National Métis Politics

The Current State of National Métis Politics – A Response to the Métis National Council January/February Newsletter 

By BC Métis Federation Secretary Joe Desjarlais 

What do you make of the MNC recent January newsletter and the message from the president? 

MNC president Chartier appears concerned that other Métis groups might be successful in having a voice through the Intervener process in the Supreme Court Daniels case. The letter provides comments such as, “What right do they have to purport to speak on behalf of the established Métis people and nation who have their own representative political bodies and governments, well established over many generations?“

He asks leaders to “take a hard stand on this issue” and links this to the “continued existence of the historic Métis Nation in its historic homeland.”

Why should Métis people be concerned about the entrenched position here? 

In the latest newsletter, Chartier and the MNC seem to reflect a new level of desperation and entrenchment. Instead of facilitating a national conversation about Metis identity, the MNC chose to further the marginalization of Métis nations across Canada by engaging in identity politics. The messaging reflects an inability to accept the changes taking place in the historic Métis-Canadian relationship. In the process, the best interests of Métis people and their historic interests are not well served.

The MNC president talks about the need for consolidation and “complementary federal legislation” as a form of recognition. So what is really happening here? 

If one accepts Chartier’s singular nationhood model the next question is ‘who defines the nation’ and ‘who acts in its self-interest’? Métis leaders in back rooms? The Federal government?

Chartier and the MNC are 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. A couple of quick thoughts on the accord:

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. The pact is tragic because while the Indian Act put the onus on the state (Canada) to define ‘Indian’ as a policy of assimilation, under this agreement the MNC takes it upon themselves to limit Métis identity on behalf of the government. Chartier is a willing partner in the marginalization of the very people he purports to represent, including Red River Métis. It makes one wonder what the government’s understanding is of “Metis Nation” when ‘membership’ in those communities is not defined as citizenship in a Métis nation. 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 Metis in order to dispossess them of their rights and title while assimilating Métis into Canadian society.

What is the big picture message moving forward? 

BC Métis Federation believes that Métis “nations” need to be thinking 50 – 100 years down the road so that current policy decisions represent the principle that Métis people will be a full participant in Canada’s cultural, political and economic future.

The ‘culture wars’ about Métis identity currently playing out across the country must come to an end. The Federation’s position is simple: Métis “nations” should avoid entrenched positions that limit our future and continually bring our policy back to ‘homeland viability’ and ‘partnerships’. We are committed to thinking and acting in ways that promote the long-term health, capacity and well being of Métis communities and nations in Canada.

BC Métis Federation calls upon Chartier and the MNC to stop and to join other forward looking Métis leaders across Canada who are speaking in the language of partnership (nation to nation) so that we can get on with the more important work of getting governments and corporations to begin thinking and speaking in that language as well. Métis political organizations should be creating policy that highlights their role as a translator of competing interests on behalf of Métis “nations”.

[ilink url=”” style=”download”]Click here to download a PDF version of this article.[/ilink]

[ilink url=”” style=”download”]Review the MNC Newsletter as a downloadable PDF.[/ilink]

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