BC Metis Federation sent the following letter to BC’s Attorney General Honourable Suzanne Anton following the mandate and motions by the members during this past weekends AGM.
Dear Honourable Anton,
I write to seek your immediate intervention regarding the Métis foster child we refer to as “SS”. In history our Métis families share strong relational histories connected to kinship, an abiding sense of ‘place,’ political autonomy and economic sufficiency and they were deeply active in the political and economic affairs of the day. Before Canada existed, our families and their kinship networks were a part of what academic Adam Gaudry describes as “vital kinship responsibilities, many of which were central to Métis governance and diplomatic relations with other Indigenous peoples.” Gaudry talks about kaa-tipeyimishoyaahk—which means they own or govern themselves, and wahkohtowin—the act of being related to one another, a sense of relatedness, and the potential to make outsiders part of one’s family. Whether in relations with the Hudson Bay Company, with First Nations, or with encroaching Canadian settlement Métis have practiced our collective existence and deployed our laws, negotiated agreements and resisted injustice as members of distinct collective Indigenous nationhood. In relations with Canada, in 1869 and again in 1885 our Métis families and communities attempted to negotiate a place for themselves, a form of political, legal and cultural co-existence. Métis leader Louis Riel was a sophisticated political philosopher that fought for political independence and sovereignty and land rights for our Métis people. Our Métis people wanted to establish a ‘pluralistic association’ as represented in the Manitoba Treaty of 1870, based upon shared knowledge, shared land and resources with First Nations and Canada. In Canada and here in British Columbia there is a resurgence of historical Métis and First Nations definitions of “kinship,” a sense of belonging, self-determinism, a sense of place, historical difference and shared relations. We are the BC Métis Federation assert our jurisdiction with our members for self-governance which extends to the provision of children and family services. It is in our jurisdiction that the BC Metis Federation community regards current actions by Provincial Government’s Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) as illegal. Further any suggestions by MCFD to recognize Métis organizations like Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and Island Métis Children and Family Services Society (IMCFSS) are deemed “outsiders” that disregard our assertion in accordance with our Métis tradition and legal orders.
During our Annual General Meeting this weekend our community passed the following motions regarding the SS and our Métis foster family:
Motion-That SS is a member of our BCMF Metis Community and we demand she be returned to her Métis adoptive family as approved by our community.
Moved by Keith Henry,
Seconded by Baillie Redfern
Motion- We recognize that a Métis custom adoption took place in December 2014 and was further recognized and celebrated in February 2016. Therefore, BC Métis Federation demands that this adoption be recognized as it is in the best interest of SS.
Moved by Keith Henry
Seconded by Jacqueline Alderking
This situation demands immediate action by the Provincial Government. The ongoing and proposed actions by MCFD to remove our Métis children without our consent is inconsistent with International law on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The rights of Indigenous peoples, which includes our Metis people, was reinforced by Canada in their support on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We strongly believe this action is also inconsistent with our Canadian Constitution Section 35 which includes Métis people. Furthermore, BC Métis Federation believes MCFD actions are also inconsistent with BC Adoption Legislation that state:
46.1 states “On application, the court may recognize that an adoption of a person effected by the custom of an Indian band or Aboriginal community has the effect of an adoption under this Act.”
46.2 states “Subsection (1) does not affect any aboriginal rights a person has.”
BC Métis Federation believes this case demands our immediate actions to stop the illegal removal of our Métis child from our community as there was a Métis custom adoption. The recommendations sent to your office last Friday from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth are an important start. However, we demand that SS is immediately returned to her rightful adoptive Métis parents and the Province of BC and BC Métis Federation commits to working together in the future to ensure this situation never happens to our community in the future.
In closing the actions of Métis agencies who have not completed appropriate Métis cultural protection for our community must not be used as a legal mechanism by MCFD to ignore the best Métis cultural interests for our Métis child or any other in the future. The actions before the courts this past week only reinforce the notion that Métis children are extremely vulnerable within MCFD and their bests interests relative to Métis culture are not served. The future will require a complete review of Métis child welfare in BC. BC Métis Federation members have a right to assurances that agencies who purport to support our Métis traditions and culture actually understand what this means, that they have a clear mandate, and respect for our laws and efforts towards self-governance. Until such time Provincial Government funding from MCFD for these Métis agencies should be immediately suspended given the outrageous actions in this case. There must be accountability for the extreme pain and suffering this has caused our community and families affected in this case.
Please take immediate action in your role as Attorney General and we will be fully committed to a more positive outcome for this Métis child. Our community has reinforced their unanimous support in our motions this past weekend and there is no ambiguity to our position.
Premier Christy Clark, Province of British Columbia
Honourable Stephanie Cadieux, Minister for Child and Family Development
Honourable John Rustad, Minister for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
BC Métis Federation Board
BC Métis Federation Members