Submission and Response to Federal Engagement on West Coast Energy Dialogue

To Whom It May Concern,

On Monday January 13, the BC Metis Federation began dialogue with the Government of Canada concerning west coast energy industry impacts for constituents and BC Métis Federation member communities. The BC Métis Federation participated at a federal table that consisted of over a dozen senior cross ministry federal officials, including AANDC, National Energy Board, Transport Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and several others. On the Aboriginal side, about 30 BC Aboriginal representatives were at the table.

It was clear from the outset that many participants felt that governments do not meaningfully engage. They believe that consultation cannot remain at a technical superficial level, merely facilitating what one chief called “drive-by consultation” by governments and industry.

Some real tensions spilled into the discussions. Many criticized the government representatives, citing issues like a lack of listening, reducing Aboriginal identities to mere ‘stakeholders,’ and perceived lack of credibility. Issues were raised around lack of capacity funding and need for talks on equity sharing.

There appeared to be a conflict between two very different ‘ways of knowing’ in the room. It was evident by listening that diverse cultures, ways of life and deep connections to the environment and land are at stake in these discussions. The overall message that came out was that respect and consent needs to redefine the process.

In terms of analysis, Mr Eyford’s report centres around four broad themes; trust, inclusion, reconciliation, and action. On a basic level his ideas provide the potential for the government to explore what he refers to as ‘mutual beneficial initiatives’ with Canada’s Métis people. Mr. Eyford states some hopeful initial recommendations for government action, including ideas like a ‘principled dialogue’ and ‘regional planning.’ Other ideas include employment ‘outcomes’ business development and forums to share best practices. If handled correctly, Mr. Eyford’s recommendations could open up new possibilities for Métis/Canada engagement. From the outset however, the BC Métis Federation is concerned about the manner these negotiations appear to be streamlined.

1. A first concern is instead of an ‘open sustained dialogue’, the agenda for negotiations and supporting materials appear to be co-opted by narrow, technical language. For example, the meeting objectives for the first encounter between the BC Métis Federation and the government are limited to narrow concerns like ‘review and confirm findings.’ The documents employ terminology like ‘effective relationships’ and ‘focus’ or ‘procedural compliance’ and numerous safety measures.

The agenda is framed in such a way that suggests a censured discussion around current consultation topics that work to justify predetermined assumptions. It is impossible to negotiate fairly without contextual considerations.

2. ‘Principled dialogue’ must include a review of impacts that consider Métis ways of being, oral and written histories, values and perspectives.

With all due respect, the ideas and representations that drive these and other “official” documents reveal a discourse primarily based on Euro-Canadian Western rational assumptions and orientations about the nature of Métis people and how they fit in Canada. There is no capacity at this point for a crossover of understanding where Métis indigenous perspectives drawn from the communities to influence these discussions or serve these communities and their systems and structures through this process.

3. The Eyford report recommends that dialogue must be framed within wider reconciliation discourses. This means that we must acknowledge a broader history of past and present injustice and their impacts to Métis people in order to move forward. BC Métis Federation leaders come to this discussion because we invite the government of Canada to reset the relationship with our people and communities to one of respect and dignity. Métis people invite government to negotiate a path through the injustice of the past, to reset the relationship to one of respect, consent and to help Metis people, communities and nations within Canada to get back their dignity through meaningful institutional capacity development. Our commitment to dialogue is based upon five movements that are committed to shift Metis and mainstream institutions in new and increasingly just ways.

A) Métis communities have the right to begin to re-imagine themselves as nations and make themselves known to Canadian society.

B) Dialogue must commit to an ongoing, positive, open negotiation of Métis identities. This means we need to facilitate a dialogue about the practice of historical difference within and between Métis communities and across communities in Canada. We advocate for national historical differences between communities

C) Negotiate a path to protect the ability to live in proximity and translation.

D) Explore possibility of co-existence through creative democratic citizenship engagement.

E) Support the idea of good governance through visionary and responsive leadership.

The Eyford report argued that “Canada and Aboriginal communities need to build effective relationships through sustained engagement”. Action means a commitment to true collaboration, a partnership model. BC Métis Federation needs a long-term relationship that begins to redefine co-existence, ‘consultation’ and partnership with Métis people and communities. We must bravely face the past and move toward a healthy shared future for Métis people. The alternative amounts to what Nelson Mandela once labeled ‘oppression by omission.’

Therefore BC Mètis Federation recommends a practical path toward ongoing negotiation:

BC Métis Federation believes that the Federal Government must follow up the January 13th meeting with follow up on a timely basis;

  • BC Métis Federation recommends that the Federal Government and their departments review language of future presentations to ensure language is mutually beneficial;
  • BC Métis Federation recommends capacity funding must be established to support future engagement and dialogue.
  • BC Métis Federation invites Federal Government representatives to participate in a Symposium that would be open to the public. This Symposium would provide an opportunity to educate those who attend on specific matters relating to discussions on the following topics:

o The genesis and fabulous history of the Metis people in British Columbia and in Canada.
o The status of the Metis under section 35 of the Constitution of Canada.
o The requirement for consultation and, where appropriate, accommodation with affected Metis communities and their representatives pursuant to the Haida Nation, Taku River and other cases.
o The significance of the 2013 Harry Daniels Case and Metis specific programs that should result from the Case such as education, health, family and other services.
o The 2013 Senate Report on Metis Identity and the “Observations and Recommendations” contained in it.
o The rights of Metis resulting from the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We look forward to next steps and consideration on the proposed recommendations.

Thank you
Keith Henry
BC Métis Federation

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