate the gap in university education attainment by establishing
endowment funds that provide scholarships for post-secondary education.
These endowments have leveraged matching funds from participating
universities. A substantial injection of new capital into these endowments
would represent the best investment the federal government could ever make,
but, as in so many other aspects of Metis affairs, a strong business case
and a logical action path mean little when a government is blinded by the
mantra that we are a provincial responsibility. I cannot overstate just how
entrenched this jurisdictional barrier is in the mindset of the federal
government in dealing with the Metis.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the federal government's
refusal to date to take responsibility for compensating victims of Metis
residential schools. In March of this year, a number of these victims
gathered in Saskatoon, including some from the infamous Metis residential
school in Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, which I attended. I can assure you
that listening to the continued torment of these people decades later is
itself a traumatic experience. Making their anguish so much worse was the
raised expectation that their grievances would finally be redressed, as was
the case during the 2006 election campaign when then opposition leader
Stephen Harper promised compensation for the victims of the Metis
residential school in Ile-a-la-Crosse, and then to be left out again when
the new government took power.
That the denial of their demand for justice should be based on
jurisdiction and that it is the province's responsibility to deal with them
undermines and vitiates the new beginning promised in the Prime Minister's
apology to Aboriginal peoples on the floor of the House of Commons in June
2008. If not redressed, this betrayal of these Metis survivors, those still
living often in poor health and broken spirit, will mark the foremost moral
failure of the current federal government.
In seeking to overcome the jurisdictional barrier that has blocked
successive governments in Ottawa from dealing effectively with the Métis
Nation, I am proposing a stronger relationship with the federal government,
not a larger federal bureaucracy.
This gets me to the second of our broad priorities that I discussed with
you in November, which is to work through our 2008 Métis Nation Protocol
with the Government of Canada to conclude accords on governance and economic
development. As in the case of our first priority regarding land rights,
this priority is directed toward a self-government agreement that would put
our relationship with Canada on a stable footing; however, this would be
negotiated rather than litigated. These accords would build on the
democratic accountability system of government developed by our governing
members through a province-wide ballot box election of leaders. They would
also build on the successful track record of our Métis Nation labour force
and financial institutions, which have played a major role over the past few
decades in bringing the Metis labour force participation rate close to that
of the general population.
The key to success in this approach is the adoption of a
government-to-government financing system for Metis governing bodies. The
Metis people are, and have always been, taxpayers. They have their own
democratically constituted governance system and elected leadership.
According to an Environics study of urban Aboriginal peoples in 2010, Metis
people are likely to see the Métis National Council as more representative
of their interests than any of the federal political parties. In effect,
they are subject to taxation without representation.
In 1992, the Mulroney government and the five western-most provinces
mustered the will to address this injustice through the Métis Nation Accord
— a companion to the Charlottetown Accord. This provided for the shared
financing of Metis government by Ottawa, the provinces west of Ontario and
the Metis government, which would receive a portion of income tax paid to
the federal and provincial governments by Métis Nation citizens. The defeat
of the Charlottetown Accord in the national referendum, despite public
support for its Aboriginal self-government provisions, such as the Métis
Nation Accord, ushered in two decades of ever-expanding federal bureaucracy
in Metis affairs and its micromanagement of the highly limited amount of
funding for our organizations. The result is a multitude of narrowly defined
contribution agreements multiplied exponentially by reports, under which the
Métis National Council and each of its governing members operate.
Despite all the rhetoric about the need to reduce the reporting burden
and the attendant federal bureaucracy, the reality is that it only
increases, and with it, the waste of financial and human resources. Our
proposals to reduce the federal bureaucracy as it relates to Metis affairs
and to strengthen the governance capacity of the Métis Nation to administer
and deliver important services, such as economic development, have met with
positive responses at the political and policy levels of the federal
government. However, these proposals and the strong business cases backing
them face considerable and unremitting push-back from the bureaucracy at the
operations level. In a federal government where in reality there is no one
looking out for Metis interests, who do you think wins out?
A legally binding self-government agreement with a
government-to-government financing system for our Métis Nation governments
is the only way that a rational and cost-efficient relationship between the
federal government and the Métis Nation will be established. Block funding
would enable comprehensive single-source financing of the core governance,
citizenship, labour market and economic development functions of our
governments, for which we would be accountable to our own electorate through
ballot-box elections, assemblies and audited financial statements, and to
Parliament through a single agency, such as the Auditor General. How do we
get to a self-government agreement? Whether it will be through our land
claims in the courts or through a political process such as the Métis Nation
Protocol remains to be seen.
I hope our survey of the issues today will provide a foundation for your
committee to further discussion and clarification, thereby assisting the
government in taking long-overdue steps to place its relationship with the
Métis Nation on a more stable and mutually beneficial basis.
The Chair: Ms. Omeniho, please proceed with your presentation.
Melanie Omeniho, President, Women of the Métis Nation: Thank you,
Mr. Chair and senators, for inviting us to present here. On behalf of Women
of the Métis Nation, Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak du Canada, I am honoured
to bring forward the perspective of Metis women to the hearing today. Women
of the Métis Nation is made up of Metis women representatives from across
the Metis homeland. We were formed to represent and advocate for the needs
of Metis women and to move forward our agenda at the national level. As the
national spokesperson, I am elected by Metis women delegates from across the
homeland. Women of the Métis Nation works collectively with the Métis
National Council; and we, like the Métis National Council leadership, are
directly accountable back to our community. Our organization was formed as a
legal entity recently to represent the interests of Metis women at the
national level. Previously, we had worked since 1999 as a secretariat within
the Métis National Council.
However, we did not create the organization to address
under-representation of Metis women in our internal political structures. We
are the voice of Metis women nationally, and we work collectively with the
MNC. I am proud to say that the Métis Nation is perhaps the only nation on
earth where women make up half of the elected political delegates at the
provincial and national levels. We were formed to ensure that Metis women
speak for themselves and to improve the quality of life for Metis women from
across the homeland.
I commend the committee for agreeing to examine specifically the issues
relating to the rights, identity and place of the Metis in the Canadian
federation. Mr. Chartier has provided you with a broad outline of the
historical challenges that we have been faced with as a nation and has
outlined several political solutions for moving us forward. For our part, we
would like to shed some light on the important role that women have played,
and continue to play, in the development of the Métis Nation.
Many Canadians do not know much about the Metis people of Canada. We have
often been called "the forgotten people." In 1982, the Constitution of
Canada recognized us as one of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. While this
was an important milestone, it was also a bit of a mixed blessing. On the
one hand, we were finally recognized as a distinct people, but on the other
hand, the Government of Canada almost immediately refused to recognize that
we possessed any of the same rights as other indigenous people in Canada.
