THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
VANCOUVER, Monday, October 1, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal
Peoples met this day at 9 a.m. to examine and report on the legal and
political recognition of Metis identity in Canada.
Senator Lillian Dyck (Deputy
Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Good morning. I welcome
all honourable senators and members of the general public who are watching
this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC
or on the web. My name is Senator Lillian Dyck from Saskatchewan. I am the
deputy chair of the committee.
We were very happy to embark last week on a
series of hearings and fact finding missions that has taken us out of Ottawa
to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest
Territories to meet with Canadians and in particular Metis Canadians. We are
travelling as part of a study on Metis identity. We are very impressed with
the amount of engagement in the Metis community and appreciative of your
efforts to attend to testify before us today. In fact, the most important
part is that we listen very carefully to what you have to say and ask you
The mandate of this committee is to examine
legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada
generally. Today we are exploring Metis issues, particularly those relating
to the evolving legal and political recognition of the collective rights and
identity of the Metis in Canada.
Before we begin, I would like to introduce the
members of the committee who are here this morning: Senator Salma
Ataullahjan from Ontario, Senator Nancy Greene representing British Columbia
and Senator Dennis Patterson representing Nunavut.
Members of the committee, would you please help
me in welcoming our first panel of witnesses. From the Métis Nation of
British Columbia, we welcome President Bruce Dumont, and Laurel Katernick,
the Director of Registry. In addition, we have from with us Victoria Pruden,
Vice-President of the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria.
Witnesses, we look forward to your
presentations which will be followed by questions from the senators. We ask
that you keep your comments fairly brief, concise but expansive, if you can
fill that bill. Please proceed.
Bruce Dumont, President, Métis Nation of
British Columbia: Good morning.
(The witness spoke in Tanishi.)
Welcome to British Columbia and welcome to
Métis Nation B.C., which is the governing body for B.C. It is a pleasure to
see you again after our meeting in Batoche. We spent a few hours there and
had a great time. Thank you for the invitation to speak about the Metis in
this part of the country and across our homeland.
We had Senator Gerry St. Germain at our
assembly this weekend. In recognition of his service to Canada and the Metis
across Canada, we honoured him with the Order of the Sash. It is a sash that
we commissioned, and it is only handed out to certain individuals for their
dedication to the Metis and their services to our people.
I will start with the emergence of the Metis in
the Province of British Columbia in the late 1700s. We do have a long
history of Metis that have migrated from the prairies. One of those
expeditions was the James Sinclair expedition that came out of Saskatchewan
and took the people through the Rockies down into southeastern British
Columbia, into Montana, Washington State and Oregon. What happened there is
they were going down to be farmers. Eventually most of them moved back to
British Columbia and Alberta and some to Saskatchewan.
As you know, we are known as the children of
the fur trade. Under the North West Company and Hudson Bay Company we
traversed the waterways throughout British Columbia and were very involved
in the fur trade.
I will turn it over to Ms, Katernick to add
Laurel Katernick, Director of Registry, Métis
Nation of British Columbia: It is a pleasure and an honour to be invited
here to provide information on the Métis Nation of British Columbia and the
identity of Metis in the Province of British Columbia. My name is Laurel
Katernick. I am the Director of Registry for Métis Nation of British
Columbia and I have been in that position now for approximately eight years.
Métis Nation British Columbia received funding
from the Office of the Federal Interlocutor to establish a process for
identifying and registering Metis within the province of B.C. at a
provincial level. In the fall of that year Metis Nation British Columbia
officially established a central registry to identify and register Metis
citizens and harvesters. The importance of a central registry to identify
Metis section 35 rights holders became apparent after the Powley
decision in the summer of 2003. The inclusion of Metis in section 35 was
never defined until the Powley decision came to fruition. The purpose
of section 35 is to protect practices that are an historically important
feature of distinctive Metis communities and that persist in the Metis
community as an integral element of Metis culture.
Prior to the Powley decision, Metis
identification was community-driven. However, this simply identified Metis
membership at a community level. The Powley decision defined not only
who the Metis were in section 35 but affirmed that the specific collective
has an Aboriginal right. The Powley decision spoke about the urgent
need to develop a more systematic method of identifying rights holders. The
court identified four broad factors in Metis identification. This is the
core of the Metis identification for Métis Nation British Columbia Central
Registry: self-identification, ancestral connection to the historic Metis
community, contemporary community acceptance, and a uniqueness from other
As I indicated previously here, the MNBC
Central Registry is responsible for compiling and maintaining a citizen
database of Metis citizens identified and registered in the province of B.C.
The citizenship database is based on the process requirement identified as
per the Supreme Court of Canada, Powley decision in 2003, and also as
per the national definition established by our national governing body Métis
National Council in 2002.
I do want to give you a bit of information and
background on the actual process that individuals are moved through with the
Métis Nation British Columbia Central Registry to officially register as a
Metis citizen in the province of B.C. The central registry is what we term
as the objectively verifiable process that supports the collective voice of
the Metis throughout the homeland. Our registry staff assists applicants
with completion of their applications and they are then forwarded to the
head office, the Office of the Provincial Registrar, for genealogical
verification and community acceptance. We do not only look at the historic
community connection but there also has to be a connection to the
contemporary community as well. Citizenship applicants that meet the four
components of the Powley definition and the national definition are
approved as Metis citizens and registered as such in the MNBC Central
Citizenship applicants: It is important to note
applicants that do not meet the four main components for Metis
identification to register with Métis Nation B.C. They are provided an
opportunity for a redress mechanism through the judicial arm of the MNBC
Senate. In the case where we are not able to approve an applicant they do
have a recourse process and they can appeal to the MNBC Senate if they
believe an error has been made either genealogically on the historical
community acceptance component or the procedural component of the process.
I did indicate earlier the actual four
components that we look at within the Central Registry. Again, the MNBC
Central Registry addresses all four of their components. The application
form fulfills the self-identification component; the genealogy that is
submitted by the applicant addresses the ancestral connection to the
historical Metis community; additionally, all individuals that make
application to MNBC to be registered in the Central Registry as Metis in the
province of B.C. go through the screening process. They are screened through
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to ensure not only that
they are not on the Indian Register but, as well, that they do not have an
application pending. The final and fourth component is the community
acceptance component. They must be accepted by the contemporary community as
well. Métis Nation B.C. has 35 Metis chartered communities that are
recognized throughout the province.
To date, I am very pleased to announce that
since the Central Registry was implemented in the fall of 2004, MNBC has
just over 75,000 citizens registered that do fit all four components of
Powley — 7,500. Sorry. Wouldn't that be nice if it was 75,000.
Senator Patterson: Wishful thinking.
Ms. Katernick: I am getting ahead of
This means that they have met all four
components addressed earlier. The 7,500 citizens are eligible to participate
in the MNBC governance process. That is to say, they are eligible to
participate as candidates and voters in the MNBC elections and are able to
speak and vote at our annual governance meetings.
The MNBC is the provincially and federally
recognized body for representation for the Metis in the province of B.C. as
well as the 60,000 self-identifying Metis that were enumerated in the 2006
census. As such, MNBC provides access to provincial and federal programs
that target Metis, most notably the federal Aboriginal Skills and Employment
Training Strategy, the ASET program, to all self-identifying Metis in the
province of B.C.
As previously mentioned, MNBC supports
registration of Metis citizens but also acknowledges the importance of Metis
being enumerated for access to government programs and services. The
advantage of registration over enumeration is that registration allows the
Central Registry to conduct the objectively verifiable process and to ensure
that individuals meet the four requirements established by Powley and
the national definition. Enumeration, however, emphasizes
self-identification at the expense of the other three components of the
Powley and the national Metis definition.
Now I would like to turn it over to President
Mr. Dumont: I will speak to the governance
of the Metis Nation B.C. here. Our governing structure is three-tiered in
the province of B.C. and across Canada. We have the Métis National Council
as the national and federal governing body representing the Metis nationally
and internationally. MNBC sits on the MNC Board of Governors and as a
representative of Metis in B.C. at the national level. We have the
provincial Metis governments such as MNBC of which I am the elected
president. MNBC is the recognized representative for the Métis Nation B.C.
MNBC has an elected board of directors responsible to the Metis citizens in
B.C. The board of directors is elected to serve a four-year term. We just
completed our electoral process in mid-September of this year.
The third tier of governance is the 35
chartered communities in B.C. These communities often mirror the provincial
organizational structure of the MNBC but are locally driven and focused.
Each charter community elects a president to represent the community at the
provincial level as the Metis Nation governing assembly.
Provincially the MNBC has a distinct governance
structure that consists of the following: the legislative arm, the business
arm which is the secretariat, the judicial arm and the governance arm. I
will speak briefly to the roles and responsibilities of the four components
of the MNBC governance.
The legislative components consist of the MNGA,
which is the Métis Nation Governing Assembly, the elected presidents of the
chartered communities. As an assembly they are responsible for passing and
first reading of any processed legislation. If the MNGA approves
legislation, the proposed legislation is then forwarded to the annual
general meeting, which just occurred, to the Metis citizens for second
reading and approval. In most cases the resolutions are at the AGM and then
ratified. If not, they are re-tabled back to the MNGA.
The judicial component consists of the MNBC
Senate. It is the role of the senate to receive disputes. Typically the
senate is utilized for citizenship appeals. That is to say, if the Central
Registry is unable to verify an applicant's Metis connection, and the
applicant believes they are entitled to be registered as a Metis citizen
within MNBC, the senate will hold a tribunal to determine if an error has
been made on the part of the MNBC Central Registry.
The business component consists of the
secretariat which is the Métis Provincial Council of B.C. The MPCBC is a
society established by the B.C. Metis under the Societies Act for the
purpose of conducting administrative business and functions of the Métis
The governance structure component of the MNBC
consists of a provincially elected board of directors, regional governance
councils which are responsible for the communities and are chaired by the
regionally elected director who sits on the MNBC board of directors. As
previously mentioned, chartered Metis communities through their locally
elected presidents also contribute to the governance components. In
addition, both women and youth are represented on the provincial board of
directors, the regional governance council and the chartered Metis
communities. So you have representation for the youth and the women and of
course the elected regional directors and elected presidents of the
Given our governance structure, MNBC is truly
democratic and representative of the Metis and responsible and accountable
to the Metis citizens throughout the province. Furthermore, the MNBC
operates in a non-discriminatory manner in that we have a Metis senate to
ensure that there is a mechanism to address any grievance that may arise
between the Metis in B.C. and the MNBC.
For the benefit of this honourable senate I
have included copies of our legislation and governance structure as well as
a copy of our organizational chart which we will send to you electronically.
I will turn the floor over to Victoria.
Victoria Pruden, Vice President, Métis Nation
of Greater Victoria: Good morning, everyone.
[The witness spoke in Michif.]
Victoria Pruden is my English name. I am very
appreciative of your consideration to fit me in his morning to speak to you
on behalf of my community, the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria. The
community that I am representing today as vice-president is a community
largely formed of transplanted Metis people originally from Saskatchewan,
Alberta and Manitoba who currently reside on Vancouver Island.
