BCMF Response to Provincial Government’s Distinctions-Based Approach Primer

The following letter was submitted by the BC Métis Federation to Honourable Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation in response to the provincial government’s recently released Distinctions-Based Approach Primer document.

Click here to download the BCMF response letter in PDF format.

Monday, December 11th, 2023 

Honourable Murray Rankin
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Re: Distinctions-Based Approach Primer December 2023 Document

Via email: declaration@gov.bc.ca

Dear Minister Rankin,

I am writing on behalf of the BC Métis Federation (BCMF) leaders, members, and partner communities to advise that the recent release of the Provincial Government policy document entitled Distinctions-Based Approach Primer December 2023 (Distinctions) is best described as disappointing, inaccurate, and dangerous Provincial Government public policy that will further discriminate against Métis people in BC.

BCMF represents an estimated 6000 Métis people. BCMF was formed in 2011 as an alternative Métis government for several local Métis associations throughout BC, referred to as partner communities, and our provincial membership. Presently BCMF delivers programs and services to assist members while advancing key issues of Métis rights through dedicated research in the Pacific Northwest which includes British Columbia. Currently, BCMF has established a strong relationship with the Government of Canada and many federal departments.

BCMF has strong objections to the Provincial Government Distinctions document. There was absolutely no communication or consultation with the BCMF prior to the release. Why did the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) make no efforts to discuss the Distinctions draft policy with the BCMF? In our view the Distinctions document is dangerous and reckless for Métis people for the following key reasons.

First the policy document continues a narrative that there is a hierarchy of Section 35 people, leading to Métis people feeling less than Indigenous. Section 35 is not hierarchical and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit are defined. There continues to be efforts by Provincial and Territorial Governments throughout Canada to advance reconciliation without having courts exclusively define Section 35 rights. In many cases negotiations lead to better outcomes.

Métis people live in BC and there is a rich history of our existence since the early 1800s. BCMF created a new public platform Learn more about Métis in BC (metisinbc.ca) to provide the latest historic research about Métis genesis and evolution in British Columbia. BCMF has now completed substantial Métis research and are confident that Section 35 Métis do exist in British Columbia. We are the only Métis governing body in BC that has completed such in depth Métis research and we will continue this research work.

What is ironic is the recognition by Canada through the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) and consultation requirements for Métis include the BCMF and other Métis organizations including the northeast British Columbia community of Kelly Lake vis a vis Kelly Lake Métis Settlement Society. Yet the BC Energy Regulator and Ministry of Transportation refuse to acknowledge any Métis participation in their regulatory reviews despite the growing evidence and Métis demands for inclusion. Why does the Federal regulatory process ensure Métis participation while the Province of BC does not? The new Distinctions policy document will continue this dysfunction and contradictory legal landscape for Métis and continue an atmosphere of conflict versus relationship building.

The past Provincial policies regarding Métis recognition made “halfbreed/Métis” families invisible in British Columbia since the 1800s. Once again, the new Distinctions policy will reinforce the continued exclusion of Métis people. Does the Province understand the negative consequences? Provincial Government denial has created vicious Indigenous identity politics which has negatively impacted First Nation/Métis relationships to the point where Métis have suffered and been ostracized. This specific issue between First Nation leadership organizations and Métis erupted this past summer; BC Métis Federation Files Human Rights Complaint In Response To Hate Speech In Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Resolution – BC Métis Federation (bcmetis.com).

Second BCMF is gravely concerned and has observed several Provincial Ministries utilize MIRR policy documents for years to minimize Métis engagement and access to their programs and services. This is reckless in that BCMF has seen the grassroots impacts of limiting education, health, housing, children and family service program access, etc. The new Distinctions policy suggests that Métis people must prove their Section 35 rights first through the courts and we believe this will continue to limit how Métis people can meaningfully engage Provincial programs and services. Often the Provincial Ministries weaponize these MIRR policies to limit or ignore Métis voices/access.

Third, references to Métis people in the Distinctions policy document only legitimizes Métis identity through the “one window” approach via the Métis National Council and its governing member Métis Nation BC. This is a false narrative. Yes, Métis Nation BC represents several Métis people in BC, but not the 6000 BCMF is mandated to represent. Moreover, the Métis National Council does not represent all Métis in Canada. Unfortunately, exclusive Métis organizational recognition with Métis Nation BC is damaging to BCMF membership and partner communities. Contrary to UNDRIP such Distinction policies erode the Métis right to associate freely and create our own government’s by choosing to recognize only 1 Métis organization in BC. A protection entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By contrast the Distinctions policy document does not exclusively recognize only 1 First Nations leadership organization or community. Therefore, why can’t the Province not accept Métis have more than 1 representative governing body in BC? The BC Métis Federation has filed a claim with the Supreme Court of BC to address this specific matter: BCMF Files Case Against Crown, Claims Infringement Upon Members’ Freedom of Association – BC Métis Federation (bcmetis.com)

Unfortunately, the MIRR Distinctions policy document reflects a history of Métis denialism and reinforces damaging Métis policy by attempting to minimize/legitimize only 1 Métis organization in BC. Therefore, BCMF is formally requesting a meeting on an urgent basis to create a new relationship with the Province to address these important matters and ensure work towards reconciliation for all Métis people in BC. Métis people have a long and distinct history in BC and we must honour our rightful place.

I look forward to meeting you at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,

Keith Henry

cc BC Métis Federation Leadership
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