THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL
OTTAWA, Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day
at 6:45 p.m. to examine and report on the legal and political recognition of
Metis identity in Canada.
Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good evening. I would like to welcome all
honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of
the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. They will either be
watching on CPAC or the Web, possibly. I am Gerry St. Germain from British
Columbia, originally from Manitoba, and I have the privilege of chairing this
committee with these wonderful members. The mandate of this committee is to
examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada
Today we will be hearing testimony relating to a specific order
of reference that authorizes us to examine and report on the legal and political
recognition of Metis identity in Canada.
The early meetings on this study have consisted of briefings from
various government departments that have provided us with information including
facts on current federal programs and services, the status of Crown-Metis
relations, general statistical information, and current legal issues, among
Before giving the floor to our witnesses, I would like to
introduce the members of the committee who are here tonight.
On my left is the deputy chair; from the province of Saskatchewan
we have Senator Lillian Dyck. Next to Senator Dyck is Senator Larry Campbell
from British Columbia.
On my right is Senator Ataullahjan from Ontario. Next to
Senator Ataullahjan is Senator Patterson from Nunavut. Next to Senator Patterson
is Senator Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia as well. Next to Senator
Raine is Senator Vernon White, also from Ontario. Last, but certainly not least,
from Quebec, Senator Jacques Demers, the coach.
Members of the committee, please help me in welcoming our
witnesses. They are from the North Slave Métis Alliance. With us tonight we have
the president, William Enge. Welcome, Bill. With him is Christopher Devlin,
counsel for the North Slave Métis Alliance.
Gentlemen, I believe you have a presentation. Keep it as brief as
possible. Senators will have questions, I am sure. If you are ready, proceed.
William (Bill) A. Enge, President, North Slave Métis Alliance:
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is a privilege to be here in front of another Senate
committee. I was here some time ago and it is nice to be back.
To begin, I want to thank this committee for the opportunity to
provide the views of the North Slave Métis Alliance, or the NSMA, on the legal
and political recognition of Metis identity in Canada. We believe these issues
deserve the detailed consideration that the Senate can provide.
My name is Bill Enge. I am the president of the North Slave Métis
Alliance. I have been president since 2004. With me is my legal counsel,
The issue of Metis identity is very close to our hearts because,
to put it simply, we know who we are. The North Slave Métis Alliance has
provided both Canada and the territorial government with the North Slave Métis
Alliance's organizational documents, our members' genealogy records, and
ethno-genesis studies that document our community's history. We have a clear
mandate to represent our Metis community, but both Canada and our territorial
government say they are not convinced we exist.
We have worked hard to self-organize and define the North Slave
Métis Alliance community. The paper we submitted to the committee explains that,
and I base my presentation on that paper.
Tonight, I will give you a very brief overview of our community
and then describe some of the challenges that uncertainty over Metis identity
causes for us. I will finish with our six recommendations.
First, NSMA's constitution and bylaws provide that no one who is
registered as an Indian under the Indian Act can be accepted as a member and
that the North Slave Métis Alliance represents only those Aboriginal
rights-bearing Metis of the Great Slave Lake area who assert their rights on the
north side of the Great Slave Lake. I see from the committee's website that
members were just in Yellowknife at the beginning of October. Yellowknife is in
our traditional territory. No other organization is mandated to represent the
Aboriginal rights of our members.
Second, our members trace their ancestry prior to the date of
effective European control. I, along with over 50 of our members, now have
detailed genealogical records that trace our ancestry back to a famous founding
father of the Metis of the Great Slave Lake area, François Beaulieu II, also
known as “La Patriarch.”
Finally, academic research, commissioned by Canada's Department
of Justice, documents that the Metis of the Great Slave Lake area have been on
the land and in existence prior to and since the explorations of that area by
Alexander Mackenzie and the North West Company of fur traders in 1790s. The
Metis community was vibrant and distinct from both Indians and Whites by the
NSMA's fundamental challenge is this: The contemporary Metis
community of the entire Great Slave Lake area is one ethnic community with a
common ancestry. However, the reality is that today the contemporary ethnic
community expresses itself through two main organizations. Those two are the
NSMA, on the north side of Great Slave Lake, and second, the Northwest Territory
Métis Nation on the south side of Great Slave Lake. I note here that until 2002,
the Northwest Territory Métis Nation was known as the South Slave Métis Tribal
Council, which I think makes the distinction between the two organizations even
The common law supports that two groups representing one larger
ethnic community is acceptable. That being said, I will ask you to direct any
legal questions about that to my counsel, Christopher Devlin.