I wanted to just give you some context in terms
of my Metis lineage. I am from the Delorme/Pruden/Falcon/Landry families
originally of Red River who travelled over to Saskatchewan, Meadow Lake,
Batoche area and Cochin, north of North Battleford.
I am speaking primarily this morning in support
of the issue of settlement of the matter of Metis survivors of residential
schools, in particular the residential school at Ile-a-la-Crosse. I had the
pleasure this year of co-moderating the National Métis Residential Schools
Conference in March. It was a profound and heartbreaking experience to
witness the testimony of many of our elders, many of our people, who
experienced trauma, violence of a sexual, emotional, physical nature, as
well as the testimony of myself and others who are the children and
grandchildren of those people who attended either day or boarding schools at
Ile-a-la-Crosse. There are many survivors who I am sure you have heard and
you know are still waiting patiently for resolution with respect to this
issue. In particular, the non-recognition of their attendance and their
experience is profoundly disappointing.
As a multi-generationally impacted woman —
[The witness spoke in Michif.]
— I am appealing in support of recognition and
more importantly a compassionate and humanitarian response and approach to
programs, services and supports for both boarding and day school attendees.
In our communities and in my professional
opinion as someone who has worked in anti-violence with women, both Metis
First Nations and non-indigenous women, for 15 years, I believe not
unrelated to these issues of unresolved trauma are damaged identity,
experience of family violence, victimization, breakdown of our families and
breakdown of parenting skills. The demise of the Aboriginal Healing
Foundation and the lack of access to trauma treatment, unlike some of our
First Nations relations that may be eligible for psychological counselling,
trauma treatment sessions through FINIB, the lack of access to programs like
that is a profound weakness for our people.
At the residential school conference held in
Saskatoon this year a number of priorities emerged out of our deliberations,
number one being recognition of Metis residential school attendees. We had
the privilege of hearing a recording of Prime Minister Stephen Harper making
a personal commitment to the attendees of the Ile-a-la-Crosse residential
school. It left us — it is hard to describe the disappointment of hearing
our leader make that commitment given that it is still unresolved to date.
One of the other priorities that emerged was a need for support for healing
and a plan to address the inter-generational effects of the trauma related
to residential school attendance, particularly for Metis.
I want to mention to you, even out here in
beautiful Vancouver in British Columbia, there are many of us who either
have been impacted by the experience of those people who attended the
residential school at Ile-a-la-Crosse. We married and moved and lived and
are impacted by what happened at that school, even thousands of miles away
here in British Columbia. There is a need for resolution on this matter, one
way or the other.
I will leave you with a few final thoughts. In
British Columbia currently there are close to 800 Metis children in the care
of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The latest study on
sexual violence and exploitation of Metis women which was led by the
National Aboriginal Health Organization and the Métis Nation of British
Columbia indicated fractured Metis identity as being the primary indicator
of risk for sexual violence and exploitation. I would just put out a
curiosity to you. I think in our communities and in our professional
community we can see the connection between unresolved trauma, fractured
identity, fractured parenting and the socio-economic effects. The social
indicators I believe are not unrelated to the unresolved and unsupported
impacts of trauma like those experienced by survivors of the Metis
residential school experience. That was the primary message that I wanted to
communicate to you today and, again, I thank the committee for entertaining
me this morning as a last minute addition to your speakers' list.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much. Did
you have another comment, Mr. Dumont?
Mr. Dumont: Yes. When we met in Batoche,
was that recorded or documented?
The Deputy Chair: There is not a public
recording. We have notes, but those proceedings were not on the public
record. This meeting, for example, is broadcast and a transcript of the
hearing will be available. Notes were taken by our researcher but they are
not posted. They are available to the committee, but a record of the fact
finding meeting is not available to the general public.
Mr. Dumont: To reiterate my ancestry, my
mother was born in Onion Lake of Cree and Scottish heritage and my dad was
born in Alberta of Cree and French heritage, so you could say on my mother's
side half-breed, my dad's side Metis but we were always known as half-breed
people. Just to expand on the residential schools topic, I was born in 1944
and I have four older siblings. My mother made sure that we were not taken
away to residential school. We were very mobile for the first few years.
Being a good mother protecting her children, she did not indulge, other than
to have one cigarette a day before she went to bed. We will always
cherish what she did for us.
We were road allowance people. We lived on the
road allowance for 12 years in Central Alberta. We squatted there and my mom
and dad earned a living there working in the logging industry. We did move
off the settlements in 1941. My brother older than me was just a baby at
that time. They had four children and my mother and father did a lot of
walking. When they were married in 1937 in St. Paul, Alberta — formerly
St. Paul des Metis — they walked from Onion Lake to Goodridge, Alberta, and
settled on the Beaver River just on the edge of Kikino Métis Settlement. It
was not a settlement at that time but it was a settlement when they left.
Also on my dad's side, I am a great grandson of Isidore Dumont, so a great
grand nephew of Gabriel Dumont. Our family exists from Duck Lake. Of course
Isidore Dumont was the first Metis killed in the resistance of 1885, so we
have a long history there.
I moved to B.C. in 1972. I have been here for
40 years. I have been a Metis since I was born because English was a second
language to my parents. Both are fluent in Cree, one in Woods Cree and one
in Prairie Cree. Moving out here I raised my family of four and my children
all know their ancestry; they all have citizenship cards with Métis Nation
B.C. I think it is very important that we understand that as a result of
section 91.24 of the BNA Act and section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982
that the federal government is responsible to the Metis. As one of the
distinct Aboriginal peoples of Canada we keep getting bounced back and forth
between provincial and federal legislation and I think it is long past due
that we are recognized as Aboriginal peoples of Canada and the
responsibility of the federal government. Those are our struggles, trying to
get recognized and be recognized and supported because our people are being
marginalized all across Canada: healthcare, education, housing, inherent
rights. It is important that we move in that direction.
As you know, Metis are very persistent; we
never, ever give up. We will keep moving forever.
I thank you for listening to us and hearing us
Laurel, do you have any more comments?
Ms. Katernick: Not at this time.
Ms. Pruden: May I?
The Deputy Chair: Yes. If you could be
brief, we would like to ask some questions as well.
Ms. Pruden: Certainly. I just need to say
something as a responsibility to my five-and-a-half year old son, Quinicen
Pruden Ledray. I just need to mention to you that only four percent of Metis
children in B.C. according to the last Aboriginal Peoples Survey can
understand any Cree, Michif or Ojibwe. We are on the verge of decimation in
terms of our language. If we look at what has happened in terms of federal
policies with respect to Aboriginal languages we need help.
That is all.
The Deputy Chair: We will now open the
floor for questioning. As the deputy chair, I am going to ask some questions
handed over by our researcher. They have to do with the appeals.
How many appeals have been heard by the MNBC
Senate, and approximately what percentage would that be of the number of
applicants? I am wondering if you know or keep track of the grounds for the
appeals. Is there a main source of appeals and could you identify what might
be the major hurdle?
Ms. Katernick: To date, the MNBC Senate has
heard 127 citizenship appeals. We do keep a record of the appeals that are
heard and to date we have received approximately 10,000 applications to date
and, then again, you do get individuals that move out of the province,
different factors that come into play. I would say out of the 10,000 that we
have received to date 127 have appealed the decision of the Central Registry
and we do keep a record of that information. The majority of them are in two
categories. No Aboriginal ancestry was identified in the research conducted
by the Central Registry. Of the other half approximately, their ancestry
does not connect to the historic Metis nation homeland; that is to say, they
are primarily from the Maritime Provinces and Quebec.
The Deputy Chair: You said you had about
10,000 applicants that 7,500 have been approved. Of those who have not been
approved, the majority do not fit the Aboriginal identity. I guess what I am
trying to get at is this: Of those who do not appeal, would you say that a
large proportion of them do not belong to what is defined as the Metis
Ms. Katernick: Is that for the ones that do
not pursue the appeal process?
The Deputy Chair: Yes.
Ms. Katernick: It is about half and half in
that group as well, there is no connection to the Metis homeland or there is
no Aboriginal ancestry identified in the research.
The Deputy Chair: Have any been successful
in their appeal, first of all?
Ms. Katernick: Yes. We did recently have
one case that was overturned, and that is an important thing to note,
particularly for Metis identification in the province of British Columbia.
Our senate sat over the course of this past weekend. I am not aware of what
the outcome is for those hearings. Before the previous hearing, new
information had been obtained and before they actually went before the
senate, I as the director of registry overturned three decisions previously
made by myself and the registry.
The Deputy Chair: If the person has
appealed and they lose, is there any other recourse? Could they, for
example, take them to provincial court? Has that sort of action ever been
Ms. Katernick: Currently to date, no, the
action has not occurred. It is important to keep in mind with regard to
Metis identification and cases that have been previously heard by the MNBC
Senate where the ruling was not in favour of the appellant, they do have the
opportunity should they find new additional information to submit that to
the Central Registry, and we will re-evaluate the case and that does occur
quite frequently. Additionally, as well, each year that goes by more
information becomes available. You have a better understanding of Metis
identification for individuals say outside of the Prairie Provinces, for
example, the province of B.C., province of Ontario. It is not a quick
process but we do on a regular basis go back and audit some of those cases
and see if there is any new information that has since come available and is
pertinent to that individual's application.
Senator Raine: It is great to hear from
you. My questions are for Ms. Katernick.
You described a little bit about the historic
Metis community that you have defined. Do you limit that to the people who
are traditionally in the fur trade and sort of the waterway travellers in
the Red River Valley or do you go further into Ontario, Sault Ste Marie
area, for instance, and do you also take into the Metis historic community
those in the North where it was primarily Scottish and Aboriginal? Are they
all classified as part of the Metis historic community?
Ms. Katernick: Yes. It does extend over
into Ontario, the Sault Ste Marie area. That is actually a very interesting
area of research, and I will give you a little bit of background.
When I first came on to the MNBC Central
Registry I was very familiar with Metis identification within the Prairie
Provinces only. Within the Central Registry if we received applications that
pertained to Ontario that was a little bit scary for us. That was new for
us. We have spent a significant amount of time educating ourselves within
the registry, the staff has, on the identification of Metis in the province
of Ontario, and the extension of the homeland has expanded. What we know as
the historic Metis nation homeland, I can say quite confidently, has
expanded somewhat since I have been in the Central Registry and it does
include areas in Ontario and also in the North, as you mentioned.
Senator Raine: We have been holding
hearings across the Prairie Provinces and we came across one woman who was
quite distraught because she has been living in the Metis community and her
family has been living as a Metis person for some five generations. After
doing the genealogical tracking she learned that her ancestors were not from
that part of the historic homeland, they were from Quebec. They had married
Aboriginal people in Quebec and then got into the business of, I suppose,
coming out West like so many people did. Because her Aboriginal ancestors
were from Quebec she was told she is not Metis, and yet you could see her
heart and soul are Metis. It is a slippery slope when you try to define it
too tightly. Is there a way in your definition of Metis to not require all
four of the points? Can long-standing Metis identity overrule where the
original ancestors came from? It is almost as if you need to define
immigration now that you are a Metis Nation.