Many Canadians do not understand that we do not enjoy the benefits that are
afforded to First Nations or Inuit people, or that we, like all other
Canadians, have the great Canadian privilege of paying all three levels of
government our fair share of the taxes.
We do not begrudge the investments of our tax dollars made by Canada to
support the needs of First Nations or Inuit. We know that they need support.
However, as a people we also require the Government of Canada to invest some
of our tax money in our community. We ask only for Canada to take an even
hand in dealing with us.
You may be surprised by the fact that the Métis Nation of Canada is the
largest indigenous nation in North America. The last census recorded that
some 389,000 Canadians identified as Metis, with 9 out of 10 coming from our
Metis homeland. There has been some promise that there will be over 500,000
by the next census.
While we make up only one quarter of the Aboriginal people of Canada, we
are one third of the Aboriginal workforce. In other words, we contribute our
fair share to Canada. We are proud of our contributions, but we also realize
that we can do more. This, however, will take new investments in Metis
education and housing, and especially economic development.
A critical first step, however, is for Canada to recognize our rights as
a people and to recognize our right to govern ourselves as a people. We can
empower ourselves, but we wait no longer to do that. However, the Government
of Canada refuses to recognize our right to govern ourselves. They continue
to treat us as a non-governmental interest group.
Although the inherent right to self-government policy is supposed to
apply to all Aboriginal people, the Government refuses to enter into
meaningful self-government negotiations with the Métis Nation. I believe
that this is because the government is in denial.
Your committee can assist the Government of Canada in dealing with this
denial. We have an opportunity to shine a beacon on our issues, and we
We have put forward some practical approaches to moving our rights
forward. To bring forward some issues that are specific to how the
Government of Canada has not acknowledged Metis rights, we are intervenors
in the Joint Review Panel process for the Northern Gateway pipeline. The
Metis who will be directly impacted by that pipeline went to great efforts
to become intervenors in that process and we have to defend our right to
have that status. The Government of Canada has not developed policies around
the duty to consult and they do not have a policy for the process. When
anyone challenges our right to represent our own interests there, we have to
become defensive about who we are and why we get to sit at the table.
As for our membership and citizenship, the Metis have always made clear
who we are and what our interests are. As Mr. Chartier said, that has been
supported by Supreme Court decisions. It is important that this committee
acknowledge and recognize that our ancestors passed our traditions down to
us. It is our job as women to make our own children understand who we are
and that that will always be the ownership of the Métis Nation.
President Chartier made some recommendation, and we also support those.
In closing, I want to thank each of you for taking the time to address
our issues. This may be the first time since the great debate that followed
the Riel resistance at Batoche that a parliamentary committee has focused
specifically on the rights of the Metis people of Canada.
The Chair: President Chartier, do you know why you were left out
of the apology? Is it for legal reasons? I believe you are a lawyer by
profession. Was this not a provincial school? Maybe you can explain to us
why you believe the apology was not made to the students of Île-à-la-Crosse,
where you attended. It is important that we clarify this if we can.
Mr. Chartier: If we can, yes. I do have a law degree and I am a
member of the Saskatchewan bar, although I have not practised other than in
work of this nature.
The Chair: I heard you were so good that you did not have to
Mr. Chartier: That is not likely.
It is a difficult situation. The school at Île-à-la-Crosse is one of the
oldest in Canada, if not the oldest. It dates from the late 1800s. Initially
it was for Metis as well as the Cree and the Dene of the area. After the
treaty was signed in 1906 and the institution burned down, a division took
place. A new school was built at Beauval, down the river, where the new
treaty kids went, and the Metis remained at the new school at
Île-à-la-Crosse. That school remained under the policy developed by the
federal government. The government asked Nicholas Flood Davin to study
industrial schools in the United States with the purpose of seeing how that
model could be emulated in Canada for the Metis and the half-breeds.
In the end, after its disposition of the Metis by the scrip and other
processes, the federal government decided to wash its hands of the Metis. As
a consequence, most of the missions were not provided monies directly for
Metis students, even those who happened to go to an Indian residential
school, and there were several hundreds of those.
To those schools that were strictly for Metis and Indian people not
recognized by the Indian Act, and there are several hundreds of those as
well now not covered by Bill C-31, the federal government provided some
resources. It is our understanding that at Île-à-la-Crosse the federal
family allowance was directed to the mission to take care of the children
there. The federal government did provide some assistance, but I do not have
all the details.
It is true that, as with everything else up until this date, the federal
government did not include the Metis in the general relationship and
payments they made to institutions or church entities that housed treaty
Indian kids or status Indian kids specifically.
The federal government is still the Government of Canada. The federal
government is still the one that came up with this policy. Regardless of who
applied the policy to the Metis in whichever school it was, it was under
that same policy; it was the policy of assimilation. The federal government
has a responsibility under section 91.24 for all Aboriginal Peoples. The
term is "Indian," but in the generic sense it includes all Aboriginal
Hopefully the case that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples initiated and
argued, the decision on which is now being awaited, will make it very clear
that the federal government does have the responsibility, jurisdiction and
fiduciary duty to deal with all Aboriginal peoples. The fact that the
federal government did not give as much money to churches for Metis children
as it did for treaty kids does not absolve them of responsibility. Again, it
is still the government of the day, and it is responsible for the peace,
order and good government of this country.
If the government allowed a religious institution to wreak havoc on
children, to suffer children with physical, sexual, mental and other abuses,
they should not be absolved of their responsibility for that because they
did not give very much money for the purpose.
I do not have the apology in front of me, but it was made to the students
of Indian residential schools. By definition, we are excluded from the
settlement agreement. We must then be excluded from the apology if it only
covers those who attended Indian residential schools. I have been raising
that, and no one has convinced me that we are included.
The settlement agreement clearly does not include us. The apology was
based on the settlement agreement, and the truth and reconciliation mandate
was based on the settlement agreement.
We find ourselves, at least in our view, excluded from all three of those
but for the few who did attend an Indian residential school. They, of
course, are covered. It does not depend on race. In that case, there are
several Caucasians who have also received compensation because they happened
to go to an Indian residential school. Metis that also went are covered and
have been dealt with, but the vast majority have not been dealt with to this
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I was struck by a couple
of paragraphs in your speech that are of everyday interest to all of us,
particularly the Northern Gateway pipeline and the hearings that are going
on and the process that is under way in dealing with that, particularly with
our budget implementation bill that will now come before the Environment
Committee and other committees in the Senate.