The problem is that NSMA cannot get the Crown, neither federal
nor territorial, to engage with us. Canada and the government of the Northwest
Territories have chosen to engage with the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, our
cousins to the south, but not with us. The South Slave Métis Tribal Council, as
it was known when it was originally formed, and the North Slave Métis Alliance
both became legal entities around the same time. We have never been told why the
Crown engaged with them and not us. This situation is extremely frustrating.
This uncertainty about the identification of Metis communities is
harming our members. This spring we brought a case before the Supreme Court of
the Northwest Territories in an effort to make the government of the Northwest
Territories respect our members' Aboriginal right to harvest caribou. This fall
we are wrestling with the fact that we are excluded from the devolution
negotiations between Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and
Aboriginal organizations, including the Northwest Territory Métis Nation. The
uncertainty about Metis identity means that our members, the Metis who use and
occupy the area north of Great Slave Lake, are the only Aboriginal people whose
Aboriginal rights are being ignored in the Northwest Territories.
We note that Canada has already started a program to identify
Metis communities with which to engage. After the Powley
decision in 2003, the Department of Justice commissioned 15 studies, which
gathered vital information on Metis history and ethno-genesis and the date of
effective European control in the 15 study areas. Indeed, it is Canada's report
on the ethno-genesis of the Metis in the Great Slave Lake area of the Northwest
Territories that I referred to earlier. Canada's reports are clarifying some of
the uncertainty regarding Metis identity. It is worth pointing out here that the
Crown did not inform us of these studies: We stumbled on a reference to them on
the AANDC website, and an NSMA worker managed to get a copy of the study that
the Department of Justice did on our community.
I would also like to note that I paid for most of my own
genealogical research out of my own pocket, but Canada's report solidified our
Aboriginal rights assertions.
Thus, the NSMA recommends that, first, Canada complete the
identification of historic Metis communities across the nation that they started
just after the Powley decision.
The second recommendation is that Canada be sensitive to how the
Metis organize themselves into expressions of Metis identity. The analysis
should focus on how the ethnic community self-organizes to assert their
In Powley, the Supreme Court of Canada directed that we
must take into account the Metis' own conception of the distinct features of
their community. The goal is not to flatten out the individual nature of the
communities in question, but rather to listen for these differences and build a
legal and political construct that is elastic enough to accept different
histories into each identity. We are a very good example of this — NSMA in the
north, Northwest Territory Métis Nation in the south.
Recommendation No. 3 is that Canada establish policy directives
to require government officials to identify modern Metis communities on the
basis of the post-2003 Department of Justice studies of the 15 regions and any
other similar studies.
Recommendation No. 4 is that Canada contact those communities to
determine how they self-organize for the purposes of legal and political
Recommendation No. 5 is that Canada commit to engage those
communities as they have chosen to self-organize with respect to the full range
of potential federal initiatives, from consultations to self-government
negotiations. This is really asking that Canada be directed to finish what they
started in 2003.
Recommendation No. 6 is that Canada provide research and
genealogical funding to those communities so that they may gather the historical
documents required to assert their members' Metis rights. If the material is
required for Canada to make a decision, then Canada must help Metis
organizations, which Canada itself has identified, to produce the material they
are asking for.
I conclude by thanking the Senate for listening to our story and
our comments. We encourage the Senate to bring forward strong policy guidance
for a flexible policy that can recognize both the specific histories and the
modern identities of Canada's rights-bearing Metis.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Enge. How many people are there
in your community?
Mr. Enge: Our community is comprised of just over 500
The Chair: Does that include everyone?
Mr. Enge: That is correct.
The Chair: How much territory do you occupy? Are you on
Crown land or a settlement?
