Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Designate
Government of Canada

Re: Introduction and Meeting Request

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

On behalf of the BC Métis Federation, I would like to take the occasion to congratulate you and the Liberal party on your historic election win. Canadians clearly wanted change and the election results speak to how strong that desire was across the country.

Canadians are witnessing a strong movement towards cultural, social and political renewal in Canada. We are grateful for a major shift in the “official” Federal government narrative. We have a new Prime Minister on record recognizing the importance of nation-to-nation partnerships and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, among other promises!

Along the election trail you made significant Métis-specific promises to support a sweeping change in Métis policy. On the Manitoba Metis land claim as example: “we immediately said the government of Canada needs to sit down and negotiate immediately in good faith.”

There are significant days, yet we face a long history of unjust Canadian – Métis relations leading right up to current days. The disturbing reality is that the Canadian government’s long term plan has been to exercise power over Métis in order to dispossess them of their rights and title while assimilating Métis into Canadian society.

Instead of honouring treaty relations with Métis, governments of all stripe have long attempted to control Métis and their land and resources. Federal and Provincial government policy and legislation has systematically limited Métis identity and divided Métis from each other, from First Nations and other Canadians, suppressed Métis values and ways of being, and this has led to marginalization of culture, subjugation and dispossession of Métis land.

Government policy has systematically sought to break down Metis self-determining, self-governing, and self-sufficient Métis communities and ‘nationhood’ as the basis of identity, and attempted to replace them with individual rights based identities that are dependent to and flow from the Crown.

Governments historically have politically favoured a one-window approach to ‘recognition’ that only dealt with certain political Métis non-profit organizations such as the Métis National Council (MNC) and affiliates such as the Métis Nation BC (MNBC).

It is our view that Clem Chartier and the Metis National Council have been seemingly putting the building blocks in place to be accountable to ‘government’ instead of Métis nations across Canada. This Métis Accord with the Federal government as recently signed by Métis National Council President Chartier and his affiliate leaders is basically a ‘block funding’ agreement in exchange for MNC’s agreement to restrict its membership.

It appears the price for ‘block funding’ is an ‘Objectively Verifiable Membership,’ which is a nonsensical restriction of Métis identity and a tragic continuation of Canada’s long history of colonialism.

Mr. Chartier is a willing partner in the marginalization of the very people he purports to represent, including Red River Métis. Métis National Council leaders have failed Métis ‘nations’ all across Canada because they have become the accomplice of the Canadian government’s long term plan to exercise power over Métis in order to dispossess them of their rights and title while assimilating Métis into Canadian society.

They have been preoccupied with regulating “individual rights bearing Metis citizens”. This rights-based dependency model creates competition and communities are set up to be impoverished. These leaders do not seem to articulate a positive alternative outside of oppositional identity politics, top down structures and leveraging “court verdicts” to gain funding in a time of scarcity and ‘cutbacks.’

As well, they have not been accountable with the funding they do receive. Down closer to the community level, Métis need and deserve good local governance and transparency and economic development frameworks in partnership with governments and industry. However, this has been elusive.

In British Columbia as example, longstanding government policies have cultivated a handout mentality among the elites of “preferred organizations” like Métis Nation BC by allocating money without community accountability and this has led to mismanagement. Governments and industry appear to enable this continued dysfunction. We can see the “industry connection” in action in a recent BC Métis Federation letter:

“MNBC is using Métis people to industry to garner significant capacity with no support for proper consultation.” 
“MNBC should be supporting their communities with capacity to properly engage with industry and ensure proper consultation. Industry and governments have a duty to ensure proper Métis consultation and MNBC has created their surplus only from industry funds to cover other administration and debt payments. The effect of this behavior is that MNBC is actually negatively impacting communities they represent on key proposed industry projects. If members or communities want to oppose or demand industry partners to be accountable on key industry project, they may simply say they gave consultation monies to MNBC and it is now the responsibility of MNBC to address. This raises serious questions in how industry partners such as TransCanada, Enbridge, BC Hydro, and many others are investing to ensure Métis communities and members most affected by proposed projects are actually being consulted and provided resources to address their questions and concerns.” 
“Are these (industry) partners aware of how this funding is being redirected? Was this the intention of these funds? The lack of MNBC transparency about costs for staffing, consultants, loans payments, etc continues to be showcased and the numbers within the numbers tell a revealing story. Lost revenues, industry investments but no support for the members most affected, and massive debt challenges for the future.” 
“Will oil and gas, hydro, mining, LNG, and other industry partners keep investing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for MNBC to cover their old debt and repayments? Are these partners aware of how this funding is being redirected?” 


Stakeholders stand back and do nothing or deny complicity but this approach is proving unsustainable.