It was mentioned that, in the application of the Crown's duty to consult
and accommodate and its delegation of these obligations to the proponents of
major economic projects, the federal approach to the Metis people is, again,
haphazard. You say that the result is that industry routinely ignores or
heavily discounts your interests in the planning of major projects
throughout your homeland, as is the case with the proposed Northern Gateway
Could you offer us some of the rationale behind this statement on part of
the process? Are you saying that the Metis are not being consulted? Are you
saying that the Metis who live in the area want to work with and be part of
this pipeline, or do you oppose the pipeline?
Mr. Chartier: I will start with a general statement, and then Ms.
Omeniho will conclude because she is more intimately involved with this on
The situation is that the Metis in Alberta and British Columbia have been
invited by Enbridge to participate. However, the Metis in Alberta and the
Metis in British Columbia are treated each respectively as one community,
whereas each Indian reserve is treated separately. The number of Metis
communities or villages or sites or locals, as we call them if they are in a
major city, are not dealt with in the same way.
To date, I not heard of any opposition to the Northern Gateway. In fact,
we had a Metis economic development symposium in Grand Prairie in March
where we invited industry, including Enbridge. There was a panel on this
particular topic, and our own leadership from British Columbia and Alberta
addressed these. I think what is being sought is fair and equitable
participation and access to whatever benefits are there, but not at any
cost. The environmental issues will need to be looked at, and there has to
be a balance. That is being worked on at the ground level. At the national
level, we lend support and we advocate with respect to their positions, but
they have on-the- ground determinations of how they will proceed.
Ms. Omeniho is actually working on this, so she can add more detail.
Ms. Omeniho: Thank you for the question. With the Northern Gateway
project specifically, I do work directly with the economic development
corporation within Alberta that has been given the responsibility of doing
the duty to consult process with Enbridge. We have been involved since 2002.
The reality is that what we are asking for is that we be given the same
equitable and fair process. Even at the federal government level, there have
been no policies developed around the consultation and how corporations
should consult with Metis, so we have not been given equal presentation to
be able to do the environmental assessments and to be able to do the ATKs
and things that are necessary for us to even be able to make a fair
presentation to our communities on whether or not they are for or opposed or
if this directly affects or impacts them.
In fairness, we needed to be given the opportunity to be able to put
forward an argument as to whether or not this is economically beneficial to
our communities or that the detriment outweighs the benefits. Those kinds of
opportunities, even to this day, have not been followed through.
Some of the most historical Metis communities in Alberta are going to be
directly impacted. Some of those communities still to this day live very
culturally and have not had a lot of industrial turmoil brought into their
communities that will impact it in the same way that this pipeline is. They
need to be given the opportunity to assess how they best should move
Even when it comes to offering equity pieces that were offered to First
Nations people, we have not been given the same share structures and
opportunities. Enbridge has not felt the same need to engage with the Metis
as they have the First Nations because there are no policies. There are no
Haida Supreme Court of Canada decisions for the Metis, so we have
been treated differently. That continues to this day.
As of yesterday, as I advised you, we received an email that we now have
to defend our position as to why it is that Metis should even be offered
intervenor status and why we should have the ability to represent our people
within the Joint Review Panel process.
Senator Munson: In your estimation, then, what will it take to get
Enbridge and the government to a bigger table to get this intervention
status? This is a massive project that has economic benefits but
Ms. Omeniho: I think the federal government needs to work with
even the provincial governments to develop a Metis consultation policy in a
Senator Munson: If that does not happen?
Ms. Omeniho: I think the Metis will be excluded, as they are from
Senator Meredith: Supplementary to that, here is a huge project
that is going on within the community, and I am curious as to the
objections. Why are they not wanting you to participate? What are some of
the reasons that they are giving? I think it is important that all
communities be consulted in ensuring that there is a smooth transition and
process in terms of the economic benefits of this pipeline going through
your communities. What are some of those objections?
Ms. Omeniho: I do not know that Enbridge actually gives us
objections. What we have put forward to Enbridge, and we had a meeting two
weeks ago with them, is to identify to them the significance of how it
relates to us.
This pipeline actually goes right through Alberta and B.C., which is a
historical part. It goes from Bruderheim, Alberta, right through to Kitimat.
I do not know if you are familiar with that area. Many of those communities
are like the community of St. Albert and Lac Ste. Anne. They are very
historical Metis communities that were part of the development of Western
Canada. Many of our people in those communities are, for the most part,
majority Metis people. That pipeline is going directly through them.
Enbridge has not given us a reason why they will not fund us for ATK
At this point, I want to say this: As a Metis person who has been working
on this file since 2002, I do not always know that it is always industry's
responsibility to pay for all of these things. I recognize that the Crown
has passed on their obligations to these industries, but Enbridge, much like
any industry, is here to make money. They are not here to fund Aboriginal
projects, as they see it. In fact, some of their lawyers, when we have gone
to different processes, have told us that what Aboriginal people do to
industry to help get them funded for things like ATK studies is close to
extortion. They do not understand that as long as we do not have the
capacity to participate, we cannot fulfil the responsibility we have to
ensure that our communities are protected and that they get the best
opportunity they can to enjoy the same benefits that other people want.
Mr. Chartier: Could I add to that answer? Ms. Omeniho has answered
it well, but I think it goes deeper than that. That is what I tried to
address in my intervention. It is systemic, ingrained and institutionalized
when it comes to the Metis. The whole position has been that Metis have no
rights. If Metis ever had rights, they no longer have them because of
extinguishment of Aboriginal title to land and resources. We have been
living this for a very long time, well before I was born, and that was quite
a while ago.
It has only really been since 1982 that governments have given more
attention to Metis rights. Industry is still quite a ways behind that. It is
only with the success of the court cases, especially around hunting and
fishing, that we have been successful in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba
and, with the Powley case, in Ontario. That has elevated the profile
of the Metis as a rights-bearing people, since 2003 at least. That is taking
a long time to go in. We do not have any land base except in Alberta, where
eight Metis settlements were set aside by the provincial government in 1938.
But for that, we are a landless people. Industry does not take us seriously
because they do not see themselves traveling across traditional Metis
territories because they say we have no rights.
On the other hand — and good for them — First Nations have the treaties
that were entered into. They have reserves that they live on. Also, they
have the Natural Resources Transfer Agreements, from 1930, when the
provinces had transferred to them, from the feds, the provincial lands that
the federal government kept in 1869-70, when Manitoba entered into
Confederation. The treaty Indian people, especially on the Prairies, have a
lot going for them, which is a good thing. We do not have that. We are
viewed as on the margins, and we are treated that way still. We need to get
above that, and we are hoping that this study will help us to do that.
Senator Raine: This is a supplemental question as well. Ms.
Omeniho, in your statement you mentioned that one of the problems with the
Enbridge consultation is that the Metis have been expected to be dealt with
as a whole rather than as individual communities.