Mr. Enge: Metis reside in the cities, towns and villages
of Canada, with the exception of the Metis communities in Alberta. In the
Northwest Territories, the Metis are in the communities. In the Northwest
Territories it is a little different. There are only two Indian reserves there,
and the Metis are not part of the Indian reserve system; we are, as I said, in
the cities, towns and villages. In this context, many of our members reside in
The Chair: Is there an actual settlement there that could
be identified as the North Slave Metis settlement? I am not trying to put you on
the spot; I am trying to visualize it.
Mr. Enge: That is a fair question, Senator St. Germain. We
have a long history in the North Slave area and in our traditional lands. At one
time the North Metis were collectivized and lived in what they call Old Fort
Rae, which was a Hudson's Bay Company post, and that represents the origins of
the Metis in the North Slave area. Old Fort Rae was where the Hudson's Bay
Company set up their first trading post. Actually, even before the Hudson's Bay
Company there was the North West Company, and before them the Company of the
Sioux. The Metis did have concentrations of community in one area during the fur
The Chair: Did you speak Michif?
Mr. Enge: Absolutely, our Metis people did speak Michif
and several other languages. As you know, Metis were multilingual. They spoke
French, English, Michif, Dogrib and Chipewyan. One of the hallmarks of the Metis
was that they were good interpreters and transporters of the furs. Our people
were definitely multilingual in that context.
Senator Demers: Thank you for your presentation. It was
clear; I understood everything you said.
You have said that the rights of your 500 people are ignored.
That does not make sense. You said that your studies are not available and you
have no identity. It must be frustrating to have your rights ignored. Why do you
think your studies, your identity and your rights are not given to you?
Mr. Enge: That is a three-part question. On the first as
to whether the Crown has enough information in its hands to make a determination
that there are Aboriginal rights-bearing Metis people, the North Slave Métis
Alliance people, indeed they do. I mentioned in my presentation that the federal
Department of Justice undertook a study of the ethno-genesis of the North Slave
Métis people, or the Metis of the Great Slave area. They have an extensive
report about the history and the genealogy of the Great Slave Lake Metis. From
our point of view, they have enough information to have made the determination
that we are section 35 Aboriginal rights holders.
They have in their hands their own report, and I have
supplemented that report with my own historical documentation, including my
genealogy, Metis scrip records, baptism records, birth certificates and
historiography that was accepted about my ancestor, François Beaulieu II, who
was a very famous Metis, a noted founding father of the Metis in the Northwest
Territories. He was recognized by Canadian Heritage as a historic figure in the
building of Canada.
I placed all of that information and all of those documents into
the hands of both the federal and the territorial governments, to no avail. You
can appreciate that we are frustrated with the stonewalling response we are
getting from the Crown, notwithstanding all the efforts we have made to provide
them with the information they need to appreciate that we are an Aboriginal
You have to remind me of your second question.
Senator Demers: You touched on the fact of the studies not
being available. Your rights are ignored, which is very difficult for anyone to
accept. As to identity, you have no identity. That is as though you do not
exist. That must be frustrating.
Mr. Enge: It is very frustrating that the Crown's view is
that we do not exist, especially when you take into account that the history of
land claims in the Northwest Territories was such that there was a joint
Dene-Metis comprehensive territorial land claim negotiation that failed in 1990.
All the Metis in the Mackenzie Basin, including myself, were included in that
claim. Then along came the advent of regional land claims and suddenly the Metis
in the Yellowknife or the North Slave area, where I reside, became invisible. It
is frustrating because we were counted in the past and suddenly, with the change
in the way the Crown is dealing with the Aboriginal rights of the Dene-Metis, we
become invisible while the Metis in all the other regions are visible. We are
invisible and do not understand that. We have never been provided with a
rationale for why they refused to deal with us, notwithstanding our best efforts
to provide the Crown with the information they need to recognize that we are
section 35 Aboriginal rights holders.