More recently there have been legal rulings concerning Métis, Senate reports, and even industry reports have recommended change and cultural engagement and supports at the community level. The constitutionality of Métis and the fiduciary obligation is coming into focus with the advancement of the ‘legal Métis,’ most notably in the pending Daniels ruling at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Yet in the case of Métis, governments still do nothing. The outgoing Conservative government opposed BC Métis Federation in a Federal human rights case that is still pending. They spent dollars to fight Métis that could be spent building economic and cultural capacity. The Province of British Columbia is in total denial on the Métis file with a complete lack of leadership still today guided by the alleged Federal Government position and the notion that only MNBC is recognized.

In spite of these “business minded “governments claiming to be good fiscal managers, they inhibited sustainable self-governing Métis communities and get in the way of economic sufficiency.

The Métis National Council and affiliates for their part have opposed all those who differ from their ideological vision of Métis. Everyone who disagrees with their singular and restrictive approach to Métis nationalism is deemed ‘outsiders.’ Their zero-sum brand of identity politics and racially charged governance and registry processes has made it difficult to entertain broader definitions of being Métis.

Because of these actions, Métis people have thus become the basis of a constructed Canadian identity from which Métis organizations and government agencies can administrate all Métis peoples based on exclusive jurisdiction to certain rights. The effect has been that Métis agency (the ability of Metis to shape Canadian society) has been restricted to that of an ethnic interest group that has to compete for scarce government resources.

Alternatively, the BC Métis Federation represents a broad diversity of Métis communities and ‘nations’ that are not represented by other political groups, such as the Metis National Council, Manitoba Métis Federation, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Métis Federation of Canada or other groups.

In accordance with the BC Métis Federation’s philosophy of ‘many ways of being Métis’, the BC Métis Federation leaders do not deny the legitimacy of these groups to represent their members; however, the Federation does dispute claims that they represent all Métis.

Consistent with principles of self-determination however, these groups do not have the mandate to speak on behalf of all Métis in Canada, nor do they have the authority to negotiate an agreement on behalf of all Métis of Canada. In short, the MNC and affiliates represent one particular way of being Métis in Canada.

Step back from discussion about Métis for a moment and perhaps you recognize this oppositional politics and coercion in the former Federal government. Our approach is different. Reminiscent of language you conveyed in your election speech, we do not see people in other organizations as our ‘enemies’, but they are our ‘neighbours.’

In a spirit of reconciliation, we desire to create a shared-future with Métis political organizations that are open to creating policies that translate competing interests into cooperative action in order to open up possibilities and opportunities for all Métis Nations in Canada.

Instead of dependency schemes, racially charged identity politics, and seeking ‘block funding” in exchange for limiting Métis identities, the BC Métis Federation seeks to facilitate strong equal ongoing partnerships. We believe that Métis land is the foundation for sovereignty and sufficiency, not ‘handouts.’ “Real change” to us means many sovereign Métis communities coming together as independent self-sustaining ‘nations.’ The goal of Métis ‘nations’, then, is not to compete, but to seek the wellbeing of each other and to create ‘economies of partnership.’ Co-existence allows for alternate paths that everybody can participate in! Not just a few unaccountable “leaders” or ‘politically preferred” organizations.

All this to say, if the long history of Métis – Canadian relations has taught us anything, nation-to- nation relationships require ongoing intercultural negotiation and compromise and not subjugation and violence.

In the virtual town hall in your recent campaign, you mentioned that our future is “totally intertwined” and how we need to make sure that Canada “stays true to the original spirit of the Royal Proclamation.” You also mentioned that “Indigenous communities need autonomy and strength.’ We also believe that shared ideas of autonomy and interdependence are foundational to this place we call Canada and we agree wholeheartedly.

In order for negotiations to proceed, we must shift from a dependency relationship based on control and coercion to a nations-to-nation treaty relationship based on mutual recognition (status as equal, coexistent and inherent self-governing nations) and respect for historical difference. Our principles at the BC Métis Federation continually bring us back to our goal of re-creating ‘homeland viability’ for Métis “nations” and re-establishing enduring partnerships between Métis, First Nations, Inuit and Canadian communities.

In an age of reconciliation, Métis across Canada need a clear, fair comprehensive process going forward and the BC Métis Federation is committed to partner with the Federal Liberal government to facilitate these relationships.

We look forward to meeting with the new Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister on a priority basis to try and build a new relationship going forward based on the commitments the Liberal Party made for all Métis groups.

We seek a timely meeting at the earliest opportunity.

Thank you,

Keith Henry, President 
BC Métis Federation 
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway 
Vancouver, BC 
V5R 5W2 
cc BC Métis Federation Board 
BC Métis Federation Partner Communities 
BC Metis Federation Members 

[ilink url=”http://bcmetis.com/wp-content/uploads/BCMF-letter-to-PMO-Justin-Trudeau-October-27th-2015.pdf” style=”download”]Click here to download the BCMF letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in PDF format.[/ilink]

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