BC Métis Federation sent a letter to Indspire President and CEO Roberta Jamieson yesterday, February 21, 2017. The letter is to seek a solution to their denial of members for the important programs. This is a result of long standing issues facing Metis representation in BC and the organization is fighting for members to have fair and equal access to programs and services.
Re: BC Métis Federation Members Applicants to Indspire Programs
Dear President Jamieson,
I write this letter on behalf of our BC Métis Federation members who continue to be denied for access to Indspire programs, specifically financial assistance for bursaries, scholarships, and awards. We have enclosed examples of Indspire communication responses sent to members. Therefore, this letter is sent to seek clarification and ensure future access to Indspire programs for current and future BC Métis Federation members in financial need.
BC Métis Federation began in June of 2011 as a Métis representative organization in British Columbia and today represents thousands of Métis people from throughout the province. These members have been provided membership after completing the BC Métis Federation membership process which is objectively verifiable where individual applications must self-identify as Métis, provide primary source documentation of Indigenous/Métis genealogical ancestry, and we determine community acceptance based on considerations such as involvement in a local or provincial community. Given our rigorous and defendable Métis membership process we continue to disagree with Indspire responses and position to not recognize our members as eligible Métis people for Indspire programs.
What we find disappointing has been the lack of consistency in Indspire policy regarding Métis definition and ambiguous language regarding recognition by Canada. First according to the Inspire policy regarding “Indspire Building Brighter Futures; Bursaries, Scholarships, and Awards” http://indspire.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/indspire-building-brighter-futures-guidelines-2016-2017-en-June-14.pdf the determination of Métis applications is based on:
Métis: a person who self-identifies as Métis. Applicants are required to provide proof of Métis identity by providing a valid Métis citizenship, membership, registration, or enrolment card issued by:
- one of the Métis Settlements in Alberta;
- a provincial organization that is a member of the Métis National Council, which includes the Métis Nation British Columbia, Métis Nation of Alberta, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, Manitoba Métis Federation and Métis Nation of Ontario;
- an Indigenous group under a modern land claims agreement; or
- a Métis organization that is recognized by the Government of Canada.
The enclosed Indspire responses refer to this policy but appear to add unique wording which we assume is only sent to BC Métis Federation members. The Indspire response sent Wednesday, February 15th at 8:22 AM to BC Métis Federation member Justin Perry states as follows:
Thank you for your application to Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures: Bursary, Scholarships and Awards program. You will find a copy of our Bursary, Scholarships and Awards policy on our website at http://indspire.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/indspire-bbf-policy-2014.pdf. As indicated in this document, Indspire supports First Nation, Inuit and Métis students. To be eligible, Métis students are required to provide proof of Métis identity by providing a valid Métis citizenship, (note membership removed) registration or enrolment card issued by:
- one of the Métis Settlements in Alberta,
- a provincial organization that is a member of the Métis National Council, which includes the Métis Nation British Columbia, the Métis Nation of Alberta, the Métis Nation Saskatchewan, the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Métis Nation of Ontario;
- an Indigenous group under a modern land claims agreement; or
- a Métis organization that is recognized by the Government of Canada as providing Metis citizenship
According to Indspire staff they reference this policy on Métis identity but have removed “membership” and added the wording “as providing Métis citizenship” from the actual Inspire policy.
The Indspire response last week is not in alignment with the stated Indspire policy and introduces new language. This is critical from the perspective that being recognized by Canada is ambiguous and adding Métis citizenship is specific to the Métis National Council and their governing members funded by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). I will offer insight on both issues raised by this statement.
First in terms of Métis citizenship, the added language, this is problematic. Métis citizenship was a result of the well-known 2003 Métis harvesting rights “Powley Case” which is only relevant for Métis harvesting rights and is legally inconsistent with mobility of Métis people, access to Federal Government programs and services, or the right to self-govern, a Section 35 Indigenous right enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. In 2004 INAC created a new funding program known as post Powley which focused on Métis citizenship registries. INAC has been requested for years to clarify access for all Métis organizations but this department has continued to ignore or be inclusive. After thirteen years of significant funding of Métis citizenship registries the Métis National Council and their affiliates still do not represent that vast majority of Métis in Canada.