Christopher Devlin, Counsel, North Slave Métis Alliance:
May I add a supplementary? We do not know the real reason why the government
will not engage, but the theory we have is that they do not approach the Metis
identity from a rights-based paradigm. The engagement that exists with other
Metis groups seems to be on a matter of policy, and it has been admitted to us
that it is a pre-Powley policy. Rather than taking the Powley test
and going through where the historic and contemporary rights-based collective
is, moving from there going forward, they pick and choose which group they want
to sit down and negotiate with.
It is very much a high-level policy; pick your favourite Metis
group. There is no foundational analysis done to say what is actually the
rights-based community that we should be engaging with. Instead of going through
the Powley analysis — determining that and moving from that point forward
and saying we should consult these folks, we should negotiate with these folks,
we should talk about engaging in program funding — they say instead we have a
pre-Powley policy. What is that?
Senator Dyck: I am getting a little confused. The first
question I am going to ask is with respect to scrip. At one point in time in
1921 I guess your community took scrip. Does that then give you a land base that
you can specifically define as Metis land?
Mr. Enge: Thank you for the question. The Metis that took
land scrip were mostly in parts of Canada where agriculture was possible, for
example, in Alberta or Manitoba. However, in the Northwest Territories it is not
conducive to have an agrarian economy. My ancestors and members took a cash
scrip, which was usually $250. That is how the Crown felt the method to
extinguish our Aboriginal title could be done, but of course we do not believe
that this instrument was achieved for that purpose.
The Chair: For clarification, is there a record of
that $250 scrip being paid to individual Metis in your area?
Mr. Enge: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I have a copy of my
ancestor's scrip applications and scrip vouchers. Some of the payouts were
for $160 and others were for $250.
Senator Dyck: I am curious. Following up on a question of
land, you were saying that most of your community lives in Yellowknife.
Mr. Enge: Yes.
Senator Dyck: Do you consider your traditional land to be
the same area or overlapping parts of where the Tlicho First Nations live? Is
there a significant overlap of land?
Mr. Enge: Yes, thank you for the question, and, indeed we
have an interest in the sharing of lands in that region. We share the lands in
the North Slave area, both with the Tlicho and the Akaitcho First Nations. We
have an Aboriginal interest and right to those lands. We have never ceded them.
We are asking the Crown to have our Aboriginal rights respected on par with the
First Nations. We feel we deserve to have a land claims table just like our
southern Metis counterparts have, as the First Nations do and as the Metis
included in other claims. In the Sahtu region north of Great Slave up to
Mackenzie Valley there is a joint Dene-Metis land claim. The Crown has already
established the precedent for recognizing the Metis as Aboriginal rights-bearing
people with whom they need to negotiate a land claim, so for the life of us we
cannot understand why we are being treated differently.
Senator Dyck: Following up on that line, you were saying
we met with the Northwest Territory Métis Nation. I could be wrong, but my
impression is that they may or may not fit the
Powley definition of Metis. With regard to your community, the North Slave
Metis, do you fit the Powley definition of Metis?
Mr. Enge: Thank you for the question. I can confirm
wholeheartedly that we fit the Powley
Senator Dyck: You do?
Mr. Enge: Yes. I cannot speak for the Northwest Territory
Métis Nation. You mentioned that this committee has met with representatives
from the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, but here is another wrinkle in the
way in which we are being treated by the Crown. The Crown saw fit to approve the
Northwest Territory Métis Nation for a land and resource negotiation before the
Powley test came into existence.
Senator Dyck: They are pre-Powley.
Mr. Enge: They are pre-Powley and were never
subject to the same kind of rigorous scrutiny by the Crown as they are putting
the North Slave Métis Alliance through. We have ensured that our membership
meets the Powley test when we assert our Aboriginal rights. We have
provided the information that the Crown needs in order to make that
determination. Of course, we did it very diligently with an eye on the Powley
test as the standard we needed to meet in order to be considered as an
Aboriginal rights-bearing people.
Senator Dyck: You submitted the evidence. Did you request
feedback? Have they written back to say yes, we do or do not accept that you are
part of the Powley definition?
