The following letter was submitted to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services…
Dear Standing Committee,
Please accept the following submission sent on behalf of the British Columbia Métis Federation (BCMF) and the communities and members the BCMF represents regarding the 2012 Provincial Government Budget Consultation.
Presently there are approximately 60,000 self identified Métis people in BC according to the 2006 census. Today the vast majority of the Métis people have not applied for membership in Métis organizations for a variety of reasons. There appears to be approximately 45 Métis community based organizations and service delivery providers located throughout British Columbia.
The BCMF works as a provincial governing organization with Métis communities and individual members. BCMF works with Métis communities who have signed a cooperation agreement that represent the following:
- Nova Métis Heritage Association – Approximately 2000 members
- Kelly Lake Métis Settlement Society – Approximately 150 members
- Vancouver Métis Cultural Society – Approximately 500 members
- Fort St. John Métis Society – Approximately 800 members
- North Saanich Michif Society – Approximately 50 members
- Métis Veterans Association of British Columbia – 49 Members
- Independent BCMF members who have applied to date (July – September 2011 – 100)
Total membership is 3649
The BCMF was re-established as a new alternative representative Métis government in June 2011 in BC due to the years of serious mismanagement and lack of Métis public accountability by the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC). MNBC continues to operate with Chartered Communities but their current organizational debt and inability to bring communities back together has deeply divided their MNBC membership, estimated at approximately 5800 as of March 31st, 2011.
Currently it appears the Provincial Government has taken a “one window” approach to address Métis governance and policy discussion in BC. This approach forces all Métis communities and service delivery agencies to work through the MNBC. It is our submission that this is not in the interest of the Provincial Government who has a legal obligation to ensure the Aboriginal rights of all Métis people in BC are protected. MNBC is simply another non-profit corporation who has created a network of their supporters since it was established in 1996. MNBC is not a legislated body by any government. The ability for Métis communities and individual members to decide who they want to represent their interests is not uncommon when you consider how First Nations address their representation in British Columbia. First Nations have created the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and First Nation Summit. The First leadership has established their representative governance and policy organizations in terms of First Nation communities who support the BC Treaty process and First Nation communities who do not. Therefore BCMF continues our work with Métis communities who desire a new approach to accountable and transparent Métis governance that recognizes the importance of cultural work and community infrastructure.
Currently the Provincial Government has taken a position that the Métis people of BC do not have rights and this position is critical in relation to consultation and policy direction for Provincial Government ministries. BCMF strongly feels Métis rights are yet to be fully determined and we submit the Provincial Government needs to reconsider this position and recognize the significant number of Métis people throughout British Columbia. The current lack of Provincial Government support for Métis recognition impacts programming needs for Métis communities in BC that often become lost in political agendas, denial of Métis rights for fear of financial impact, etc.
Due to this situation the Métis people face a true challenge in BC as an Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people as defined in the Canadian Constitution Section 35 (First Nation, Métis and Inuit) have been primarily considered a responsibility of the Federal Government. However, the Federal Government has not supported proper Métis governance and programs and services despite Constitutional protection. Most programs and government investments for communities from the Federal Government through the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada are targeted for First Nations only. There are several other Federal Government departments that support the some of the socio-economic needs but these treat contemporary Métis communities no different than any other service delivery provider. The ability for Métis communities to work as proper functional governance is our Aboriginal right to self determination and the continued lack of support to assist communities create functional governance has created empathy, loss of interest, and significant challenge to ensure Métis culture survives in the future. Furthermore the lack of proper investments to support Métis communities and people throughout British Columbia negatively impacts all British Columbians though increased social service costs, health care costs, judicial costs, etc.
We submit to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services that the Province must consider addressing Métis governance and socio-economic issues as a part of their investment strategy for 2012. The Province should begin to immediately develop and fund a Métis specific strategy that supports new investments in Métis culture, community governance infrastructure, health, housing, child and family services, identification, education, and economic development (businesses and employment). BCMF believes that this must be addressed through a Métis specific strategy that brings together all interested Métis communities, representative organizations, and service delivery agencies. Furthermore this Métis specific strategy must be considered independent of current pan Aboriginal government processes.
Today Métis people of British Columbia continue to face challenges and there are a number of supporting documents to substantiate the claim that gaps exists between non-Aboriginal British Columbians and Métis people. These gaps relate to the socio-economic conditions of housing quality and standards, education attainment, health care, child and family services, and economic development. The need for Métis culturally relevant programming supporting the needs of the communities in these areas is paramount to their success. The Métis population continues to increase faster than the non-Aboriginal community and the socio-economic gaps have the potential to significantly increase in future years without a more strategic approach for all Métis people.
Another important gap is the recognition of Métis rights through negotiations. As such BCMF also submits that the 2012 budget process supports new investments in Métis traditional knowledge studies and research utilizing historical data with contemporary Métis communities to better understand the role of the Métis people in the establishment and building of British Columbia. Many of the Métis people share a rich and proud history as part of British Columbia and the benefits to a proactive role by the Province to support research and negotiations is cost effective and supportive of Métis people’s Constitutional rights.
The BCMF urges the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to support how the Province must rethink priorities and policy decisions in terms of Métis people. We believe there is a major lack of awareness about who the Métis people are, what our culture is, and the immediate challenges we face to protect and maintain our culture for our future as taxpaying British Columbians. We do not need non-Métis agencies and government funding organizations purporting to address our needs. We are a legitimate Nation of people and can address our governance and socio-economic challenges for a better future for all of British Columbia. Métis people continue to struggle for adequate community and provincial representation in BC and we submit that unfortunately this situation will not change without the support of governments, such as the Province, to recognize that Métis people exist in BC and a Métis specific investment strategy must be immediately developed that brings together all interested parties.
British Columbia Métis Federation
BCMF Board of Directors
BCMF Statement of Cooperation Signatories