In the individual communities that you mentioned, St. Albert and Lac Ste.
Anne, for instance, I presume that they elect a mayor and have a municipal
organization and that those two communities would be able to have intervenor
status in the pipeline hearings. Am I correct, or are they excluded because
50 per cent of their populations are Metis?
Ms. Omeniho: They do not have the capacity within those
communities. First, there are municipal governments within Alberta that
represent the average Albertan. I am not sure what their position is on any
of these matters. Most of the municipal governments are very pro-Enbridge
and Northern Gateway because it will bring additional tax dollars into their
communities, which they very much need to operate.
As for the Metis communities themselves, they do have some organizational
groups that are all part of the Métis Nation of Alberta, but none of them
have the ability or capacity. We have engaged with them. None of them have
their own capacity to be able to even begin to apply for intervenor status.
To apply for intervenor status as the Métis Nation of Alberta, it cost us
several thousands of dollars to actually put forward the proposals and to
become part of the Canadian environmental assessment process so that we
could even be part of the intervenors at the Joint Review Panel. Each one of
those communities did not have thousands of dollars that they could resource
to be able to apply. It becomes a very expensive process.
Senator Raine: You are saying that neither of those two
communities has intervenor status even though the pipeline goes right
through their communities. Is Enbridge looking at assisting them to be at
the table and be heard from?
Ms. Omeniho: That was what our meeting two weeks ago was about. We
have requested the supports and resources necessary to do proper
consultation and traditional knowledge studies in those areas so that those
communities will know how this will impact or affect them and so that they
can also begin to negotiate set-asides or economic opportunities that may
benefit those communities. We have not received a response yet as to what
Enbridge is willing to do.
Senator Raine: When you say "those communities," do you mean the
town of St. Albert or the Metis people who live in the town of St. Albert?
Ms. Omeniho: I mean the Metis people within St. Albert, Lac Ste.
Anne, Gunn, Whitecourt or Blue Ridge. All of those communities are directly
on that pipeline.
The Chair: Do you have a percentage of the people who are Metis
and non-Metis in these communities?
Ms. Omeniho: I would only be guessing, but in some of those
communities, like Lac Ste. Anne, because they are very historical
communities, the majority of them are Metis people, who are landowners
within those communities.
The Chair: Senator Meredith, do you have a question?
Senator Meredith: Yes. I actually have several, but I will
The Chair: I will allow you one now and one on the second round.
Senator Meredith: I will combine two of the three that I have
Mr. Chartier, you mentioned in your presentation: "Despite the
recognition of the Metis in the Constitution as one of the three Aboriginal
people in Canada and in the Powley decision of the Supreme Court of
Canada, in 2003, as a full-fledged, rights-bearing Aboriginal people,
successive federal governments have maintained that our land rights have
been extinguished by law."
In what ways, if any, does the suggested contemporary land claims
agreement differ from the previous abrogated agreement set out in the
Manitoba Act of 1870? What impacts will be felt with the upcoming Supreme
Court ruling on the rights of the Metis and the rulings of the Manitoba
Court of Appeal?
Mr. Chartier: Could you briefly repeat the first question?
Senator Meredith: In what ways does the suggested contemporary
land claims agreement differ from the previous abrogated land claims
agreement? What is the impact of the upcoming court ruling?
Mr. Chartier: It is our position that the government's attempt at
extinguishment of our rights was a dismal failure for a number of reasons.
The Manitoba Metis Federation is currently fighting the Manitoba Act,
section 31, in the courts. We are awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court
of Canada. It will answer that issue.
In terms of outside of the original postage-stamp province of Manitoba,
we are dealt with by another process, a scrip, where Metis were supposedly
given lands under individual ownership, toward the extinguishment of the
Indian title, but that was such a sham, so vitiated with fraud. We are
saying that that was not capable of extinguishing the right. In 1994, as a
test case, we filed a statement of claim stating our declaration that we
still own all of the land, under Aboriginal title, in northwest
Saskatchewan. That is still in the court system. We are saying that it was a
total failure, but the federal government has taken the position that it was
extinguished. In 1981, they came with the position that our land rights,
wherever we had, were extinguished, even though they agreed to put section
35 in the Constitution, which talks about the existing Aboriginal treaty
rights. They said, "Fine, we put Metis in the Constitution, but you have no
rights. They were extinguished." We are forced to go through the courts. We
tried, through the Constitutional conference process, to address the need
for a land base. Those attempts ended in failure, in 1992, with the
Charlottetown round, where we had some potential success. We are forced into
We are now saying, "Let's not rely on litigation; let's move forward."
Hopefully we can move forward on a positive ruling by the Supreme Court of
Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada will have to deal with some broad
principles. For example, in the Manitoba case, the Court of Queen's Bench
basically ruled on every aspect against the Metis; every potential legal
principle was against the Metis.
Although the ultimate decision was upheld, the Court of Appeal did say
that Metis did have Aboriginal title in the past; the Metis were capable of
enjoying the federal fiduciary duty or responsibility; the honour of the
Crown applied to the Metis. However, they did say the issues brought forward
by the Manitoba Metis Federation in terms of what happened to the section 31
1.4 million acres was not egregious enough to trigger the fiduciary duty, so
they upheld the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench.
This case has been argued in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme
Court of Canada hopefully will deal with those principles. If the Supreme
Court, at the very least, upholds those principles that were put forward by
the Court of Appeal, it will alter the relationship between Canada and the
I am sure, up until this point, as we saw with the Enbridge situation, we
are just kept on the margins and the government really does not deal with us
unless the courts tell them to like they did in the Powley case. We
are saying, "Let's move away from that; let's come up with agreements
between the Métis Nation and Canada."
We are hopeful that this body as well will come forth with
recommendations that will address this issue. I have brought recommendations
forward over the last four years as to how this could be done, including a
Metis claims commission or even just a study of the frauds that took place
against the Metis in dispossession of the lands, a study specifically on
that by the Senate. There are a number of things could be engaged in, but at
the end we are hopeful there will be a collaborative, cooperative
arrangement between the Government of Canada and the Metis.
I will just go back to the 1992 accord. I am sure Senator St. Germain is
aware of those times with the Mulroney government and the negotiations that
took place with the provinces and the Aboriginal peoples. We had a side
agreement called the Métis Nation Accord, and in it there was an agreement
by the federal government, the provinces, Ontario West to negotiate a land
base with the Metis, with an asterisk for Alberta, which said they have
already provided lands for the Metis. That was a political opportunity that
went by us, but we are still hopeful we can bring that forward and move
forward. Regardless of extinguishment or non-extinguishment, we are looking
at the basis that as an Aboriginal people we would like a land base like
other Aboriginal peoples for those who care to live on a land base. It is
simply an accommodation of a people, of a nation within this great state of
Senator Ataullahjan: My question is for Ms. Omeniho. I want to
know: Are women an integral part of the decision making of the Métis Nation?