Mr. Enge: I cannot help but chuckle a little bit about
this because as I mentioned earlier in my presentation, we had to go to the
Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories to fight for our Aboriginal right to
harvest caribou. That means in order to have the Aboriginal right to harvest
caribou we have to meet the
Powley test. We provided that information to the Crown, knowing what the
legal test would be; we have done that. Again, this standard, the Powley
test, is not being applied equally across the board. There is definitely a
double standard with the Crown when they treat the South Slave Metis, our
cousins, differently than us. We see that as being patently unfair.
Mr. Devlin: The Government of the Northwest Territories
says they will not recognize the NSMA until Canada does. Canada says we will not
recognize the NSMA until the court tells us. The court is still reserved. This
is an example of how the construction of Metis identity gets passed around for
political expediency and no one sits down and actually engages in the
The Chair: Can you tell me why you would not join up with
the Northwest Territory Métis Nation?
Mr. Enge: Certainly, Senator St. Germain. There are a few
reasons, but let me specify right off the bat that the Northwest Territory Métis
Nation is engaged in a land and resource negotiation with the Crown.
In their framework agreement — and now they have an agreement in
principle — it specifies which communities this land and negotiation agreement
applies to. In that context it is Fort Smith, Hay River and Fort Resolution, to
the exclusion of Yellowknife. We had no choice but to form an organization to
assert our own rights because we were not included as a community under the
auspices of that claim. First, we are a separate community north of the lake,
therefore we see ourselves as a separate entity geographically separated by the
lake, so we are on the north side of the lake; and second, we were not a part of
their land and resources negotiation or agreement.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Raine: This is very interesting. Your claims of
Aboriginal title are to the traditional territory, which territory is also
claimed by the Tlicho First Nation. Are you working together in that claim, or
do you respect each other's claim for the same territory? How does that work
out? Are you dividing it up? Obviously you have two different groups claiming
the same territory. They must have an agreement.
Mr. Enge: Well, it would be nice, Senator Greene Raine, if
we did have an agreement that accommodated both of our Aboriginal rights
interests, but we do not. The Tlicho agreement has the equivalent of an embedded
notwithstanding clause. If the Tlicho agreement infringes on the Metis
Aboriginal rights, then the agreement allows for remedy of that infringement. We
do not have any formal agreement between our peoples with regard to the same
lands that we claim as our ancestral homeland.
As of now, we have not had to challenge the Tlicho with respect
to infringement, but there is an issue brewing between our peoples. A number of
years ago we purchased, in fee simple, the Old Fort Rae site where the Hudson's
Bay Company trading post was, from the Hudson's Bay Company. It is a heritage
site of the historic Metis. Under the Tlicho land claim agreement, the lands
that they selected run right through the middle of the Old Fort Rae fee simple
land that we have.
We claim that that is sacred ground for us and we are going to
have to come to some agreement because our ancestors are buried in Old Fort Rae,
right where the surveyors went through this past summer claiming that that is
Tlicho land. Right in the site where they put their survey line is the graveyard
of my ancestors. We have to work out some kind of accommodation there.
We do not have an agreement yet and, again, there is a mechanism
in that Tlicho land claim agreement to deal with grievances as and when they
Mr. Devlin: Senator, your question dovetails a little with
the earlier question about the interest in land. The traditional territory of
the North Slave Métis Alliance members does coincide quite a bit with the
territory claimed by the Tlicho, but the interest in land is not just a title
issue. The Metis are great harvesters of bush meat and using the land. Many of
the Aboriginal rights that they try to assert and are keen to protect are rights
about using the land. Most of the modern treaties and final agreements permit
for non-exclusive harvesting rights by a variety of Aboriginal users. Certainly,
when these issues have come up in the common law, you can see that with the
Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish, trap and harvest from the land, these are
non-exclusive rights. It is only when you are dealing with issues of Aboriginal
title that exclusivity becomes a question.