Ms. Katernick: That is very good question.
That is a question we get asked quite frequently in the Central Registry.
You have to be very sensitive, as you indicated, to people's long-standing
identification of Metis and living the life as Metis for a number of
generations. Currently within the Central Registry when we are not able to
fulfill those four components, as I indicated, there is a redress mechanism.
As well, we are very diplomatic and respectful of the individuals who apply
in that we do not tell them they are not Metis. We indicate to them in the
official written letters that they receive from the Central Registry that at
this point in time we are not able to validate and verify their genealogical
connection to the historic Metis community. Additionally as well, it does
not stop them from identifying with and participating in their communities.
Approximately two to three years ago, we had
discussed with our board of directors about looking at a process — we have a
Citizenship Act that we adhere to, Powley compliant, the four
components, but looking at what we had called a membership act that would
allow provisions for individuals who do not fit the criteria of the
Powley definition to still be able to register with Métis Nation British
Columbia. We have recently, within the past three to four weeks, had
preliminary discussions with President Dumont and with our executive staff
revisiting that proposal in the near future, going forward.
Senator Raine: At the national level, does
the Métis National Council have sessions where you and the registry
representatives from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario get together
and address the issues so that it is similar across Canada?
Ms. Katernick: At this point in time no, we
have not literally discussed that issue. We do stay connected with each
other. We have, with the other governing members, registries and their
directors of registries, and that is an important note for next time we
meet, to bring that up with them and to discuss that with them and see how
they feel about that process.
Senator Raine: Would it be helpful if there
was only one source of Metis cards in each province?
Ms. Katernick: Yes, it would be helpful and
we have discussed that. I have been with the MNBC Central Registry for eight
years. That discussion has come up numerous times. National President
Chartier did discuss that at our recent AGM during his presentation. The
first step in moving closer to having a national registry is the process
that we are working on right now. Each one of the governing members
registries have held a meeting over the last two fiscal years to discuss
what is the common theme in the documentation that you collect? Do you
collect long form birth certificates, baptismal certificates, census
records? In the provinces where scrip may not have been issued, what do you
look for in the absence of scrip? That is an ongoing process right now. The
first step is to define what the common forms of documentation are that we
collect. The second step would be to establish a recognized transfer
protocol amongst the governing members registries and ultimately to look at
a national registry. It is a topic of discussion that does come up quite
frequently, and it would be good to see a national card issued. Exactly how
that would look or how that would unfold I do not know, but we are taking
the initial steps there.
The Deputy Chair: Is any of your
information with regard to the historic communities available to anyone who
might apply? You say, for example, that you found people in Ontario who are
actually eligible. If you were to look on your website would there be an
indication of what sort of community has been identified as historic Metis?
Ms. Katernick: Not currently at this time
but I am following up next week with the Métis Nation of Ontario. They have
published a number of documents, reports, research papers, approximately
eight, that are definitely very interesting, very educational, well worth
reading. They are available on their website, but I will be coordinating
with their registrar next week because I do want to create a link to those
documents. They are extremely well written and there is a lot of important
information contained within them. Making them available, much more
accessible would be important.
Senator Ataullahjan: I am interested in the
demographics of the Metis community that you represent, like the number of
males, female, youth, seniors and do these numbers transfer to the Metis
needs of the Metis people?
Ms. Katernick: We do keep track within our
citizenship database, we are able to break it down demographically within
our regions, how many citizens are registered by gender, by age group, so we
do track that information, we do look at that information as very useful for
us as a governing body in the province of British Columbia. What was the
second part of your question?
Senator Ataullahjan: Do these numbers
translate to the major needs of the Metis?
Ms. Katernick: In what way?
Senator Ataullahjan: What do youth need? In
the case of women, there are health issues. We keep hearing of diabetes
being almost epidemic. Are those needs being looked after? Are you aware?
Ms. Katernick: Yes. It is unfortunate that
she is not here today, but this is the main focus of Tanya Davoren, our
Director of Health.
We are able to break down the statistics and
the demographics within the Central Registry and to provide that information
internally to our staff. For example, Victoria previously was working on our
Child and Family Services portfolio so we are able to provide her with
information as to how many children in care have registered for Metis
identification in the province of B.C.. For Tanya Davoren, that health
information is important too because she is able to look at say, for
example, in Region 7, how many women are registered there. We just did
recently our chronic disease survey. I do not have a lot of information on
how it transfers. Tanya Davoren would better be able to provide you that
information. There is definitely a connection there. The information
definitely is helpful and useful.
Senator Patterson: It is great to see
President Dumont again. We had a very memorable, worthwhile session in
Batoche. I should just mention that although the proceedings were not
recorded, I think they can still form part of our recommendations so they
will be useful I know.
I was impressed by the description of the
governance structure, President Dumont, and I would like to ask — and I am
portraying my ignorance here — how is this structure established? Is there a
constitution or a set of by-laws? You said you would give us some
information, and I would be interested in learning more about that.
Mr. Dumont: If you go to our website home
page, we have our governance structure there. We do have a constitution. We
have a citizenship act, a veterans act, electoral act, senate act, a women’s
act and youth act, the Metis Nation governing assembly, the MNGA act. We
have all the legislation in place and it is available on our website. Our
government structure is that you have to be a Metis citizen, have a
citizenship card at all three levels, at the local level, the community
level. When the president and vice president sit at the Métis National
Governing Assembly, all the presidents from the charter communities are
empowered to sit at that table. We have our Metis Nation governing assembly,
where there is usually anywhere from 45 to 50 people, and you are required
to have a citizenship card at the community level, at the regional
governance, 1 to 7 regions, whichever one you are in. To run in a provincial
election you also have to have a citizenship card.
Senator Raine: British Columbia is no
different for Metis people than it is for other Canadians, other than it is
Lotusland. The West Coast is warm and people tend to move here to retire.
Your organizations are not the only people who have lived in Metis
communities since the opening up of the West. Newcomers are emigrating from
other Metis nations across the provinces. Do you differentiate in any way in
your membership between the newcomers and people who have roots to the land
Mr. Dumont: From the Metis who originated
Senator Raine: Who have been here for a
long time. I am looking, for instance, at the Kelly Lake information that we
have been handed, and it is obvious they have been there since the 1700s, as
Mr. Dumont: We do not differentiate as long
as they have the ancestral connection. The names are so familiar throughout
the homeland. I guess basically coming out of Southeastern Manitoba and
those 12,000 families that were there, we can make that connection with
those names and those ancestors, so we do not differentiate in that respect
at all. I guess it is self-telling. When you meet a Metis person, when you
have been around as long as I have, you pretty well know that they are Metis.
Of course we make the greetings in our language of Michif or whatever. It is
easy to distinguish who they are. We call them "neechee" which means "You
are one of us."
Senator Raine: When people move to British
Columbia, wherever they happen to live, they are invited to join that
community. You said you had how many communities in B.C.?
Mr. Dumont: 35 chartered communities.
Senator Raine: Are they all active in the
Mr. Dumont: Yes.
Senator Patterson: A Metis Nation protocol
was signed between Canada and the Métis National Council in 2008. It seems
to establish a bilateral process to examine a number of important issues,
including the important issue Ms. Pruden mentioned of the whole question of
Metis former students of the residential school system and many other
critical issues. I note it expires, unless renewed or otherwise replaced by
a new agreement, in 2013. It seems like potentially a worthwhile process for
addressing this marginalization issue that you talked about so eloquently.
Would you have any comments on that process, that protocol and whether it
has been helpful, whether it should be renewed? It seems kind of focused on
the Western provinces too as I read it, so I am wondering from your point of
view if you have any comments on that.
Mr. Dumont: That is a good question. The
protocol agreement does expire in 2013 and of course the work will not be
done before then. It is important that we continue and extend those dates
regarding the residential schools because there is a lot of work and a lot
of research that has to be documented and prepared. I think we have only met
twice since then on residential schools, the last big conference being last
March. There is a lot of work to be done and we need to continue with that
Senator Patterson: Is it a worthwhile
process? Do you think that it has potential to deal with some of these
Mr. Dumont: Absolutely it is a worthwhile
issue. The findings of our Metis people here in the Province of B.C. alone,
we talk about the migration from the Prairie provinces to here, and some of
these people are getting very elderly who have experienced residential
schools — mind you, there are some middle-aged people there also. It is a
worthwhile venture. We have to continue and make sure that we document all
the information that we have and a lot of people still have not come
forward. Our residential survivors need to be recognized and dealt with, the
problems that came along and that were sustained from the residential
Senator Patterson: I know the residential
schools issue has been tied up with lawyers and the settlement of the case.
Do you feel that the protocol outside that process, which I fear lawyers
would dominate, with all due respect to the profession I belong to. Do you
feel that this protocol, the opportunity for bilateral negotiations is the
route to dealing with this unresolved issue?
Ms. Pruden: I think it certainly could be.
I think as a community leader with an affiliation to the Métis Nation
British Columbia we really wholeheartedly support the Métis National Council
and our national president Clem Chartier in continuing to engage, to
advocate, to negotiate for renewal of a national Metis Nation protocol. We
need protocols like that as a framework within which we can explore our
issues in a number of different areas, residential schools and beyond,
recognition, many of the other challenges that we are facing. The
implementation of the outcomes of the Powley case, for example, the
agenda of the Metis Nation. I think it represents an incredible opportunity
and as community grassroots leadership we definitely support our Métis
National Council in continuing to engage federally in that way.
The Deputy Chair: I have two short final
questions with regard to harvesting. Is MNBC involved in managing the
activities of Metis harvesters in B.C. and how do the Metis harvesters
identify themselves to provincial and federal officials that might be
Ms. Katernick: I cannot speak at length
about that but what I can tell you is yes, Métis Nation British Columbia
does issue harvesting cards. We do issue them with or without hunting and we
absolutely track their activity quite extensively and in depth. We have been
issuing harvesting cards since November 2008, I believe. To date, there are
approximately 375 harvesters registered in the Province of B.C. A lot of the
work to date has been done on collecting their historic harvester practices
going back one, two, three and four generations and mapping it out, so we do
have quite an extensive process for tracking their traditional land use in
the province here. In B.C. right now it does not afford them the opportunity
to be able to go out and harvest or fish at this current time. It is quite
limited and restricted to migratory waterfowl at this current point in time.
The Deputy Chair: With that, I wish to
thank our witnesses for their presentations.
We will now hear from the British Columbia
Métis Federation represented by President Keith Henry and Vice-President
Daryl Piper. With them at the table we have George Goulet and Terry Goulet,
who are appearing as individuals.
Witnesses, we ask you to limit your remarks to
five minutes and your presentations will be followed by questions from the
senators. Please proceed.
Keith Henry, President, British Columbia Métis
Federation: Thank you, Madam Chair. My name is Keith Henry and I am
President of the B.C. Métis Federation. I want to start by acknowledging the
territory of the Coast Salish people, in particular the Squamish, Musqueam
and Klahoose nations. We have provided a submission to the Senate
themselves. I believe everyone has been provided a copy and we are going to
quickly go through it given the timeframe.
I want to quickly introduce myself. I am Metis.