Are you more involved in certain areas than others? I am also particularly
concerned with the health of women and children. What is the status of
maternal and child health in the Métis Nation? What are some of the
challenges you face?
Ms. Omeniho: I did mention and I will tell you that women make up
half of the political decision-making bodies within the Métis Nation. I do
not believe that has been because of their gender. I believe they have made
some tremendous, wonderful leaders. I sit with some amazing women with great
leadership abilities who have been brought forward. They deal with all
matters and issues within the Métis Nation, and not only gender-specific
The Women of the Métis Nation, which is the organization I am elected to
represent, focuses mostly on issues as a voice for Metis women. It is not
because we do not have female political representation or that we feel our
interests are not addressed within the Métis National Council. However,
there are issues such as women and families that still are paramount.
Our children make up way too large a percentage of kids who are in care.
Children and families struggle. There are social issues that are impacting
parts of our community. That is part of what Women of the Métis Nation want
to deal with. In fact, at our last annual meeting, in March, a committee was
developed that will work on Metis children who have become lost within the
systems. It is called Bringing Home our Children.
A significant number of Metis kids become a part of things like
institutionalized care, such as group homes, because their families have
fallen apart or failed them in some way. Personally, working as an advocate
for Metis women and children for many years now, I see that the outcome of
generational problems like that will not be much different from residential
school. We need to start addressing those issues, and we need to become a
part of the solution to help those families.
Some of our families, though, on the positive side, have benefited
greatly from agreements like we have within the Métis Nation, such as the
martyr agreements that come through human resource development. If you were
to do a statistical analysis you would find that women often benefit from
those opportunities more often than the Metis men. Metis women will go back
to school and try to attain higher levels of education so they can support
I hope that answered your question.
Marc LeClair, Bilateral Coordinator, Métis National Council: We
have a situation where we have half a million people, with 250,000 women,
thereabouts. At the federal level we had made some gains in the last 10
years in getting Health Canada to pay attention to Metis people. Prior to 10
years ago, no one was even looking at the health status. We spend millions
of dollars collecting data by Statistics Canada and through the Aboriginal
Peoples Survey, but we collect all the data and then no one looks at it. No
one looks at Metis because no one has responsibility for Metis.
At the federal level we started about 10 years ago and even NAHO, the
National Aboriginal Health Organization that just got axed, along with our
health programs were starting to make gains. On the first level of public
policy involvement, find out what the issues are and raise awareness about
the health conditions. Just ask the question, as you have asked. The answer
we have to give you now is that no one can answer your question because no
one is paying attention.
When it comes to Metis it is not only health; it is education and it is
across the board. Some provinces pay attention to it a little bit, but by
and large health and wellness, maternal health, child rearing, "It's the
Metis; someone else will deal with it." That is the public policy reality
in Canada today.
Senator Raine: I was interested in your comments, Mr. Chartier, on
the Gabriel Dumont Institute and the program that they have called SUNTEP. I
presume that is a training program for urban teachers. It shows the first of
more than 1,000 graduates since 1984, and then you state that it has
increased the provincial GDP by $2.5 billion and provincial government
revenue by $1 billion. Can you explain those figures and how 1,000 graduates
can be directly linked to government revenues of $1 billion? I do not
understand how that works.
Mr. Chartier: That makes two of us. Basically, there was a study
done and this is taken from the study. It was released last year. How they
arrived at that, I am not certain. I can give a bit of a guess.
Senator Raine: Maybe it would be good for us to have a look at the
Mr. Chartier: It would be good, yes. I imagine it is also based on
the earning power of these people and the taxes that they pay.
Senator Raine: Sometimes it is a bit of a stretch to say that they
earned this money and taught other people, who earned some more money and
taught still other people. There is a ripple effect. Education is extremely
important; and all Canadians would agree with that. Obviously, the Metis
have a wonderful culture that you are protecting and celebrating. You have
great links between your communities and your people. However, you are a
little bit like the Aboriginal people in Norway, who live amongst other
We had the Sami present not to this committee but to a group of us at a
separate briefing. When I asked what entitlements the Sami people had in
Norway, they were a little taken back. They said that they have certain
rights but as for entitlements, they are just like all other Norwegians in
that they have health, education, human rights, et cetera. However, they
have specific rights to herd reindeer and some fishing rights for those who
live in specific locations. The Sami, who are spread throughout Norway and
are part of the greater Norwegian population, do not look at it as what the
government will do for them but as what they will do and how they will
connect with their people. They see that as an obligation for them as Sami
people. That comes down to protecting their language and culture
collectively inside the fabric of Norway. I do not know if you know about
the Sami people but I found it extremely interesting. They elect their own
members to Parliament. You can choose to elect your local representative or
to vote for a Sami representative in Parliament. It was a different way of
looking at it.
I wonder if you know about that model and if you think that might work in
terms of clarifying the Metis's relationship with Canada.
Mr. Chartier: In the Charlottetown round, there was a lot of
discussion about representation in both houses of Parliament. I believe that
some agreement was arrived at with respect to the Senate, if I recall
correctly. We have discussed the possibility of representation in Parliament
through X number of seats that we would elect our people to so we would have
a voice within Parliament. The Maori of New Zealand can elect members to
Parliament. They have a choice as to how they will exercise their vote. It
seems to work there, although I have never been there to study that system.
I believe that in the state of Maine they also have that system. We have
looked at it and are not averse to it.
At least since 1982, we have been saying that we are very much part of
the constitutional fabric of Canada — I am talking at least of the Métis
Nation. As a consequence, I have encouraged our people to seek elected
office within legislatures and Parliament. Although we have the right of
self-government and would have our self-government, it is important that we
elect our people to other levels of government as well, both provincial and
federal so that we are not isolated islands unto ourselves but part of the
fabric of Canada as a whole. The Constitution Act, 1982, made that possible.
We are definitely willing to go beyond that and to look at direct
representation in Parliament.
Senator Brazeau: My question is more along the lines of procedure.
Currently, the Minister of Aboriginal affairs is also the Federal
Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. Although the same minister is
responsible for both portfolios, it was not always like that. Having had
some experience, I know that dealing with politicians is often a lot
different than dealing with the bureaucrats who work in those departments.
Do you think that having the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs act as the
Federal Interlocutor for the Métis and Non-Status Indians as well hampers
the process of recognition and being able to effectively start a real
negotiation process with the federal government? Do you think having the
Federal Interlocutor has assisted the Metis Nation? I am talking about 2012,
not when the position was first established in 1985.