Senator Patterson: I would like to thank the presenters. I
could not agree more that — and I think you were suggesting it was tragic — that
there was a comprehensive Dene-Metis land claim agreement covering the whole of
the Northwest Territories that unfortunately faltered. I was involved in the
politics at the time. My recollection is that it was not the Metis who were the
problem in rejecting that agreement and not putting it to their members for a
vote; it was the Dene. There was an agreement in principle signed by the
Government of Canada and it would have created a comprehensive claim up and down
the Mackenzie Valley. It would have been an example for the Metis of Canada and
it would have given the Dene and Metis Aboriginal rights to lands and resources
before the diamond rush took place. It was really one of my regrets in my
political life that that agreement faltered amidst the turmoil of Oka. I believe
the death of the Meech Lake accord was a factor as well. I wanted to acknowledge
that we are now dealing with the consequences, and your situation is but one
In our studies we have heard various definitions of “Metis.” One
of them takes us back to the Red River Valley and the original homelands of the
Red River Metis. I am intrigued that your research shows you have been in the
N.W.T. since the 1790s and you talked about the legendary François Beaulieu II.
Did he have links to the Metis of the Prairies? Can you tell us a
bit about that, please?
Mr. Enge: Yes, certainly. One of the hallmarks of the
Metis people is that they were very mobile. They were the intermediaries in the
fur trade. They were the ones who brought the furs from the hinterland to the
metropolis centres of Canada. François Beaulieu was a major figure in the fur
trade. During the fur trade, he was a leader who also transported the furs from
the hinterland to the centres. There are records of him taking canoe brigades,
like the Metis coureurs de bois and the French voyageurs. This was the heritage
that the Metis inherited from their part in the fur trade and in mixing with the
coureurs de bois and other Europeans. In this context, there is clear evidence
that François Beaulieu was taking brigades up to Ile-a-la-Crosse in
Saskatchewan. There were a number of different collection points that the
Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company had set up, and the Metis would
bring their furs to deposit them for further transportation. There is evidence
that not only did François Beaulieu go into the western part of Canada as far as
Saskatchewan but also that he guided expeditions through to the Rocky Mountains.
He had quite an extensive background in terms of going here, there, and
everywhere, like the Metis did during the historic fur trade times.
Indeed, I believe that the historiography that I referred to
earlier, that the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has accepted as
the document to designate François Beaulieu II as an historic Metis figure has
that part of his life experience contained in it.
Senator Patterson: Where was he born, do you know?
Mr. Enge: He was born in the Northwest Territories. I
cannot say for certain exactly where it was, but it appears from my
understanding of the historic record that it was in the North Slave area. His
father was quite famous in his own right. François Beaulieu I, they called him.
He had taken Franklin up the Coppermine River on an expedition, and it was
somewhere in that area that François Beaulieu II was born.
Senator Patterson: You have talked about the issue brewing
with the Tlicho. I also understand that you are at odds with the Akaitcho right
now and that they are, I believe, negotiating with Canada and identifying lands,
and, as you have said, you are not involved. Could you describe that situation
for us and where things are at in that connection with the Akaitcho? That is in
the Yellowknife area, is it not?
Mr. Enge: I want to be clear here. We have a very good
relationship with the Tlicho. It was only recently, at a Mackenzie Valley
Environmental Impact Review Board hearing looking into the prospect of another
mine being built in our traditional lands where our joint interests came
together. We are working hand in glove with the Tlicho with respect to our
interests in this mine. This mine is being proposed by a mining company called
Fortune Minerals and they are calling it the NICO Project. Of course, the
Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board is holding hearings looking
into the impact that mine would have on the Aboriginal peoples' homeland.
I had the opportunity to attend the hearings right in the
community of Behchoko, the largest Tlicho community, and I had opportunities to
sit down and speak with the grand chief and all the other chiefs of the
communities. We find common ground with each other and we find ourselves natural
allies with respect to many projects and this one in particular. I am optimistic
that we will work out our issues with respect to our sacred ground of Old Fort
Rae, where our ancestors are buried; I am sure that will be fine.
Having said that, with respect to the Akaitcho Dene First
Nations, that organization is taking the N.W.T. Métis Nation to court as opposed
to the North Slave Métis Alliance. We do feel very disappointed in what they are
saying about the Metis because, by extension of what they are saying in their
statement of claim, namely that there are no section 35 Aboriginal
rights-bearing Metis people in the Northwest Territories, we feel quite offended
by that, especially when we take into account that it was not too far in the
past that we were all working together under the auspices of a Dene-Metis claim.