I am originally from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I have been involved in
the Metis movement since my grandparents dragged me to local community
meetings as a child. I have been around through a lot of this membership
conversation. I was there when the national definition was ratified in 2003.
I was there as a guest watching and it is a very passionate issue for a lot
of our people in communities across this country right now. Vice-President
Daryl Piper will quickly introduce himself and we will start into the
Daryl Piper, Vice-President, British Columbia
Métis Federation: Thank you, madam chair. I also would like to
acknowledge the Coast Salish, Salteaux and Squamish nations. I am Daryl
Piper and I became involved in Metis issues roughly in about 2004 and have
done various things in the Metis community since then, so I have been quite
busy in the Metis community.
I would like to start off with who the B.C.
Métis Federation is. We became incorporated in June of 2011 in response to
some serious concerns related to another organization known as the Métis
Nation of British Columbia, also known as the MNBC. There were a number of
issues including the mismanagement of funds and dysfunctional governance.
There are roughly 60,000 self-identified Metis in the province of British
Columbia and the MNBC provides a variety of services and they also address
Metis identification as well.
The B.C. Métis Federation today feels there has
been a lack of meaningful action by governments to address serious financial
issues within the MNBC which has had losses in the millions of dollars to
taxpayers. There has been serious division within the Metis communities
themselves and, of course, we also have the problem of the identification
issue. The consequence of this government inaction is that there has been a
number of direct impacts on our Metis people and our section 35 rights have
yet to be recognized.
Then we have historic communities such as Kelly
Lake that have virtually been ignored by the province, and the province has
stated repeatedly that there are no section 35 rights to Metis people in
B.C.. Of course, we disagree with that. The federal government also remains
inconsistent in various approaches to recognize Metis rights.
The main issue is the impact of how governments
have supported MNBC and how services have been provided only to MNBC
members. For example, we are going to submit a page here from a MNBC
newsletter submitted publicly in the spring of 2012 where the MNBC
themselves only provide services to their membership. However, all
governments are aware that MNBC does not represent all Metis people in B.C.,
and the registry is only about 10 per cent of the total self-identified
population here in Metis.
The B.C. Métis Federation is formed by a group
of volunteers who wanted to seek change and there is a vision to rebuild our
dysfunctional governments as we see it. Key issues are Metis rights and
identification and they should be addressed by all Metis people. Our current
board members are volunteers. We have representation from here in the Lower
Mainland as well as all parts of the province.
In the documents that we submitted to you, we
show our breakdown and we show our community volunteers. and our office
staff is also volunteer as well. We have an office here in Vancouver on
Kingsway and we are currently financed by donations from our board members,
people in the community, as well as our volunteer office staff. Everybody is
committed to our sustainability with the B.C. Métis Federation.
Approximately $70,000 has been raised and we put that into cultural
activities. We believe in building relationships with Metis communities and
families and we believe that is very significant. The B.C. Métis Federation
has led a number of regional community-based meetings and forums and they
have been attended by over 30 community and regional meetings in the last
year. We have had regional engagement, and between March and May of this
year we reached 14 communities and over 300 Metis people attended. The B.C.
Métis Federation released a comprehensive report as a summary of the
community and regional engagements, and there was growing support for
genuine interest in rebuilding the Metis governance here in B.C.
The B.C. Métis Federation has designed
agreements to support our mandate and we have over 6,300 members at present.
We have signed statements of cooperation with various communities, including
Vancouver Métis Citizens Society, Kelly Lake Métis Settlement Society, Nova
Métis Heritage Association in Surrey, Fort St. John Métis Society, the North
Saanich Michif Society on the Island, Dawson Creek Métis Federation, the
Northern Interior Métis Cultural Society and the Métis Veterans Association.
We have signed also with some outside agencies, including the Canadian
Aboriginal Veterans, the Prince George Urban Aboriginal Justice Society, the
Kikino Child and Family Services, White Buffalo Aboriginal Health Society
and the Metis Commission for Children and Family Services. So going forward
the B.C. Métis Federation will focus on discussions with all Metis
organizations or service delivery agencies.
Mr. Henry: I am going to carry on with Part
2, if you are following the document at all. Quickly talking about
membership, we initiated the organization and we identified membership
through our bylaws. Our bylaws are somewhat consistent with what we see in
terms of what is known as a national definition, self-identify as a Metis,
be of historic Metis ancestry, accepted by the Metis community and distinct
from other Aboriginal peoples. We essentially follow that and respect sort
of the required genealogical information that is needed to validate
I am going to skip up to number 3 on page 9.
Identity continues to persist as a hot topic, and it is not going away any
time soon. Many people believe the MNBC and the national official definition
is too restrictive. Metis leadership claims that the MNBC citizenship
process is objectively verifiable. For many among them their Metis identify
flows from a very definite view of 19th century history and geography with
no room for divergence. Their identity has become standardized, frozen to
look and act a certain way for political purposes. Many Metis people who
themselves fit the definition are uncomfortable with this restrictive
posturing because of its colonial underpinnings. Despite all the progress in
defining themselves, Metis across Canada will struggle with inconsistent
acknowledgement of rights by governments as well as jurisdictional
avoidance. Governments deny our historical rights and choose to let the
courts lead the day.
The Deputy Chair: President Henry, I am
sorry to interrupt you, but we do have restricted time. If you could tighten
up your comments, it would be much appreciated.
Mr. Henry: Sure. The commentary speaks for
What we are just trying to get across to the
Senate is that the Metis definition in British Columbia leaves a lot to be
desired right now. There is a significant division in how we are identifying
people. There is not enough research done and there is a significant amount
of what we believe is Metis history. In our concluding comments we state
that not all First Nations have one culture, one approach to who is a First
Nation. First Nations in this province alone are made up of several nations.
We believe the Metis history and the research would show something similar.
Yes, we have some common identity and cultural practices, but clearly there
is still a lot of history to be still researched in this province. We have
been mandated to hold a summit that we will be convening shortly. We will be
interested to see what comes out of that because we believe the people in
B.C. are still yet to have a full disclosure on this issue.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
We will have a brief presentation from George
and Terry Goulet. Are you doing separate presentations?
Terry Goulet, Metis Historian, as an
individual: Yes, separate.
Klahowya Tillicum — welcome, friends. My
greeting to you is in Chinook Jargon, or Chinuk Wawa, the traditional
trade Michif language of the Pacific Northwest. We are here today to discuss
the Metis of British Columbia and in doing so we have no alternative but to
discuss also the Metis across Canada. I am going to try and be as brief as I
can. To do this at the end of this session we will provide each of you with
a copy of our book, The Metis in British Columbia: From Fur Trade
Outposts to Colony, so as to provide you with a better picture of that
historical Metis that is just as valid as the homeland of the Metis in the
very confined definition that has been presented to you by the Métis
National Council and the various Metis organizations across Canada.
We also will be providing you with a portfolio
and we have copies for the other members of your committee as well as your
researcher. In that portfolio we have an article on the identity of the
Metis versus the Powley case, which is extremely important because
there have been a lot of misconceptions given to you concerning the
Powley case. We also have an article on what is a nation, and I think
that is something that needs to be addressed. Together with that we are
giving you a folder showing various historic Metis sites and locations
within British Columbia which will provide you with a very specific idea of
George Goulet is Metis; his parents were Metis;
his grandparents were Metis; his great grandparents were Metis. His great
grandfather was Pierre Delorme. Pierre Delorme was a member of Louis Riel's
provisional government. He was the first member of Parliament for the
federal constituency of Provencher when Manitoba became a province. He also
was the first member of the legislature of Manitoba from the constituency of
St. Norbert. At that time you could be a member of both constituencies. That
was on his mother's side. On his father's side, his great uncle was Elzéar
Goulet, the Metis martyr who was stoned to death on the banks of the Red
River for his involvement in the Red River resistance. Today he proudly
wears the Elzéar Goulet sash at this meeting.
What we want to do is express to you the
importance of opening a dialogue on Metis identity in a much broader concept
than is presently being offered to you.
I now defer to George.
George Goulet, Metis Historian, as an
individual: Good morning, senators. The matters I am presenting you
today are my own opinions and not of anyone else or any other organization.
The first opinion is when it comes to Metis
identity there is no one-size-fits-all. I will give you examples. We have
the Metis political organizations. The two national organizations as you
know are the Métis National Council and Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. The
Métis National Council adopted a national definition about ten years ago,
and we find that very restrictive, flawed in many respects. For example, it
refers to a Metis being a person of historic Metis Nation ancestry. That is
like saying an Italian is of Italian ancestry or a horse is a horse. There
are other examples but the point is it is restrictive. On the other hand,
the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is too loose, too broad. It essentially
amounts to self-identity, so there has to be something in between.
On the constitutional legal aspect, you are all
aware of course of the Powley case decided in 2003. When this came
out we thought it was a great win for the Metis people. In hindsight, it has
proven very problematic. The way the Supreme Court defined a Metis community
is far too restrictive. They defined it in terms of a geographic area. The
Metis community is far more than that. It is a community of kinship, a
community of shared relationships, a community of history, heritage and
culture. That does not appear in the judgment. We have other problems with
that judgment. If a Metis wants to establish his claim under section 35, the
court said it would have to deal with matters on a case-by-case basis. If a
Metis has to go through numerous courts to establish a constitutional right,
and probably bankrupt himself in the process, that is not much of a right.
The next aspect of Metis identity is
self-identity. This is used by Statistics Canada, by many children and
family service groups and by schools. It was even used by the Province of
British Columbia in a press release last year when it referred to 60,000
Metis in the province. We are sure many of them simply self-identify.
The approach we favour — at least I favour and
I believe my wife Terry does — is a sociocultural approach to being Metis.
Being Metis is far more socio-cultural than biological, political or
constitutional. It means someone feels in the depths of their being that
they are Metis. As Senator Raine said a few moments ago, they feel it in
their heart and soul. To be accepted as a Metis in this category requires
that one have some Aboriginal ancestry, that they participate in the Metis
community, they contribute to it, they are accepted by it and recognized by
I will give you an example of quite a famous
Metis in Canada, David Bouchard, a well renowned Metis author, a member of
the Order of Canada and Governor General award winner. He was President of
the Victoria Métis Council. When he applied for membership in the Métis
Nation of British Columbia, he was rejected because he could not prove his
ancestry in the Metis Nation homeland which is ill defined and we do not
think extends to Ontario or west of the Rocky Mountains, so we think there
should be a more liberal, generous — pardon the word "liberal" — liberal,
generous interpretation. I am using the expression used by the Supreme Court
of Canada in the Sparrow case in interpreting the Constitution and we
do not think they interpret it in that way in the Powley case. Thank
Ms. Goulet: I think the word you might
appreciate is "inclusive."
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much for
your presentations. Before we begin, I was wondering if I could ask the
Goulets to submit a short written summary of what you have said today. You
clearly have written materials, written books and so on, but if you could
encapsulate what you gave to us this morning, we would be glad to receive
Mr. Goulet: We would be happy to do that.