Mr. Chartier: That is a very good question and not one that I have
given a lot of thought to. The Métis National Council has been looking
primarily at ways to get out of the Office of the Federal Interlocutor to be
self-governing and to have a relationship with Parliament. I believe that
when the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was given
the mandate to be the Federal Interlocutor, it was a relatively good step
forward. We were apprehensive that we would be marginalized even more; but
the relationship we had with the Federal Interlocutor did not diminish. It
was good in the sense of having one person deal with all Aboriginal peoples
and all Aboriginal issues, even though they may have been compartmentalized.
My understanding is that restructuring is taking place based on the
budget and that it will have effects on the Office of the Federal
Interlocutor, as it is constituted. I am not sure to what degree the
minister will be more minister of all Aboriginal affairs and less
interlocutor. I have no idea. It seems structurally that all Aboriginal
peoples are being brought into one department that will have different
sections within. My initial fear is that we will become so small within the
ministry that there will be less attention paid to the issues we bring
forward. However, if we come under the larger ministry and the minister has
more responsibility and the mechanisms or the apparatus of government,
particularly self-government dialogue, is open to us in that way, it would
be welcome. It is still the case, if I am not mistaken, that Aboriginal
peoples are pressing for the space to be self-governing with less and less
federal government administration of their affairs. There is a move within
government to that effect.
On that basis, our opportunity to move forward with self-government as
the federal government steps back more and more is more open to us. I see
greater opportunities based on that. In a sense, I welcome it. While I feel
a bit of hesitation or apprehension, in the long run it will be a positive
Senator Brazeau: My follow-up question deals with the Métis Nation
Protocol. As you are well aware, when the Office of the Federal Interlocutor
was created, many bureaucrats who worked in that department came from the
Privy Council Office. Having dealt with them on non-status issues and Metis
issues in my previous capacity, I always referred to them not as PCO but as
As you are aware, I led one of the national Aboriginal organizations that
also had Metis members. In 1994, an agreement was signed by the Office of
the Federal Interlocutor and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. I have seen
this before. It looks like a carbon copy of what was negotiated with the
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in 1994. When I left the organization in
early 2009, even though we had a protocol and an agreement, not much was
done. In essence, it was only what I used to call "shut up money" to
address some of the issues that were contained in the protocol.
Can you elaborate on what types of assurances you received from the
bureaucrats in the Office of the Federal Interlocutor that this will
actually mean something hopeful for Metis people and that something tangible
will actually come out of it, as opposed to having a symbolic piece of
Mr. Chartier: That, again, is a good, probing question. I am not
aware of the 1994 agreement, but I have seen other agreements in which we
engaged. I suppose they are fairly similar, because our aspirations do not
change that much over time. The problem is finding a willing partner that
will sit with us to effect those changes.
We speak of the Office of the Federal Interlocutor. In 1983, the Métis
National Council met with then Secretary of State Serge Joyal. I, as the
first chairman of the Métis National Council, proposed an interlocutor
within cabinet. We thought it might be him, but they came up with this
Office of the Federal Interlocutor and put it in PCO. We gave birth to that.
We do not claim it as our baby and are not trying to salvage it; we are
trying to move beyond it. It has changed under various ministers. It was at
NRCan as well. We are now in AANDC, which is good.
The protocol itself was a statement of good faith on the part of both the
Métis Nation and the federal government under then Minister Strahl. Both
parties embraced it, including the Prime Minister. There are some agenda
items on there that we have not addressed that still require addressing. We
also had a section for a multilateral process to bring in the provinces.
Early on we decided that we needed the provinces there, so we decided to
deal with economic development, because that is a serious issue in which
everyone is interested. The provinces did come. We had a Metis economic
development symposium in November or December of 2009 where the five
Aboriginal Affairs ministers from Ontario West, Minister Strahl and the
Métis Nation leadership met at the political level, and our officials met
for two days thereafter. We had a second symposium in January of 2011. We
have agreed to move forward to adopt a national Métis Nation economic
development strategy to be brought back to principals in 2013. We will meet
again with industry and government.
On economic development, this protocol is proving fruitful to us, but we
do need to do a bit more on some aspects, like Gateway. By and large, it has
some teeth in that respect.
In other areas, we have tried to get the process to kick in with respect
to health. I said to the Prime Minister a year ago January that perhaps his
Minister of Health could get together with provincial health ministers and
the Métis Nation for us to address health issues. I wrote to the Minister of
Health about a year ago and have received no response. There it is not
kicking in, so maybe it is not worth the paper it is written on in terms of
the federal health aspect, but we still have hope.
We have not yet dealt with the outstanding residential schools issue that
is in the protocol. We have not yet dealt with the outstanding rights
issues, including land. For the economic development aspect, the protocol
has not served us yet, but we still have hope that it will, and we will not
abandon it. We believe it is a good process and we are hoping that it will
be the springboard for the two accords we have put forward, the one on
governance and the one on economic development.
In economic development we are doing quite well, I believe, under the
protocol. On governance, we have had some preliminary discussions, including
with officials at the Office of the Federal Interlocutor. I would say in
honesty that there is some cooperation with officials at the Office of the
Federal Interlocutor. However, I think we all get bogged down and we look
strictly at the small agreements that we sign, and we have to have specific
deliverables and accountability. We have dozens of agreements and reports
that have to be done, and we get bogged down in that and lose sight of the
bigger picture. If anything, I think officials are caught up in that as
opposed to having any kind of bad faith to move forward with us.
Senator Brazeau: I hope you have better luck than we did.
Mr. Chartier: Thank you.
Senator Patterson: Welcome to the witnesses. We can greatly
benefit in this study from Mr. Chartier's long history, corporate memory and
involvement in these issues.
Senator Brazeau asked a question I was going to ask, so I would like to
ask Mr. Chartier about his vision of governance for the Metis.
The protocol refers to democratic accountability. You talked about Metis
registration and membership capacity, and administration of federal
government programs is discussed in the protocol.
Could you explain your vision for self-government with a population that
is widely scattered, does not have a land base, and is often quite well
integrated with existing communities?
Mr. Chartier: Thank you, senator. We developed positions on this
in the 1980s and then in 1992. I cannot recall all the details, but we
believe it is possible to have self-government off of a land base. On a land
base is good, too, and we would like at some point to have self-government
on a land base other than in Alberta.
The reality is that many Métis Nation citizens will choose not to move to
a land base but rather to live where they are now. As we know, many First
Nations people now live off the land base. Statistics from the United States
show that 78 per cent of Indians and native Alaskans in that country live
off a land base. That is a reality, but there are still those who want to
live on a land base. The choice would be theirs.
