The BC Metis Federation is pleased to announce the release of the 12th report of the standing Senate committee on aboriginal peoples of the Senate of Canada entitled, “The People Who Own Themselves”: Recognition of Métis Identity in Canada.”
The report reflected the results of a cross country study and examined issues around the “evolving legal and political recognition of the collective identity and rights” of the Metis in Canada. To its credit, the report is a great starting place for anyone wanting a primer on Metis in Canada and adds to the knowledge base. Four general themes include identity and history, registration and statistical information, history and genealogy, and relations between Canada and the Metis. The focus was on listening and gathering perspectives.
This important document is another public indicator that the question of meaningful collective Metis identity and fair representation continue as important considerations. Métis as well as other Canadians want to learn more about the complexities of “being Metis” in Canada.
In reference to British Columbia Metis, notable academic historian Jean Barman provided her perspectives. As well, esteemed historical author George Goulet was cited along with BC Metis Federation President Mr. Keith Henry. Mr Henry correctly addresses some of the inherent challenges of limiting identities among Metis people in British Columbia.
The standing committee can be acknowledged in its effort to stimulate “constructive public discussion.” It’s encouraging to hear about the need for indigenous oral research to balance the written record for a fuller appreciation.
One is left with the idea that the various representations of Metis identity as described by the participants is much more than about the mandate of recognition by the federal government for legal and policy purposes. We get a glimpse from some of the participants comments, including that of President Keith Henry from the BC Metis Federation, that there are broader questions of fairness, justice and inclusion that have to do with the problematic history of Metis/Canadian relations that have yet to be addressed meaningfully.
The report rightfully highlighted the need for more research capacity. Notably, they also encouraged the government to take immediate steps to better understand who the Metis are and understand to be. This, in the standing committee’s view, means more engagement with local and regional groups. This is consistent with the view of the BC Metis Federation, an organization committed to public dialogue and oral research as demonstrated by their recent inaugural Metis identity symposium in May.
The pursuit of clarity and “objectivity” in this study must be balanced with the notion that Canada’s Metis share dynamic and fluid indigenous identities that they have the historic right to practice. Amidst all the promise and the tensions of identity politics outlined here, one hopes that this report leads to further dialogue and action at the local and national level that support all the different ways of ” being Metis.”