Ms. Goulet: We are more than happy to do
The Deputy Chair: The whole panel has
presented a view on the whole issue of Metis identity. With any kind of
identification there will always be the issue of whether it is too stringent
or not stringent enough. I think the crux of what you are saying today is
that the stringency is perhaps too tight in that it is disallowing some
members whom you think should be included.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much for
We know that this issue is very complex and
that there are probably more questions than answers. In one of the
presentations we heard is the need to define quite tightly who is a Metis in
order to ensure that privileges reserved for them are filled by the proper
people. For instance, at the University of Saskatchewan in the medical
faculty they have ten seats reserved for Aboriginal and Metis people, and
they are now quite concerned that there are organizations who give out Metis
cards without following the national definition that seems to be accepted by
My question is for Mr. Henry. Is there no way
you can work with the Métis Nation of British Columbia to resolve the
differences so that there would be one organization, one registry for Metis
people in British Columbia, or could you define your roles differently and
somehow work together, or are the roots of your organizations too different?
Mr. Henry: I will try and answer that the
best I can. The issue of working together has never been one that we have
not wanted. I just want to be clear with the Senate. We have invited that
conversation on several occasions. The issue of politics in B.C. has been
divided so significantly because of issues not necessarily around only
identification. So we have been on record, we have sent letters. That has
not been our issue, to not sit down and talk, just to be very frank about
Our Metis federation came about because there
is a groundswell of people who are saying that they do not want to be
involved in this anyway. I think it is past that pendulum. I have been
involved in Metis politics for many years, and I have seen organizations
rise and fall. I think right now in B.C. the pendulum has swung so far. The
financial and administrative issues facing that organization are
substantive. The question that a lot of us have out there and have had for
several years, although federal and provincial officials have continued to
stand by and allow it to unfold, is in my view substantive. When the public
fully realizes the gravity of the situation I think it is going to be a
substantive issue that someone will have to answer for. You cannot let a
non-profit organization go millions in debt. The question will become what
could have prevented this, because that fundamentally for many of our
leadership today is what really split our nation apart.
I say this with the utmost respect. There is a
lot of rhetoric about what people are doing and what they are not doing. At
the end of the day our people want their culture, their programs, their
service delivery taken care of in a responsible manner, and that has led to
some substantive issues. Again, in saying that, organizations have to be
willing to have a respectful dialogue and take responsibility for the
situations. In B.C., I just think that the pendulum has swung so far that I
think it is going to be next to impossible at this point.
Senator Raine: I see that you accept as the
genealogical qualifications you require membership in the Métis Nation B.C.?
Mr. Henry: That is correct.
Senator Raine: So that work that is being
done is not the issue?
Mr. Henry: I think that the work that has
been done so far is sufficient. We are not sitting around. We have been
mandated. We went around the province again in the last few months and this
identification issue is very big for the Metis people in British Columbia.
Myself, I am one of those people that came from scrip, came from the
homeland, but there is a lot of mixed blood ancestry here that George and
Terry are referring to that has yet to be fully realized. Under the current
system, all these people are not included in that process. We are trying to
figure out how to address that. This has impacts on what they can access for
services in some respects; it impacts on having a voice at a table with
government. There are all sorts of reasons why this needs a serious look. We
accept part of it but what we are saying is we have been mandated to have
another summit about this because people want to reopen it. We know it is a
I am a Metis studies major from university as
well. I understand the history of what I have been taught so far and my own
family history. What we are trying to say to governments is — when I hear
things like we should tighten it up, it is easy to say that in places where
it is very clear. In British Columbia there is been very minimal scrip in
this province, although there was mixed blood communities. Does that mean to
say that we do not have it clearly defined that these people are not Metis?
I do not agree with that statement. I would never agree with that.
Senator Raine: I appreciate that.
In your studies, did you ever study the Sami
people in Norway?
Mr. Henry: I have actually, not studied
them but I have read some literature. I do a lot of Aboriginal tourism and I
was very surprised with indigenous tourism of the Sami people. It is quite
interesting. I found it similar in a lot of respects, some of their history
and their story.
Senator Raine: We were privileged in the
Senate to have a presentation by members of the Sami community and their
parliamentarians. By self-identifying as a Sami person, you can decide to
vote for a Sami representative in the parliament. They have some specific
rights in the North with some fishing territory and also they are the only
ones allowed to herd the reindeer. There are Sami people living throughout
Norway. When I asked them what entitlements Sami people get in the rest of
Norway apart from the North. They sort of looked at me as if I was crazy and
they said Norway has very good social programs and good education programs
and health and we have access to that just like any Norwegian. I said, why
would anyone want to be a Sami then? To preserve our language and culture,
and that is what binds them together. It might be a good model for the
The Deputy Chair: Do you want to make a
Mr. Henry: I have one quick comment. That
is what we are trying to get across to the committee. When I hear George
talk about sociocultural, I think of the Michif language my grandparents
spoke. What I heard around the table, there is not a lot going on to help
preserve that right now and we have a deep-seated fear about how we maintain
that. My historic community was from around Batoche, but I am here in
British Columbia. That does not mean I am not Metis anymore. It just means
that maybe I have a different understanding — I am not going to shoot a
moose, if there ever was one, on Whistler. That is the issue that we are
trying to wrestle with and I think that needs to be seriously addressed.
The Deputy Chair: As a follow-up to the
membership issue, what would you estimate is the percentage or the
proportion of people who fall out of the category of being eligible for
membership in MNBC?
Mr. Henry: Of the self-identified Metis
people in B.C., I would say it is well over 50 per cent. It is substantive.
Of the 60,000, I would think it is at least 50 per cent if not more. There
are the Hudson Bay Company forts and the Northwest Company in B.C.. With
respect to how those communities integrated, a substantive number of people
are sort of sitting in limbo, do not have representation, do not take part
in their own governance which is another inherent right, so it is a
substantive issue in British Columbia.
The Deputy Chair: You were saying there
were fur trading posts in B.C. I think there were forts in the Interior, in
the Okanagan Valley. Those people would have established a community around
the fort and would never have participated in the scrip, as it were, so
those types of communities would not be eligible according to the definition
of membership by MNBC. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Henry: Yes, that is what I am saying.
It is important for this Senate committee to have an awareness that the
scrip commissions stopped around 1899. They just did not bother coming to
many of the communities. A couple pieces of land scrip were issued, and I
gave one example. We have been able to identify a couple of handfuls that we
have been researching as half-breed scrip, but there are still a lot more. I
think Terry or George could answer better because they have done a lot of
research around the fur trade posts.
Ms. Goulet: What you have to go back to is
the North West Company and their job. The Powley decision
specifically states, and this is the pearl of the gem in the Powley
decision, that the genesis of the Metis people occurred post-European
contact and pre-European control. Now, prior to the Powley case, all
Aboriginal cases appearing in the courts had to prove pre-European contact.
So what you have to look at is when did the people come into British
Columbia, the Europeans? As Bruce Dumont admitted, they came in the late
1700s. They came with the three great explorers and they all belonged to the
North West Company. They all built forts. Prior to their merging with the
Hudson Bay Company in 1821 under the continuing name of the Hudson Bay
Company there was something like 71 forts in the Pacific Northwest, and
those communities built up around them. They became the cities, the towns
and the communities that are part of British Columbia today.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that
I have one other question with regard to the
membership cards that the B.C. Métis Federation issues. What advantage would
there be to having one? Who would recognize them? Would that make a
cardholder eligible for harvesting or programs or services?
Mr. Henry: Programs and services are
supposed to be for self- identified. Here is the crux of one of the issues.
Unfortunately often these programs and services get politicized so we would
argue that yes, they are supposed to be eligible for programs and services.
We see governance very different for the Metis people in this province. One
of the issues that has created some of political turmoil we are in is we
think there should be a complete separation between service delivery and
governance which is not there right now. That would make service delivery
objective and fairly accessible for everyone that is applying and that is
not the case we believe today.
Our card today, was launched this past year. We
have been quite pleased by it and we continue to meet with governments. In
fact, we just met with the provincial minister last week. We continue to
build awareness about what our organization is doing, and last week there
was finally some movement in terms of the province saying that they agree to
sit down and start some bilateral conversations with our organization
because we clearly have a legitimate mandated base from a number of
communities in this province. That presents a real future and growing
challenge to the whole issue in the sense of how programs are administered.
I will leave you with this: We have no interest
in delivering programs. There needs to be a provincial governing body that
provides policy and provides guidance for consultation and all the industry
and the other things we deal with on a day-to-day basis. We think right now
there is a lot of work that needs to be done to correct a lot of things.
The Deputy Chair: When we were in
Saskatchewan, we heard from representatives from the University of
Saskatchewan with regard to people trying to apply to the college of
medicine and they actually contacted the Saskatchewan Human Rights
Commission. With respect to your membership issues, do you have any dealings
with any of the Human Rights Commissions in British Columbia?
Mr. Henry: Not yet, but we have started to
look at that for sure. If I understand the question or the comment
correctly, we have serious concerns about people being left out of services
because they are a member of the B.C. Métis Federation. We absolutely are
looking at that. There are cases where people have gone in for support for
various programs and they have been told their card is not recognized. In
fact, I submitted a document to you as some evidence for the committee out
of the newsletter. I think it was referenced in the opening comments. It was
a document put out in the spring and it says Do Not Be Fooled, Know the
Facts and it gives a checklist of what you are accessible to with Métis
Nation B.C. registry or other B.C. Metis registry organizations and this
kind of stuff. Considering the fact that the organization benefits from
supporting or allegedly providing services to 60,000 people they cannot
politicize programs and services. I can understand the politics and the
governance, but I take strong exception to the program and service delivery
being politicized. This is why we continue to say to government there needs
to be a complete re-look at this and you have to take this serious because
this is, for all intents and purposes, discriminatory in its nature and it
is what it is.
Senator Raine: Everything you are saying is
also valid for off-reserve Aboriginals, urban Aboriginals. Are we maybe
going down the wrong path of having a differentiation in services based on
your roots as opposed to based on your needs?
Mr. Henry: There was a time in my life when
I believed the Metis-specific agenda was very important but seeing what has
unfolded — and I have been around this for a lot of years. There is a
difference between program and service delivery versus cultural/political
governance in a lot of ways. I would have to agree that this whole urban
Aboriginal approach needs to be seriously looked at. Who is delivering
services? Who is accountable for the services? Who is really the voice of
that urban community?
Take the Aboriginal off-reserve people in B.C.
The current organization is defunct. It is really not functioning in terms
of providing a voice for these people to help shape the programs and
services, so always I wonder how these programs and services they keep
handing them out are being guided? Who is supporting them? I think there
needs to be a broader approach to urban programming for sure.
Senator Patterson: I thought Mr. Goulet had
an interesting take that the Powley case looked like a great leap
forward, which turned out to be a disappointment, if I am correctly
summarizing what he said.
Mr. Henry, I noted in your presentation that
essentially you are rejecting the Supreme Court's view of the definition of
a Metis as being narrow based on a colonial history and too restrictive. I
think that the Métis National Council and the Métis Nation of B.C. are
taking a different approach that Powley is the way to define Metis. I
am not slavish to the Supreme Court. They could well be wrong and probably
have been, but how do you overcome that? It is a respected body and, for
better or worse, their ruling has shaped government policy. How do you
justify or explain how this can be gotten around? I hope this is not a
difficult question because I am asking myself that same question, how do we
get around that with all the weight of the Supreme Court?