Fast-forward to the years since 1990 and they are now taking a very different
approach to us. I think the best word to characterize it is a hostile position,
and we do not understand the rationale for that. The fact of the matter is the
Metis that I represent, our cousins to the south, are all section 35 Aboriginal
rights-holding, rights-bearing Metis people. I have had to produce my genealogy
and historical documents for the lawsuit that I had to prosecute against the
Crown for denying our members the right to harvest caribou. The genealogical
documents and historical documents that I referred to earlier in my presentation
equally apply to the South Slave Metis, the very Metis that the Akaitcho Dene
are taking to court, claiming that they do not possess Aboriginal rights and
therefore the Crown has no business negotiating a land and resource agreement
with them. It does not make sense and it does not add up.
You can say that our relationship with the Akaitcho First Nation
is one of indifference. We are not really communicating at a very good level
right now. I do not have the same kind of relationship with the Akaitcho chiefs
as I do with the Tlicho chiefs. That is unfortunate, and I hope that down the
road they will change their minds about us. I think what will help change their
minds is when the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories issues their ruling
that the North Slave Metis people possess section 35 Aboriginal rights, and we
can put that matter to rest once and for all.
Senator Patterson: Thank you.
Mr. Devlin: The Metis of the Great Slave Lake area, the
historians, tell us the ethno-genesis of the Metis of the Great Slave Lake area
from the late 1700s into the early 1800s and that is the ethnic community that
was there coexisting with the European fur traders and the various First Nations
in the area. That is the ethnic group, and then we have these two modern
political expressions of that ethnic group, the North Slave Métis Alliance for
the north side of the lake and the South Slave or the Northwest Territories
Métis Nation. Historians are fairly clear that this ethno-genesis arose. It may
have been that some people came up from Red River, but it also arose quite
independently of what was happening at Red River in its history in that it was a
unique ethno-genesis centred on the Great Slave Lake area. Whether it is
sometimes the GNWT or the Akaitcho, historians are pretty clear that there have
been Metis centred on the Great Slave Lake for 200 or 300 years.
The Chair: Are any of your members eligible for status
under the Indian Act? If so, have any of your members opted to accept Indian
Mr. Enge: Thank you for that question, Senator St.
Germain. You definitely hit on a very touchy subject with the Metis across
Canada. When Bill C-31 came along, which allowed disenfranchised Indian women to
obtain their Indian status back and for their children to also secure Indian
status if they wished, many of those women and their children had more or less
assimilated into the Metis arena and it caused a great deal of consternation in
the Northwest Territories as that new reality had to be dealt with.
The fact of the matter is that we had a considerable number of
our own members who had secured Indian status under the auspices of Bill C-31.
We were able to identify who had made that choice and we understood that in
order for us to assert Metis rights we have to have a Metis membership. We then
identified who had secured that status and had them removed. We do not accept
members who have registered Indian status.
There was a time when Metis organizations did not know quite what
to do about the fact that many of their members had secured Indian status, and
it mostly was done surreptitiously, but they did have to deal with it. We
finally got a clear understanding of whether a person who secured registered
Indian status can be a Metis and an Indian at the same time.
That clarification came from a recent Supreme Court of Canada
decision called Cunningham where a Cunningham family on the Peavine Metis
Settlement in Alberta had secured Indian status under the auspices of Bill C-31,
and the Metis council at the settlement disallowed them. They cancelled their
memberships, and the Supreme Court of Canada clearly said that that is okay. You
cannot be both, unless the Metis community itself says it is okay. The Metis
have a right to determine their own membership, and that community said no, if
you secure registered Indian status you cannot be a part of this community
Indeed, we support the notion that the Metis have a right to
determine their membership and it is not an automatic right to retain Metis
membership if a person decides to become an Indian.
The Chair: You said there were 500 in your population. How
many have memberships?
Mr. Enge: Thank you, senator. We did a house-cleaning of
our membership some time ago, two years ago this January. As far as we know,
none of our remaining members have registered Indian status. Our constitution,
bylaws and our membership application form do not permit that. As far as we
know, there are no registered Indians under the Indian Act in our membership.