We have the infrastructure of government. Since 1979, beginning in
Saskatchewan, we have had the ballot box election where every one of our
citizens who cares has an opportunity to vote for their leadership. That is
a condition of being part of the Métis Nation governments, and all five of
our governing members have that system. In fact, the Métis Nation of Ontario
just had their election and were finalizing their count last night or early
We have the infrastructure. We have the accountability and
representativeness aspects of our government in place. We are the sole
representatives of the citizens of the Métis Nation.
We also speak about devolution or delivering programs and services. We
have to commend the federal government for the engagement of Aboriginal
peoples in the delivery of employment and training through Pathways to
Success, the arts and now ASETS, a very successful program. It is something
that we can continue doing.
Provincially, for example, in Manitoba, the government there has devolved
to four mandated agencies the delivery of child and family services in that
province. The Manitoba Metis Federation delivers the child and family
services for Métis Nation citizens. I believe there are two First Nations
entities and a fourth entity. Devolution is possible.
In terms of registry, in the end, we hope that we will register all of
our people, but we need to keep that registry up- to-date and alive, and the
resources currently provided to us do not make that happen.
In terms of financing self-government, there are various ways of doing
it, such as transfer payments to Métis Nation governments and, as in the
accord from 1992, getting back part of the taxes that we pay in which had
been agreed to.
I believe that it is totally possible for us to have self-government. At
the end of the day, we would hope that we would be able to provide those
services to our people that are currently provided by the federal and
provincial governments. For sure, we would continue operating where sources
of services are integrated and where it makes sense not to duplicate them.
For example, we would not want to re-establish Metis nation hospitals. There
is a health care system in place, and we would certainly be part of that.
However, we would want perhaps more say on health boards, for example. We
would also want to ensure that our people have access to that health care.
Currently, many of our people, particularly our elders, live on old age
pension. Many of them are suffering from diabetes and other forms of
illnesses. In many cases, they have to make a choice between buying their
pills or their food. They should not have to be in that situation. Some,
particularly in more outlying areas, particularly in the North, having to go
for cancer treatment have to hitchhike to get there because they have no way
to get there. There is still a lot that needs to be done, but collectively,
between Aboriginal governments and, in our case, Métis Nation government,
provincial and federal governments, we can make things a lot better for all
of us as a whole and particularly for Métis Nation citizens.
The Chair: The question relates to the membership and the
citizenship registries. Are you satisfied with the way this is proceeding,
Mr. Chartier, or is it a work-in-progress?
Mr. Chartier: I would definitely say it is a work-in-progress. I
believe since the Powley decision and what we call the post-Powley
resources to enable us to set up these registries, I think the technical
aspects are well in place now. However, there were significant cutbacks two
years ago where a majority of the people working in the registries had to be
laid off. Rather than building up on what we had, we have kind of
retrenched. There is a huge backlog of people that need to be reregistered.
Because of the previous situation where we had membership in
organizations, it included people who had lost their Indian status and did
not have recognition under the Indian Act. Any person who was not under the
Indian Act, non- status Indians or people of mixed ancestry who were not
citizens of the Métis Nation, were welcomed to join our organizations in the
1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s. As we have become more defined and as we
are regrouping as a Métis Nation government and citizens of the Métis
Nation, it was necessary to come up with criteria to see who was eligible to
be enrolled as a Métis Nation citizen, which we have done, and the Supreme
Court of Canada has basically adopted criteria that matched. They are
As well, we had some success before Powley. In Saskatchewan in
1996, as a lawyer at that time with clients who had no money, I and an
articling student were successful in getting a ruling that the Metis in
northwest Saskatchewan have unextinguished Aboriginal rights to harvesting,
to hunting and fishing, whatever it did to the land, which was not an issue.
We had other successful cases pre-Powley. However, with the Powley
decision, it was very clear that Metis are a full-fledged rights-bearing
people and that Metis people, citizens, rights bearers, must be identified
so there is no conflict in the future when people are exercising their
Our position is that if you are born a citizen of the Métis Nation, you
are a rights-bearing person, so we are registering everyone. Our decision
was to re-register everyone so that people meet the criteria. I myself had
to go through that process as well. We are doing that. We are re-registering
previous members to enroll them as citizens of the Métis Nation. Some may
not fit because they may be Indian people without rights, and their battle
is a different battle and they are still fighting that.
There are others that have not bothered to come forward because in the
past they would see membership as strictly participating in an organization
and meetings and voting, and there may not be any need for them to do that.
Now, with the changes and with the reinvigoration of the nation and the
culture in all of this, people now are saying, "Yes, I will register as a
citizen even if there is nothing in there for me tangibly or even if I do
not require something because I have a job and I can provide for myself and
for my family." They will still be registering as a people because they see
now that we have recognition as a people, which had been submerged and put
aside for so many generations. We are now re-emerging, and there is a lot of
pride in being Metis. We need to do that.
The system as we have it currently is not sufficient to fulfill that role
— not sufficient at all. However, it is a good start. We need to build on
it. Any assistance that the Senate committee could provide to encourage
government to inject more resources to enable that to happen would do much
good for the Métis Nation and for Canada as a whole.
Senator Patterson: I am catching you off guard here, but I think
the committee was very impressed with the presentation of two Metis lawyers
that you would know who were involved with the Powley case, Ms.
Teillet and her colleague.
Have you had a chance to review their presentation on this question of
definition of "Metis," and would you would endorse the approach they
recommended to us? I think it was an elaboration on Powley. I think a
number of us felt that especially the historical aspect would be instructive
to us in tackling that issue in our study.
Mr. Chartier: Was the other person Jason Madden?
Senator Patterson: Yes; I am sorry.
Mr. Chartier: I did not even know they did this; I do not know
what they said. Yes, you did catch me off guard, and I will have to speak to
them. No, I am kidding.
I mentioned the fishing case in 1995 or 1996 and an articling student.
Ms. Teillet was that articling student. She has been working on these cases
since the trial we did in January 1995. She has worked on two or three other
cases with me since then, as well as Mr. Madden. They are both familiar with
the Métis National Council's criteria with what it is to be Metis. I have no
difficulty in blindly endorsing what they would have said on this because
they would say nothing different than I would say. I know Ms. Teillet has
done some further research on the historical aspects and does make
presentations to us. Both of them are advisors to our Metis rights panel. I
look forward to reading what they have said. About what date was that, so
that I can narrow the search?
The Chair: We will send it to you.
Senator Raine: You are right; basically, everything you have said
is similar to what they said, but one red flag went up, which was the number
that you were talking about. I think it was Mr. LeClair who said 500,000
Metis. However, obviously, there are a lot of people out there who call
themselves Metis but are not historical Metis. I think it is in everyone's
best interest to define it properly.