Mr. Henry: I will do my best to answer it.
I can only share what my understanding is of that case.
The Powley case did not define the
Metis. It set the test for how Metis harvesting rights could be asserted. It
did not define the Metis. It said if you want to exercise hunting, some sort
of harvesting practice, here are 15 points critical to meet that test. So
there is a difference between exercising your rights and identifying as a
Metis person who lives outside of your area which is the issue a lot of
Metis who have migrated to other parts of Canada face. I am not saying that
the definition or the Supreme Court of Canada got it wrong. They did not
define the Metis. In fact, in the court ruling they said it is not a
definition. What they said is, "Here is the test." In B.C. itself because of
the lack of research, I think there are historic areas of this province
where Metis could exercise section 35 rights. I absolutely am convinced of
that from the initial work we have been doing.
You are going to hear from Kelly Lake right
away. They have a long, well-known history in this province. They do not
work with the Métis Nation in B.C.; they do not work with Métis National
Council. Yet every season they go out and harvest, they hunt and fish and
Wildlife does not bother them. They did not need a card for that. There are
things happening irrespective of any political agendas or governance or
anything else. I think the struggle that we all have in identifying Metis is
how do we tackle those issues in a responsible way?
A lot of people within the MNBC — because I
used to be one of them — were also led to believe we were going to get
rights because we got that card. That is not true. I could have an MNBC card
and I can assure you if I go out fishing in B.C. in the summer, chances are
the Fish and Wildlife or someone is going to charge me and it has happened
many times over. In fact, I was at the MNBC when we lost the case called the
Wilson case in 2004. That card does not necessarily mean you are
going to get rights. I think a lot of Metis people across this country have
been somewhat at times misinformed as to the extent what these cards can or
cannot do. What I would say is we need a significant amount of public
education, and there needs to be some more support for understanding Metis
culture and how these communities are connected. I am not suffering as a
Metis person because the government does not recognize section 35. I like
the Sami example. I have access to services, but what I am striving for and
I hear a lot of families striving for is they want to keep their kinship
connection, social cultural connections and where communities are exercising
their rights, great, let us identify those because there is not a whole lot
left out there. If we do not do something to deal with this definition we
are going to have flawed misconceptions, which is what I am trying to submit
in my paper and that is what I am more concerned about than anything.
Mr. Goulet: Both MNBC and Powley
require an ancestral connection to historic community and recognition by a
current community. Well, literally that would mean that for me to exercise
my rights I would have to move back to Manitoba and sit on the corner of
Portage and Main and shoot a moose if it happened to come by because my only
ancestral connection is to Red River. I think the Supreme Court could
broaden that in a forthcoming case by saying that the Metis community in
Sault Ste Marie was a geographic area but a Metis community in a particular
area of the West was a community of kinship, cultural heritage and that sort
As far as the Sami people go, I wanted to
mention to Senator Raine that the mother of Renée Zellweger, the Academy
award winning actress, was a Sami.
The Deputy Chair: Time is our enemy and I
would like to thank our witnesses on the second panel for the presentations
and the evidence they have given to the committee.
Senators, we now welcome our third panel. Lyle
Letendre is President of Kelly Lake Metis Settlement Society Incorporated.
We also welcome June Scudeler, President of the Vancouver Métis Association,
and J. Paul Stevenson, Elder.
Witnesses, if you could please keep your
comments brief so that we have adequate time for questions. We are catching
a plane immediately after this hearing, so we will adjourn at 12 noon.
Lyle Letendre, President, Kelly Lake Métis
Settlement Society Inc.: My name is Lyle Letendre. I am President of the
Kelly Lake Métis Settlement.
[The witness spoke in his native language.]
I would just like to thank you for allowing me
to speak today on behalf of our community. I do not even know where to
start, but I can begin by talking about the atrocity that I have had to live
with in 51 years of this province, the discrimination by the Province of
B.C. itself, just the province. I just wanted to start with that.
Just a quick brief of who I am. A quick
insight, my grandfather Campbell looked at me at 17 years old when I had
asked him after coming from high school, "Who are we and where do we come
from?" Two words that came out of my grandfather's mouth: We are first born
to this country and first seen this country. Now I know what he meant, after
40 years, I understand what he meant. What he meant is the seven to eight
families that live in Kelly Lake today which is our fifth settlement over
the last 350 years were born to the 50 first families that came from France.
That is when we were born, that is what my grandfather meant when he said we
were first born here. What he meant is when we, both sides of my family as a
Campbell and a Letendre, first saw this country, both my great grandfathers
and my great uncles accompanied Alexander Mackenzie to the area I live today
— 1792, Baptise Bashon, Joseph Letendre. Joseph Letendre opened up a Hudson
Bay store in McLeod Lake in 1805. We have not left and we are still here.
I have been listening to some of the questions
that were asked out here and you guys need it brief and quick. Well, I am
probably only the half-breed in this province today, maybe Western Canada
and maybe even Canada that can hunt, fish and do what he wants in the
provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. I know a lot of my
cousins and lot of my friends in the Metis world hate the word the Powley
decision. Well, not for me. When that was read to me I nearly fell over. The
hair on my back stood up. I kept wondering, do these people know we exist?
The Powley ruling or decision was written for my settlement or
community to a T. Eight deputy ministers at a meeting asked me one time
about the Powley ruling and how we felt about that and our response
was, "Whoever wrote it actually wrote it for my settlement."
I just gotta go back. I have a real bad
dyslexia problem and it is really hard to read anything I write or anybody
else writes. It comes from here in my heart. That is all I can say. I am all
over the place, but at the end of the day it all comes together.
Guys, I just want to say — like Keith said
before — we have not joined an organization in 25 years. The reason is
because I have seen politics since 1970 in this province. This is not the
first time this happened. I do not need an organization like the MNBC to
tell me how to hunt, speak my language or go fishing because I do that and
Forty per cent of the population in Kelly Lake
still speaks and understands the language. There is no murder, suicide. We
do not have alcoholics or drugs addicts and our kids have never been in the
welfare system ever since we existed and lived together. Again, I could sit
here for days and days talking about my history and who we are, but the
Senate is here to ask basically what a Metis person is and how we feel what
a Metis person is. That one is really hard to answer because of who we are
and the uniqueness of where we come from.
Kelly Lake if you want to know, because nobody
ever knows where it is, is 90 kilometres south of Dawson Creek, 90
kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie, Alberta. Grande Prairie was settled
by the same families of Kelly Lake in 1803. I forget what year the
government first showed up in Grande Prairie and then we started claiming
land titles there. Kelly Lake is a land-based settlement. It is one of the
very few if not only the land-based settlement in Canada for Metis people.
What that means is we live all around the lake. Every family, and even
myself, we are all landowners. We own our own land. It has always been that
way. Grande Prairie, Jasper House, Lake St. Ann's outside Edmonton, Edmonton
itself, Batoche where both my grandfathers, Xavier Letendre and Louis
Campbell were in what we call a war, you call it a rebellion.
I always wonder why I come to these things to
always get asked these questions about who we are, where do we come from. It
is really hard, guys. It is really hard to be a half-breed. I come from the
North Peace, South Peace, whatever. If you really want to live like a
half-breed, come there. It is the same way. To answer a lot of these
questions and even to be here to say who we are, all I have got to say is
one day, and it is coming, we will get our Aboriginal rights the same thing
as our cousins, the Indians and the Eskimos, but we choose to do ours
differently. I really do not know what to say. It is easier for me to answer
The Deputy Chair: We will definitely be
asking you some questions. If we could have the witnesses from the Vancouver
Métis Community Association please.
June Scudeler, President, Vancouver Métis
[The witness spoke in her native language.]
I am President of the Vancouver Métis Community
Association. My ancestors are from Red River and Batoche. It is a mistake to
say that there is a single Metis Nation. Rather, Metis historically were
communities that came together in times of crisis or of celebration. Metis
have been and remain community-based. Each community has its own definition
of Metis and decides who to accept into their community. "Metisness" is not
based on government definition. Being Metis is not about having a card to
prove your "Metisness." The Metis political bodies are playing a numbers
game if they assume everyone who self-identifies as Metis supports them. By
following government's imposed definitions Metis organizations are
jeopardizing traditional independence and becoming an agency of the crown.
Because the Government of Canada funds certain organizations it does not
give these organizations the right to decide who is or who is not Metis. By
following government-imposed definitions Metis organizations would not be
following the historical tradition of self- definition. Community members do
not need to originate from the so-called historic homeland to be Metis as
there are many Metis communities with a long history prior to the settlement
of the West.
The Supreme Court of Canada definition of Metis
stipulates that a community must have a distinctive collective identity and
its members must live in the same geographic area and share a common way of
life. It makes no mention of the historic homeland.
The Vancouver Métis Community Association uses
self-definition and community involvement as the fundamental criteria for
acceptance in our society. Traditionally, Metis people would adopt children
who did not have families or whose families could not take care of their
children. We take into account individual people's life stories to help them
be a part of the Metis community. For example, adopted children or children
in care who do not have access to genealogical records; are we supposed to
tell them that if they do not fit narrowly defined criteria they cannot be
part of a Metis community? The Vancouver Métis Community Association started
the Walk Bravely Forward initiative, which worked with incarcerated
Aboriginal people, who are very proud to receive their Metis cards. Who are
we to tell these people that they are not Metis? Our goal is to develop a
safe and healthy community that welcomes our Metis brothers and sisters. We
certainly have no intention of becoming an historical society reliving a
brief period in our long history.
We should not be letting the judicial system
dictate who is Metis. For example, the Powley decision leaves out
urban Metis, some of whom have lived in cities for generations. An
individual must first demonstrate membership in present-day Metis community
that can trace its existence back to an historic Metis community with a
distinctive culture, which is an impossibility for many Metis. Urban Metis
organizations like the Vancouver Métis Community Association are still
communities, albeit in an urban setting, which is reflective of the reality
of most Metis.
The emphasis on the historic homeland
definitions means that Metis people are going backwards in time, rather than
focusing on contemporary Metis achievements. We are bickering over what
happened in the past. We need to be concentrating on the future of Metis
identity and the future of our children's children, not on the past. Thank
The Deputy Chair: Mr. Stevenson.
J. Paul Stevenson, Elder, Vancouver Métis
Community Association: I co-wrote that.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that
concise and informative summary.
Mr. Letendre, I was not quite sure if you were
saying your community did fit the Powley decision or did not fit the
Mr. Letendre: I apologize. I owe more to my
people and community than what I am doing. I should be more professional,
but again, I get so nervous and so dyslexic. Yes, we do fit the Powley
decision better — like I told one deputy minister, better than the O.J.
Simpson glove. She was surprised at that, but we do. We fit that to a T.