Furthermore, by making this policy on Métis identity, Indspire is also dismissing the ongoing evolution of Métis identity and key recommendations on Métis identity such as the Senate Report released in 2013 http://bcmetis.com/2013/06/senate-report-released-june-6th/ and the Daniels Case ruling in 2016 regarding Métis and non-status Indian access to all Federal Programs and services. INAC was directed to address three (3) specific recommendation which to date have not been addressed. Regardless it must also be identified that Métis identity was not based purely on the notion of Métis citizenship in the landmark Daniels Case.
In terms of the notion of recognition by Canada, BC Métis Federation wrote to Indspire staff in 2015 to request clarification. What exactly does this mean to Indspire? How can the BC Métis Federation be added to the list of eligible Métis communities for our members to access Indspire programs and awards? The Indspire staff took almost a year to respond and the response was simply requesting clarification and documentation. BC Métis Federation provided numerous examples of how the organization is recognized by Canada. We shared past funding agreements with Heritage Canada, recognition by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, National Energy Board, Industry, etc. Does Indspire define the Federal department of INAC exclusively as Canada?
While we felt confident that we had provided ample evidence, BC Métis Federation was led to believe Indspire was going to review in early 2016, today there has never been an official letter or communication from Indspire about any decision or clarification if the organization was not eligible and what it would take to address to become eligible. Concurrently we have been meeting with INAC representatives and Federal politicians to clarify how an Indigenous representative organization, such as the BC Métis Federation, becomes recognized by INAC but there is no clarity or actual process. BC Métis Federation applies for INAC programs, and other Federal Government departments, and has been successful. Is this a form of recognition because we certainly meet that test? In fact, since BC Métis Federation sought clarify with Indspire staff in 2015 and 2016 INAC has started to fund programming led by our organization.
The fact is there is no clear Federal Métis legislation to define the process of Métis identity or governance in Canada with the exception of Provincial legislation in Alberta for Métis settlements. The conclusion is Métis recognition by INAC comes down to political will. If this stays true, this is not based in law or reconciliation to assist Métis people from throughout Canada. The result of this lack of clarification and documented efforts to address for Indspire is significant. As a result, these political challenges, BC Métis Federation members continue to face program exclusion and are victimized further by Indspire policy and what we believe is discrimination. Finally, on this policy of Métis recognition, organizations such as Indspire state publicly that they support international statements such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf. However, by the exclusionary policies Indspire, and others, are contrary to the meaning of the UNDRIP as it relates to self-governance for Indigenous peoples, which includes our aspirations with the BC Métis Federation.
BC Métis Federation continues to build and implement programs and services, providing annual reports, audited financial statements, ongoing Métis cultural support, legal consultation through regulatory processes and much more. Our members deserve access for all public programs and services for Métis, including Indspire.
We are requesting once again for Indspire to immediately include our members as eligible for access to Indspire programs without further delay. We recognize there may be limitations of financial resources to assist all Indspire applicants but denying our members as ineligible because Indspire organization does not recognize them as Métis is unacceptable.
In closing the BC Métis Federation will review all remedies in this matter if the solution to assist all Métis people, including our members, for access to Indspire programs is not granted. We do not accept any policy resulting in exclusion of our members which appears political in motivation rather than what is in the best interests of all Métis people, and especially those most in need. We also recognize the important role and contributions Indspire has made in the past but this does not justify this mistreatment of our members.
President and CEO Jamieson I urge you and your board to recognize the legitimacy of BC Métis Federation membership applicants. We have no financial gain and our motivation in addressing this issue is to support our members in need and ensure organizations cease and desist any efforts to exclude our Métis members from important public programs and services.
I am a proud Métis person who works hard on a number of Indigenous initiative and have built a strong relationship with the Federal Government on many Indigenous initiatives over the years. I want to maintain positive relationships and attitude but these actions create significant stress and challenges for our members that elected myself and our board to address their needs, including injustice. I certainly recognize a number of Indspire board members, including yourself, who also have an excellent reputation and I know they too have fought for what they believed in over the years. Therefore, I hope and urge the Indspire board and yourself to carefully weigh these matters and take higher ground as we all work towards reconciliation and celebration Canada 150.
I can assure you that the BC Métis Federation only desires a positive outcome which is simple, provide access.
We are asking for a written response by March 2nd in order that individuals such as Justin Perry, one of the enclosed examples, is afforded a fair review based on his need, not suggesting is ineligible as Métis because he is a member of the BC Métis Federation.
I can be reached by phone at 1-778-388-5013 if you want to discuss by phone or feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any further questions.
cc: BC Métis Federation Board
BC Métis Federation Members
Provincial and Federal Government