The Chair: How many members do you actually have in the
North Slave Métis Alliance?
Mr. Enge: Our membership is in the 500 range.
Senator Raine: For clarification, my understanding was
that once someone declared him or herself status, from a federal government
point of view they could not go back to being Metis. Is that your understanding?
Mr. Enge: Yes, that is my understanding. As far as I
understand, and I am no expert on the Indian Act, that is a one-way door. I
happen to know that there were some former Metis members who regretted securing
Indian status after the fact and wanted to look into reversing it and found that
it was not possible.
Senator Raine: Your statement that the Metis communities
could determine their membership is not exactly accurate because you cannot
Senator Dyck: Cannot reverse the First Nation status.
Mr. Enge: I guess that needs clarification. What I mean is
we could look at a person who obtained Indian status and say you do not belong
to an Indian band, you do not belong under some kind of other treaty or land
claim, and you have been a staunch supporter of our rights and community and we
would like you to be a part of our community. We feel that we have a right to
confer that status on them, providing that this Indian person has not taken
their bundle of Aboriginal rights somewhere else.
Senator Dyck: You mentioned that Canada was doing a study
in identifying historic Metis communities after the Powley decision. Have
you seen that document? Do you know who they have identified? Is that document
Mr. Enge: Thank you for that question. Indeed, if you go
to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website, you will find
that, somewhere embedded in it, where I found it just by accident, the 15
studies are listed, as well as which communities they did the studies on. It is
definitely on the AANDC website. You can find it.
Mr. Devlin: To clarify that, I think it is actually on the
Department of Justice website they mention this post-Powley investigation
of 15 potential historic Metis communities. You cannot actually get the reports.
We had to do an access to information request to get the report for the Great
Slave Lake Metis community. It was only because we were part of that community
that we got the report. They are not publicly available. It is only that they
engaged in the studies that is public information.
Senator Dyck: I wonder if the committee should get that
The Chair: We could make the request for it if you think
it would assist you.
Senator Dyck: I think it would be interesting.
Mr. Devlin: We can provide you with our copy of the report
about the Great Slave Lake folks.
Senator Raine: I would like to ask a question about MÉTCOR
and all your subsidiaries. Are these companies doing well? This is an economic
development arm of the North Slave Métis Alliance. Is the alliance a non-profit
association? Is MÉTCOR a for-profit or non-profit? How does that work?
Mr. Enge: Thank you for the question, Senator Greene
Raine. Indeed, MÉTCOR is the development arm of the North Slave Métis Alliance.
The North Slave Métis Alliance is a non-profit society, whereas MÉTCOR is a
corporation registered under the auspices of the Canada Business Corporations
Act. It is the business arm of the North Slave Métis Alliance.
You asked how our businesses are doing. We are doing okay, but
not as well as we want to. We are in a building process, and our corporations
are making enough money to see us live another day. Right now we are very much
in a building process.
The development corporation came about because the North Slave
Métis Alliance is in a unique position as Metis people in the sense that it has
three impact benefit agreements, as they are known, with the three operating
diamond mines in our region. We needed a development corporation in order to
take advantage of the business opportunities that flow from those impact benefit
agreements. We are engaged in discussions to secure even more impact benefit
I do not know if one can call this ironic or not, but certainly
the mining corporations are taking a more enlightened approach to our Aboriginal
rights than the Crown is, because they are dealing with us on a rights basis.
We expect that our corporations will grow over time and we look
forward to having an independent source of income to help us do the things we
need to do, like take the Crown to court when we have to. I think you know that
one of the problems that the Metis experience across Canada is that we do not
get any core funding from the federal government or, for that matter, from the
territorial government, to undertake our business.
The Chair: Thank you. I think the main focus of this study
is the identity of Metis, and we welcome anything you can add that would assist
the committee in determining, more definitively, the Metis. You have a complex,
I think, unique situation in your area, but we thank you for your presentation;
it was clear and understandable. We thank you for your responses to our
With that, colleagues, is there any other business?
There being none, the committee is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)