Every criteria the Powley ruling has put out we do fit it. The only
reason we are not in litigation today is because our lawyer passed away and
my community has nothing. Then when we did put our litigation against the
provincial government in 2007 I gave the Attorney General's office three
extensions on our piece of paper and on September 10, 2007, they did not
strike our lawsuit, but our lawyer passed away and his law firm would not
take it on. We were at the edge of that. The last 20 years because of the
diversity, certain families do not want to be Indians. We still call them
Indians. We do not call them First Nations. I apologize for that but that is
just there. Ever since then the government has used that against us because
we are —
(The witness spoke in his native language)
We are half-breeds. It runs in our blood being
strong and standing for who we are. Yes, we do fit the Powley ruling
to a T. That is why I say I can hunt in Batoche, Lake St. Ann, Jasper House,
Grande Prairie and in Kelly Lake under the ruling itself because of the
The Deputy Chair: Do you fit the definition
of Metis that the Métis National Council has?
Mr. Letendre: It would not matter in the
next 300 years any organization can come up with a definition the Metis
people of Kelly Lake would fit it.
The Deputy Chair: Fit any definition?
Mr. Letendre: If you were first born to
The Deputy Chair: You are saying first born
as opposed to homeland, the Metis Nation is defining the Metis homeland
whereas Powley I do not think specifically mentions homeland.
Mr. Letendre: Here is what my grandfather
said — my uncle Dennis was really strong in the politics in Manitoba, Red
River: Unless some white guy fell out of a plane in the 1600s, then you are
looking at homeland. My family comes from the Trois-Rivières of Quebec. That
is when the first French came here. That is where we were born, not
Manitoba. Fort Garry was founded and lived in by the same families of Kelly
Lake long before it was called Fort Gary.
The Deputy Chair: You said that Kelly Lake
is a land-based settlement. How did that come about, and do you own your own
land? Is it fee simple, private or communally owned by the whole group?
Mr. Letendre: How it came about is the same
way Lake St. Ann came about. You come to a place. You do not want to be
called a squatter. You are already farming it, just you and your family and
the other families, and all of a sudden the government comes in long after
you are there and says you have to start paying for your land, however that
works. That is how we did that.
We did have scrip in the Campbell family. They
took 160 acres of Grande Prairie at the site of the town itself is also
taken by the Campbell brothers and uncles, the whole town site.
Flying Shot is another settlement two miles out
and they are all privately owned. I own 95 acres; I inherited 10. All the
eight families own 165 acres and another individual owns 5 acres.
The Deputy Chair: I do not know if you
specifically mentioned it but somewhere I saw something talking about Bill
C-31. I am wondering if in your community whether some of your community
members have become Status Indians, and in that case does that create any
Mr. Letendre: That is what I was mentioning
20 years ago. When I was the president dealing with B.C. government they
respected who we were at that time and when industry and the boom came into
the northeast those individuals through political connections cut through
Bill C-31, and when the federal government finds out how that happened they
are going to get a pretty good surprise. You cannot turn an Iroquois into a
Stό:lō. That is who we are. Our background is Iroquois, Mohawk, Cree,
The Deputy Chair: Did you wish to make a
comment, Mr. Henry?
Mr. Henry: Just to provide some clarity on
that issue, because I know my friend Lyle can get very animated. There are
about 50 or 60 homes in Kelly Lake and eight or so major families. When Bill
C-31 came out, a number of those members who married into the adjacent
Stό:lō First Nation community started to get Bill C-31 through marriage.
There was an insinuation that by taking Bill C-31 in that area in the 1990s
there would be all these medical rights and all these things that would flow
as a result of them marrying into that.
Lyle and the Letendre family and many others
have continued to not take that approach, and there is a real political
struggle between people trying to assume now that that was originally a
Stό:lō community when in fact the Metis were there. The Stό:lō came there in
the late 1800s after the Metis had already been homesteading, if you can
call it that, in that area since the early 1800s. I think in Canada it is
one of the worst examples of how Bill C-31 can be helpful in some
communities, but in that situation it has really divided that community to a
really bad point today.
Mr. Letendre: Out of 420 members at Kelly
Lake, only 32 are Bill C-31.
Senator Ataullahjan: Lyle, your heart is in
the right place and you should not be nervous. We are here to learn and we
can learn a lot from you. I must commend you.
You said that you do not have a problem with
any alcohol, suicides. You seem to have gotten it right. What are you doing
Mr. Letendre: We still hold our culture; we
still speak the language. What I am wearing today, I made the hides. There
is elk, moose, deer on this. My great great grandmother did the beading.
This was handed down to me. I am really proud of it. This is my second vest.
Forty per cent still speak the language. It is
our culture. The grandparents literally take control. I guess that is what
keeps us together and it is passed down that way.
Senator Ataullahjan: It is interesting you
should say that because I have always felt that if you instill in children
at a very young age a sense of pride and community and they have strong
family ties, I think that helps them a long way.
Mr. Letendre: That is the history, the
stories. As kids and even today — we do not sit beside a little stove
anymore — the stories are still told because if they are not you will lose
your identity. Do not get me wrong. I have met so many people that used to
know the language but have lost it. Where I come from it is hard to grasp
how you lose a language. That is what makes it so different. We just got
phones in 1999 and they come from Alberta. I guess the isolation with the
culture really helps at the same time. It is hard to explain. Our elders
step forward and if something goes wrong they take over.
Senator Raine: The school in Kelly Lake is
teaching Cree. Is the school a Cree school?
Mr. Letendre: It is ironic you ask that.
The school was built in 1923. The reason is the people of Kelly Lake knew
what was going on at the residential school. Our people have never been in
residential school. We built our school in 1923. For that reason, we had a
school long before the District of Dawson Creek did. Our language was held
strong even though the odd teacher would give you a wrench of the ear, but
that was it. You still spoke your language because your parents would be
there, grandparents looking at the teacher not the same way we would be
looking at them. We held our language in that way. I am really proud of our
kids. Here goes your discrimination by government and district out of Dawson
Creek. They closed our school in 2001 over $20,000, but they turned around
and gave a German school $250,000.
Senator Raine: They closed the school in
Mr. Letendre: Yes, in 2001 for over
Senator Raine: But you did not let it stay
Mr. Letendre: Where are you going to get
the money? The government is not going to give you anything. The government
has never ever given any kind of help to my community.
We got power from Alberta in 1968, and we got
phones from Alberta in 1999. I have a driver's licence from Alberta and I
have insurance from Alberta. I get my mail in Alberta. Premier Lougheed came
to Kelly Lake in 1972 and built the road for us. My dad was the president in
1968 and he went to Edmonton for help because Victoria would not help us.
Senator Raine: What do the children do for
Mr. Letendre: They are all bused into
I went to school in Beaver Lodge. I was born in
Beaver Lodge. I went to junior high and high school, but now they go right
from day one.
I think I just mentioned where I come from, the
South and North Peace. If you want talk about discrimination and you want to
talk about being born a half-breed, you have to be there. I stood in front
of the board and told them God could be standing beside me and you are going
to close our school and they did anyway. Half the people that sat on that
school board were not even from Dawson, were not even born there, so they
did not know anything about us. This one lady from Prophet River that moved
there, she goes, "You know, Lyle, when the native kids in Prophet River come
to Fort Nelson they were just all carted in. I said, "Lady, we are not
animals." My grandfather brought Alexander Mackenzie here, and if it was not
for him I do not think Mackenzie would have made it, or Selkirk or Thompson.
It is hard really. How do you turn to your own government when they turn you
Senator Raine: How many children do you
have in your community now?
Mr. Letendre: There are about 425 of us,
but because we have five generations there are probably 10,000 of us. The
original is 400 and some. We have about 60, 70 kids in school, and we have
had 8 kids leave high school in grade 12 from an Aboriginal community of 150
because there are only 43 dwellings. Their first question is, "Lyle, I do
not want to get into a $50,000 hole; I do not even know if I will get work
after that. How do Ì move forward?" Every year we produce three to four kids
out of high school.
The Deputy Chair: That is good.
Mr. Letendre: But they do not go anywhere.
Running a saw because we are loggers, or on a rig, in a restaurant, is not
fair. Do not get me wrong. We have two nurses and four power engineers. We
have carpenters and electricians. We have all the trades because they felt
strongly they have to move to the next level.
The Deputy Chair: For the witnesses from
the Vancouver Métis Community Association, I got the impression that you
were saying that Metis who live in the urban centres like Vancouver are not
eligible for membership in MNBC, but, let us say, if I were a person who had
historical roots back to the Red River settlement —
Mr. Stevenson: I am not sure what the Métis
Nation B.C. eligibility is right now. Our organization predates that. We
were one of the founders of MNBC. We chose as things got political — Metis
politics is just exactly like White politics. I would like to say we learned
our lessons from Ottawa and Victoria well. The Vancouver Métis Association
is not affiliated with any political body. We made that choice when we
started to see the issues going on. I am sure if some of our members wish to
join that as well, that is fine with us. It is not an issue for us.
The Deputy Chair: Ms. Scudeler, you briefly
mentioned the Walk Bravely Forward initiative. You said you are working with
Aboriginals who are proud to receive their Metis cards. In this case are you
referring to Metis cards from your organization?
Ms. Scudeler: Yes, I am. Obviously they
have problems finding their genealogical records so we had a wonderful
worker who went in to prisons to work with people, and even some
non-Aboriginal people. There were incidences of another Metis organization
following our footsteps that we started and working with Metis people in
prisons and telling Metis people they do not qualify for a card. We are
like, "You self-identify as Metis, welcome to the community."
Mr. Stevenson: If I can add to that, I was
at a Native Brotherhood meeting. I am an honorary member of the Native
Brotherhood at the Pacific Institution. I am one of the people who goes out
to the institutions. We go out and normally it is a very welcoming
situation. There was tension and one of the lifers stood up and he said the
Metis were here last week and I am Mohawk and mixed blood. I have always
said I am a Metis and they told me I am not a Metis. What do you have to say
about that? I explained to them the difference between membership and
identity. As individuals we own our identity and nobody can take it, nobody
can change it. Our identity is ours. Membership is like a club, so if that
club will not let you in, there is probably another one that will and do you
really want to be in that club? That is how we handled that.
There is a big difference between Metis
identity and membership in various organizations. The three of us sitting
here all know each other, and we all have different roles as Metis people.
We all identify in our own way, the way our community identifies us. When
people join us, sometimes you will get a phone call saying, "What do I get?"
When you join the Vancouver Métis Community, you get the opportunity to
fellowship with fellow Metis and to volunteer. We have no federal funding
because we do not want it.
The Deputy Chair: That was my next
question. If I had a card, other than identifying as a Metis, what would I
get from it? You are saying just the opportunity to socialize and be part of
Mr. Stevenson: As our community. If you
have a Vancouver Métis card, you have access to HRDC programs as a Metis.
Education, sobriety and a safe and healthy community are the things we push.
The Deputy Chair: That card will allow you
to get services through an HRDC program?
Mr. Stevenson: Absolutely.
Ms. Scudeler: Yes. It also helps with
educational funding. I am a PhD candidate at UBC and it is recognized by
educational institutions as well.
