Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

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 Nation.


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 committee.

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 people.

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 findings.

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 self-government agreement.

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 organizations.

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 bathwater.

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 toward Metis.

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 billion.

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 welcome that.

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 practise.

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 peoples.

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 date.

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 pipeline.

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 ground.

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 forward.

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 environmental concerns.

Ms. Omeniho: I think the federal government needs to work with even the provincial governments to develop a Metis consultation policy in a regulatory process.

Senator Munson: If that does not happen?

Ms. Omeniho: I think the Metis will be excluded, as they are from many things.

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 studies.

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 condense them.

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 here.

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 litigation.

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 Metis.

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 Canada.

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 issues.

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 their families.

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 study.

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 Norwegians.

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 development.

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 PC-no.

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 paper?

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 this morning.

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 compatible.

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 rights.

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 step.

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 Nation.

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 heritage?

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.)