Metis Perspective “The Progress Trap” by Joe Desjarlais

Joe Desjarlais ArticleThey thought they would progress “ad infinitim.” They were living the dream. They cultivated an airtight, streamlined identity across Canada that excluded at will, a sweetheart deal with governments who favored a one window approach for “dealing” with Metis across Canada. It was their own personal fiefdom, at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, Metis culture, and Canadian culture. They got away with it for years.

The Metis Nation BC and its affiliates are caught up in what historian Ronald Wright calls a progress trap, They call themselves a “nation” and pretend that they are on an upward path to self government. With delusions of grandeur, they ignore environmental concerns, signing agreements with corporations without the consent of their own communities. They ignore the interests of First Nations. They collude with venal governments and corporate interests, those who would willingly sell out aboriginal land, culture and resources from under their own people. Enticed by the web of ideology and the lure of profits, no one can imagine an alternate world.

While the Idle No More crowds have captured the common imagination of a new generation of First Nations, Metis and other Canadians, a beleaguered Metis national body called the Metis National Council and it’s affiliates across Canada largely pretend it didn’t exist. In BC as example,the MNC affiliate Metis Nation of BC continues to ignore people and garrison themselves apart from any public contact with everyday Metis citizens. They are a case study of tyranny in action and this has led to an unsustainable situation. This has continued for years, implicitly supported by mainstream government policy.

Recently, a Federal Court declared that Metis have rights as Indians under the constitution. Suddenly buoyed with the false idea that they could leverage the hope of a rights based identity to shore up support, they arrogantly issued a vacuous and misleading statement claiming that they are the official approved organization by governments and industry. Out of touch with reality, they arrogantly implied, join us or you are “excluded” from any trickle down benefits. They perpetuated the crisis in Metis communities, and now they claim the right to “champion” this new found identity forward at the expense of people.

Recently, national affiliate president Clement Chartier of the Metis National Council stated that the Daniels court decision confirms the ability of parliament to recognize a right of self government under a constitution. Following this they want a federal act to recognize this constitution. Chartier’s authoritarian power grab seeks to employ legislation to freeze frame their national identity to consolidate power. Amidst all their certainty, they silo Metis people by culling out all dissent, thereby fomenting even more division. They betray their own fear and prejudice and ignore the more promising road of cultivating interdependence among themselves and others.

President Mr. Bruce Dumont of the MNBC made it very clear over the years that he distrusts Metis people in his governing philosophy. At an annual general meeting some years ago, he declared publicly that their success lies in developing a relationship with the government. Judging by their actions, even a worldwide protest by citizens knocking on their door has not changed his mind. But again, denial and blame is how technocrats have always functioned. Incapable of ethical, sustainable leadership, they stumble along with coercive ideas and a broken top down governance structure that robs a shared future between Metis people and other Canadians.

Progress has not meant improvement for Metis people and communities. They were caught off guard in 2009 when a Metis person with ethical scruples stood up at a meeting and demanded answers for the financial and ethical calamities. Many others followed. To these elites however, the truth is what you need it to be to keep the gravy train going. It can mutate, transform, even shed its skin. The trick is to say what you need to be true at a given moment. They tried lawsuits. They blamed. They bullied. They denied. They threatened. They ignored. They grandstanded, to no avail.

Idle No More as a social movement has exposed the colonial nature of the Metis/Canadian institutional relationship, an unbalanced power relationship propped up by false race based ideas that Metis people and communities are incapable of real self government. It exposed those elites who chose to be the bearers of “civilization” and their own people are deemed inferior, mere savages who needed to be improved. Among other things, Idle no more has taught us all that unfettered capitalism, institutional racism, resource inequity, ecological ruin and destruction of aboriginal culture must be challenged by the majority or, we’re all next.

Idle No More has affirmed a sense of purpose and legitimacy among Metis people that the MNBC has completely missed and that goes far beyond them. The BCMF is an alternative Metis organization in Canada founded on the notion that Metis people matter and must be affirmed and included in Canadian culture and it’s economy. We have been saying for years that rights based identities go hand in hand with good governance, democratic liberty, citizenship engagement, the revival of a treaty relationship, and a broad public conversation about the future of Metis people in Canada.

This nuanced approach renders the progress trap of old school Metis organizations and the paternalistic governments who support them irrelevant and unsustainable.

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