Mr. Letendre: That is ironic. When you
mentioned about cards and what they give you. When I went to school in
Beaver Lodge, I knew a lot of people there. I remember some of them with the
native here, Indian here, except when the Metis organization of that
province were giving out programs, businesses, education, all of a sudden it
is, "Hey, where do I get my card?" The same people. That is why it is so
hard when people ask how do you identify who is who? Do not get me wrong,
ma'am. I met the Sami people. Four ladies came to Kelly Lake to see me make
hides and, yes, it was ironic to look at them and see that, yes, we are the
same people. That is funny. That is what these people look at in a card.
Ours is different. Ours is limited to the eight families of our community.
We turn to five elders to be accepted. I have people in my community that
have lived there for over 50 years that will never be a member because they
married in. That is not the way we do our membership because if I am going
to give a membership card from Kelly Lake you could survive on that card.
You do not need an education because you cannot eat a book, like my grandpa
used to say. You can eat chicken, muskrat, lynx, moose, deer. That card that
we give out will give that opportunity for that person. Again, we hunt
freely. I have challenged Fish and Wildlife for years. We came to a verbal
agreement seven years ago but last year I got so frustrated and phoned them
all summer and most of the fall and they would not come out.
The Deputy Chair: I have one other question
for you and that is with regard to community acceptance. I will ask both
groups to say a little bit about that. You are talking about communities and
people and you know who you are, in Kelly Lake you would have one answer to
how to determine who is a member of your community, but in Vancouver how do
you determine whether someone is actually part of the Metis community and
would be accepted by the Vancouver Métis Community Association? What factors
do you take into account and how does that work?
Ms. Scudeler: We do need some genealogical
proof, obviously, except in special circumstances. I answer the phones. I am
kind of volunteering in the office and just when we get phone calls from
people about their life stories and they may not have the exact, proper
genealogical information, they have gone to another organization and been
rejected. I think it is really important to take people's life circumstances
into account. They are so happy when they are accepted into our community
even though they might not fit the strict definition or have the genealogy
going back 200 years.
Mr. Stevenson: Our definition is in our
constitution. It is the same definition used by the Metis communities in
Alberta: mixed Aboriginal heritage, self-identifies as Metis and is accepted
into the community. How they prove that is where we have a little more
The Deputy Chair: That was the question. In
your case how is acceptance by the community established? How do you
determine that if I were to apply to you for membership?
Mr. Stevenson: Most people have some sort
of background where they know the Aboriginal family or there Metis origins.
A member of the Lavalle family from Duck Lake joined us just last week.
Well, we know the Lavalles from Duck Lake and it was really simple to put
that together. She did not have genealogy, but she had her birth certificate
from Duck Lake. That is how we do it. We do have one rule from Métis
Children and Families Services that handles children in care. If Métis
Children and Family Services of the Métis Family Commission contacts us, and
they have a child in care that Metis, we issue a card. We do not put that
child under any further stress.
Mr. Letendre: When someone asks me
something, I always say the Hutterites and the Mennonites are alive and
doing well and the same with Kelly Lake. It is so simple. We have been
together for 300 years. My wife is non-native. I broke the chain and got
heck, but still I did it anyway. If she was with me for 50 years, she would
not be accepted. It would have to go to an honorary, and it would be limited
as to what they would be able to do under the card.
Mr. Henry: Just to add to Lyle's comments,
Kelly Lake specifically accepts only members that have connections
genealogically to the community or married into the community. They do not
hold themselves out to be a provincial organization or anything like that.
They only deal with the membership from the community that they link
directly to the community.
Mr. Letendre: One more thing . When people
talk about what organization you are from or did this organization help you
or did this one help you, we have been accepted and given grants and
programs by INAC just as a Metis community, just as Kelly Lake Métis
Settlement without going through MNBC, the MNC or whoever is out there. It
was simple, phone INAC and challenge who we are and who they were and what
they stood for. In the last decade we received probably over $400,000 from
INAC or programs and that is to better yourself and what we are doing right
now is a biomass project and we are at the doorstep of BC Hydro. If INAC
must believe in who you really are or they would not have given us any
money. I remember when I phoned the guy laughed at me. He said, "Lyle, do
you know who you phoned?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "There is an
interlocutor." I said, "You better read your constitution because it does
not say interlocutor."
Mr. Stevenson: I would like to add one
thing. For clarity, the Vancouver Métis Community Association has over 2,000
members. We do mailings to membership so we track them. We do not track all
2,000 — they move and forget. Eventually you get a phone call saying, "I am
not getting my newsletter anymore." Have you moved? Our mail-out is about
900. We are in contact with them at all times. That is the size of our
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for the
Senator Patterson: Mr. Letendre, you are
obviously very independent and have shown a tremendous strength despite the
lack of recognition or support, but I am curious. I understand you have not
applied to be affiliated with MNBC, but are you recognized by MNBC? They
spoke about a number of charter communities. I would take it you are not
one; is that correct?
Mr. Letendre: The government forced an
issue a few years ago, join an organization. We refused and then we tried.
We tried to do this and we just stepped away from it. Still that feeling
again, watching politics since the 1970s, again, I refused. Again, being the
only Metis settlement, I need somebody to speak to me in my own language to
tell me what they can do for me. Again, they do not have to but they have to
be honest, truthful and they mean to do something for this province, they
mean to put the culture back into this province, they mean to better the
kids and the elders to keep them safe. If that does not happen do not even
bother us, do not even look at us, do not even talk to us because we have
nothing to do with you guys. Every time an organization like the MNBC comes
to Kelly Lake, the first thing they do is go running back to government:
"Jesus, look at these people, they are isolated, they need this, they need
that." Yes, they do. Do they get it? Does it come to Kelly Lake? No, it
stops somewhere, and it is probably here.
The Deputy Chair: We should have visited
Mr. Stevenson: For clarity, senator, the
charter communities that they referred to, those are community organizations
that the MNBC recognizes. It has nothing to do with anything else. Vancouver
Métis Community Association predates MNBC, but we are not a charter
Mr. Letendre: There are different
definitions for different organizations. Since 1971 this is probably the
fifth provincial organization. We are hoping the one just developed is going
to last longer than 10 years. Each one of them was given a decade apiece. It
seems that is the way it goes.
Senator Patterson: That is helpful. I also
notice that you asked Mr. Henry to sit with you, I believe.
Mr. Letendre: He is on the board.
Senator Patterson: Could you describe your
relationship with the federation, please?
Mr. Letendre: When things started coming
apart, which we knew they would, based on looking at things on the outside,
and we realized there was going to be another organization in the making, we
sat back for a couple years to see what is the organization looking for,
where are they aiming, where are they headed, and what is the purpose of
breaking away from the Métis Nation of B.C. I knew Keith before that but not
really to the extent because he was involved with MNBC. When he broke away
we began corresponding. The elders said he was the only honest leader they
ever met in this province, and I believe in the elders. They believe that
Mr. Henry and the organization would probably take us hopefully into the
next — into this era because we are not there yet. My community, my
settlement is not there yet and the recognition that goes along with that.
So our relationship with MNBC, we were — I was given the okay by the elders
over a year ago to actually join the organization for guidance and help with
the government, and it has been awesome ever since then. Again, we upped our
profile from probably minus ten to plus ten.
Mr. Henry: I should probably clarify for
the Senate as well that Lyle did ask me to sit up here.
I want to quickly add that we promised Kelly
Lake Métis Settlement, as a new organization, that we were not going to come
in and promise them programs and services. We had no interest in that. We
needed their help for culture. For example, we had a number of cultural
events last year — I did not actually answer that question very well in the
last sitting — we just held a community forum there because they are one of
the few historical communities that you can still go and actually live the
culture. We had a Metis cultural gathering in August and we did not — we
asked for their help so that we could show the urban Metis people what some
of the living culture looks like today and listen to the language and that.
It was in August and we had 350 people show up from all over pretty much
Western Canada. We could not believe it.
To the point of the relationship, the
relationship is very much about them not prescribing to our values and
beliefs. It is about us trying to lift Kelly Lake up as one of the few
remaining historic Metis communities in this country and making sure we do
not let them go away and look at the culture in a museum which is not all
that far away.
Mr. Letendre: He could not promise us
phones because we already had them.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that
Senator Raine: In following your story,
Lyle, you say right now you have 40 per cent still speaking, and you are
Mr. Letendre: Probably about 10 people
still speak the Michif language, the French-Cree mix. I understand it
because when you are sitting around the table having supper, if you do not
pass the salt you are going to get it. So I still understand a little bit of
that. Actually my grandmother could speak to a French lady. They could speak
to each other but she is speaking our language. We still do that.
Senator Raine: Is that the daily language
in the community?
Mr. Letendre: Yes, always. When you get up
in the morning and go to bed at night, that is what you hear all day.
Senator Raine: I am very dismayed that they
took your school away. We did a study last year on K to 12 Aboriginal
education. I am sorry we did not come to Kelly Lake. We went to Onion Lake
where they have a Cree immersion school and they are actually training their
teachers from within their own community. I do not know if you have ever
been there but it would be fabulous model for your school.
Mr. Letendre: Some of my ancestors are from
Onion Lake, Duck Lake — my great grandfather. Some ladies at home speak and
do the syllabics that you see on the top on the corner. My grandmother was
born and raised in Kelly Lake. She went to university when she was 59, 60,
61 just to get her certificate to do this. We do have two other teachers.
You notice in this we are building our own structure for a Head Start
program for teaching the smaller kids the language itself. I can say we have
six kids who can speak better than the teenagers today.
Senator Raine: I wish you the very best of
success in getting support for early childhood education and at least an
elementary school in your community. It does not make sense.
Mr. Letendre: Along with Mr. Henry we are
going to be talking to the Minister of Education. Again, you go to school at
Beaver Lodge, Hythe, Grande Prairie. The native liaisons — do not get me
wrong — are really nice ladies, but they are treaty. It just does not fit
that way. I am really tired of this melting pot, two peas in a pod. It does
not work that way. You do not see me with the headdress guys or drums. You
see me with a fiddle and a guitar. That is who we are. When you look at
education and wonder why in the last decade 30 kids left high school and
never got anywhere, where is their guidance? They really need that guidance
from kindergarten to grade 12. When we were in Kelly Lake we were pretty
happy and we were succeeding after grade 12. It was not because there was a
native liaison telling you where you were going to go. It was your parents
telling you where you were going. It was different generation today, ma'am.
It is so hard. Parents are trying to make a living and it is hard to make a
living and move away from Kelly Lake. It is really hard to take a kid past
Grande Prairie without being so scared to leave there and be alone. We need
that kind of help. We need that kind of guidance in our school system. I
wish it was still in B.C. but it is not; it is all in Alberta.
Senator Raine: There is an artificial
boundary anyway. The logical boundary for Peace River is Alberta.
Mr. Letendre: Exactly.
Senator Raine: That is where everybody came
Mr. Letendre: I inherited 10 acres right at
the B.C.-Alberta border because that is where my grandparents’ land starts.
Senator Raine: Anyway, keep up the good
The Deputy Chair: On behalf of all the
committee members, I would like to thank you for your presentations this
morning and wish you the best.
(The committee adjourned.)