BC Métis Federation Letter to INAC Re: Métis Summit

Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Government of Canada

Re: Meeting with Métis leaders in January VIA EMAIL 

Dear Minister Bennett:

The BC Métis Federation recently read in a CBC article that the “Trudeau government is planning a treaty summit with Métis leaders in January.”

This is a hopeful development for Métis but deeply problematic for several reasons:

Why did BC Métis Federation and partner communities have to learn of this development in the media? The BC Métis Federation has repeatedly attempted to contact your Ministry on behalf of our members and partner communities to establish better protocol for a respectful relationship with your Federal Government but there is still inaction by your Ministry despite promises to act on stated issues in the pre-election Liberal commitments which included reaching out to all Métis organizations across this country. The Federal Liberal Government has been elected for well over a year and nothing has changed for vast majority of Métis people in this country.

It is our strong view that there can be no “Treaty Summit” or other high level meetings like resolving Métis land issues in Manitoba without the respectful engagement and accountable partnership with self-determining BC Métis communities. A number of our members has direct family connections to the historic Métis families identified post 1869/70 and the establishment of the Manitoba Act which included land for the Métis people. The notion that our members and families can join the Manitoba Métis Federation for alleged representation is impractical and inconsistent with the contemporary establishment of our communities in British Columbia.

The Prime Minister was on social media last April saying, “No one pretends to have all the answers to problems facing Indigenous communities. But I promise you I will never turn my back on them. We’re committed to working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders as we start to make things right for Indigenous peoples.”

The facts are that your government only ‘recognizes’ certain national Métis ‘organizations’ like Métis National Council and their affiliates. These organizations support exclusive and restrictive ‘identity politics’ and attempt to shut down needed dialogue between all Métis communities, First Nations, and Canadians. They attempt to establish an exclusive relationship with Canada to control block funding, or ‘handouts’.

In fact, in the CBC article, Clem Chartier, President of the Métis National Council, calls for unity to “ensure success”. However, instead of facilitating negotiations amidst competing interests to enhance and protect Métis community self-determination and respect/recognition for historical difference as this organization has clearly demonstrated for years, Chartier calls for “Unity.” By his actions and words, Chartier seemingly assumes that Métis only exist and thrive because of the Métis National Council and its exclusive relationship with “government.” To these organizations, there is an “essential” Métis identity that requires Métis to think and act in unison.

The Métis National Council instituted a singular restrictive national identity. They employ racially charged ‘objectively verifiable’ registries to screen and regulate ‘individual rights based identities’. Research is merely a coercive tool to only support their ‘a priori’ understandings. The Federal Government, through a Senate Committee, released a report on Métis identity with recommendations that finally recognized the Métis National Council and their affiliate identification process does not represent all Métis in Canada. This Senate Report urged INAC, among key recommendations, to reengage with Métis organizations who represented legitimate Métis members. After 4 years, this Senate Report on Métis identity has produced no tangible follow by your department staff. Worse yet INAC programs that should provide fair access, such as the Aboriginal Representation Organization Program (AROP), remain closed to the Métis National Council and their affiliates which discriminates key support for any legitimate Métis representative organizations in Canada. BC Métis Federation applied for this program for this current fiscal year and future fiscal years, we have yet to have any final decision or response to our request. No INAC staff responses or no follow up.

Leading Indigenous legal philosopher John Borrows states, “Indigenous peoples live in the midst of complex circumstances, there is no “essential” Indigenous identity that requires indigenous people to think and act in unison. They participate in cross cutting, parallel, contradictory and intersectional activities, which appear to be troubling only if judged by theoretically pure conceptions of Indigeneity or ‘Indianness’ ”

This is instructive for the Métis situation in real communities. The imposed status-quo of a universal or ‘pure’ identity by the Métis National Council is inconsistent with the historical complexity and fluidity and mobility of Métis on-the-ground in communities. The Senate Report recommendation was also clear about the need for supports for research including Métis own views of their relational histories in communities and the Federal Government dismisses this through inaction.

In our era of reconciliation, there is a resurgence of Métis traditions, of political legal and customary self-understandings, kinship, self-determination, connections to land and language. There is a movement to recognize the value of knowledge and experience within Métis communities in strong partnerships with Canada, First Nations, and Inuit.

Instead of supporting one-window ideological or ‘binary’ approaches to Métis identity and governance as mechanisms for control, we implore your INAC Ministry and the Federal Government to work better with those who view things differently and institute better processes and a plurality of options in partnership with all Métis organizations and communities.

Instead of yet more rushed backroom “deals” like the pending Manitoba land negotiations, reconciliation must be addressed in a plurality of nation-to-nation negotiated agreements and ongoing dialogue between Canada, Métis communities/nations, First Nations and Inuit, based upon mutual recognition, or status as equal, coexisting and inherent self-governing nations with land rights.

The BC Metis Federation insists on inclusion and voice at this proposed treaty summit as full partners in Confederation.

In closing we feel it equally important Minister Bennett to assure you, the INAC staff, and the Federal Government that we simply want a constructive relationship. We take no pride in fighting with governments but we have a legitimate mandate, have established strong governance and we represent thousands of BC Métis Federation card carrying members in British Columbia.

We hope that you will show leadership and ensure this Federal Government will support past political statements and ensure full inclusion for all Métis.

I would be pleased to meet and identify new ways to work together. A future where the Métis National Council and their affiliates can speak for their members and issues. However, a new future where the BC Métis Federation is also recognized to speak for the legitimate needs and issues of our members.

I request a meeting to follow up this important matter. I can be reached at k.henry@bcmetis.com or call our offices to set up 1-604-638-7220.

Thank you,

Keith Henry
BC Métis Federation
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
V5R 5W2

cc Ian Ketcheson, INAC Director for Métis and Non Status
BC Métis Federation Board Members
BC Métis Federation Members

[ilink url=”http://bcmetis.com/wp-content/uploads/BCMF-letter-to-Minister-Bennett-December-8th-2016-Metis-Summit.pdf” style=”download”]To download this letter in PDF format, click here.[/ilink]

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