In the Supreme Court of Canada decision, an individual would have to
self-identify as a Metis, be a member, have ties to a present-day Metis
community and have ties to a historic Metis community. Who does it mean to
be accepted by a Metis community? Is there a legal definition of being
accepted by a Metis community?
Mr. Chartier: I will start off by saying that sometimes Mr.
LeClair does embellish things a bit. It was for illustrative purposes. He
wanted to say half, and it was easier to say 500 than go to 250. It was just
a mathematical thing. Actually, that goes to the crux of the matter. We do
not know exactly how many Metis citizens there are of the Métis Nation; it
is only a guess. The guess that I have been using is 350,000 to 400,000.
Again, that is just an estimate of how many Metis we believe are within the
Métis Nation homeland. Statistics Canada comes up with different figures,
but there again, anyone can identify as Metis using whatever criteria they
have in their own minds or their own beings. I do not accept Statistics
Canada's figures on that.
We do need to have this registry. In the future, we can say, "This is how
many Métis Nation citizens have registered. There may be more, but these are
the ones that have registered."
In terms of being accepted by the Metis community — and we will provide
the criteria that the Métis Nation uses; it has definitions within it — we
say "acceptance by the Métis Nation." The Supreme Court of Canada says "acceptance by the Metis community." The question is what does
"community" mean? Does it mean the village or a number of villages that
form a larger community? I think they said that they were looking at Sault
Ste. Marie and environs, but it could include a wider community, like the
Great Lakes or something to that effect. We would go on and say, "Or it
could include the whole of the Métis Nation." Mr. Madden, Ms. Teillet and
I, who do these cases, talk about the Metis community being the whole of the
Métis Nation. It depends on what we mean by "community."
In the end, within our system, the acceptance by the community or the
Métis Nation is carried out by each of our governing members. In Alberta,
for example, the citizens would apply to be registered through the Métis
Nation of Alberta, and they would provide all of the proof that is required.
At the end of the day, the registrar will determine whether the criteria are
met or not met. It is based on the direction of the leadership within
Alberta, which is the community involved. They also base that on an
acceptance process we adopted, in principle, in 2001. In that sense, the
nation, as a whole, has a say. Even though it is done by five jurisdictions,
it is based on common criteria and a common acceptance process.
We are still working on trying to establish a national registry; we are
doing that with the Office of the Federal Interlocutor. That would see each
of the five provincial registries housing their citizens within a national
registry. We are still working on that, but the community acceptance is by
the nation itself, through a process that we have developed.
Senator Raine: To clarify, you said "the citizens will apply to
be registered," but the citizens, at that point, do not have a card or a
passport saying that they are citizens.
Mr. Chartier: Exactly.
Senator Raine: At this point, you do not have citizenship per se
but an application process for registration, which is, I guess, the first
Mr. Chartier: Yes. Perhaps I should not use "citizen." I am
using "citizen" to mean "person." Persons — Métis Nation persons — would
go through that process.
There have been a number of them who have been registered as citizens
thus far. I do not have the exact numbers, but the processes for thousands
have been concluded. I would say 10 per cent to 15 per cent of our previous
members and Métis Nation persons have been registered as citizens.
You did say that there are people who would not fit the criteria. Yes,
that is true. We are not here to advocate that they cannot call themselves
what they will, but, in the end, they will not be citizens of the Métis
Senator Raine: I understand. Do the individual provincial
organizations that belong to the Métis National Council use the same forms?
If not, why would they not?
Mr. LeClair: To give you the overview, we have maybe 15 per cent
of the people that are in the new membership systems. We have begun doing
that for a number of years. Part of the reason we have been so slow is that,
with the federal financing system that we have, as President Chartier said,
we have to lay everyone off and then wait for the new contribution
agreements. It is not the perfect system, but we have to start on it.
We have 15 per cent registered. When the registrars get an application,
they are common applications because there is one definition of "Metis."
When you fill in your application, you have to put your genealogy in and
then you have to reference source documents. The source documents, in this
case, will be the scrip records because, when they set up the scrip system,
there would have been maybe 15,000 to 20,000. I am not sure exactly how many
scrip records there were, but that population was reached at one time. That
historic population is the core of the population. Some people did not get
scrip. Beyond that, we look at the 1901 census records and the ones before
that. Those are the source documents. It is built around that historic
community of the Métis Nation, primarily in Western Canada but in Ontario as
well. That is the core group. If you are a registrar, you have to find one
of those documents or a church record. Back then, it would say you were a
half-breed or a Scott half-breed. If you look at the census documents from
1870 and 1885, in the West, you will see that there are six or seven
different categories — I should have brought the book — of half-breeds.
There is a finite population. That population has grown from 16,000 to
17,000 in 1870. Some of our families had dozens of children, and some of us,
even in our generation, are still having seven or more kids. You can see,
exponentially, how large the population could be. The census said 380,000 in
2006. It grew enormously from 2001. Ms. Omeniho suggested it may go as high
as half a million in this census. When we are dealing with the Metis, nine
out of ten that identify, identify in our homeland area. This is why
President Chartier says that the courts are not recognizing Metis
communities per se in the Atlantic region because there is no evidence.
There might have been some Metis there, at one point, but there is no
evidence that there is a Metis community there now.
The Chair: Mr. Chartier, when I was growing up there was a
language called Michif. In establishing the identity of a group of people,
it is found that they generally come from a certain community and bring with
them a language. The language does not seem to be as dominant in the whole
process. I remember some of my father's family speaking Michif. Is anything
being done about the language? What is the status of this aspect of our
Mr. Chartier: It is sad to say, but Michif appears to be a dying
language or is on life support. Several thousand people can still speak the
language, but they are the older generations. There is not enough of the
Michif language being taught in the schools, although there is some effort
at the community level. We had some success nationally and provincially with
Michif language conferences and developing materials. Currently, the
financial support is not there as it was in the past. There is a drastic
need to make fiscal resources available to retain, strengthen and broaden
the language. Efforts are being made; for example, the Manitoba Metis
Federation, in particular, does some publishing, as does the Gabriel Dumont
Institute in Saskatchewan. If nothing is done within the next five to ten
years, I am afraid the language will disappear or become significantly
diminished, along with several other Aboriginal languages. There needs to be
a strong dedication on the part of the federal government to assist
Aboriginal peoples in ensuring that their languages are retained.
The Chair: I thank the panel for their presentations and their
responses to senators' questions. Hopefully, we can come up with a document
that invigorates the entire process to deal with some of the issues that
were put forward this morning.
We stand adjourned until tomorrow evening.
(The committee adjourned.)