A holiday message from BC Métis Federation Secretary Joe Desjarlais.
The following year is poised to be a significant time for Métis people in British Columbia and across this country.
People have mistakenly thought that airtight definitions or structures, ideal policies, or elusive ‘recognition’ by governments or industry would best define Métis, or secure their ultimate place in Canada. Reconciliation between Métis people and Canada extends far beyond process-oriented reform or activities like regulatory ‘consultation’ obligations.
A cultural shift happens when it’s dominant ‘wisdom’ can no longer provide the necessary answers. The reality is that Métis people and communities across Canada are reclaiming their place as dynamic partners in Confederation in often unexpected ways that involve Métis wisdom.[i]
In the year ahead I expect an infusion of creativity and imagination as Métis across this country move toward self government and assume increased control of their own affairs. Among other things, this means ongoing positive community and nationhood formation, and ongoing work by leaders of ‘indigenizing’ internal governance processes and structures to be more inclusive, fair, and respectful of Métis people, elders, and traditions.
With the pending business development capital corporation as another example, the federation is taking steps to envision a creative economic development/business model as a means to self-governance and self-sufficiency for Métis peoples and communities. The income generated from entrepreneurship could give Métis a solid platform from which to negotiate with Canada without having to limit Métis identities or give up rights/title in order to participate. The wisdom drawn from Métis people and communities and their relationship with the land and resources is vital to economic development in this partnership model.
In the broader Canadian context, this shift also includes increased Métis control of Canadian affairs. Education is a powerful tool to equip and release Métis to fully participate in their own communities and assume central roles in Canadian society. As education portfolio holder, I envision bridging programs and incentives that connect educational curriculum in mainstream K-12, community education, or industry skills training to local Métis indigenous culture and values. These initiatives could educate Métis and other Canadians alike in practical goals such as citizenship education or leadership development.
Each of us has a choice about what will define and shape us, as individuals and communities. In a world constantly battered by voices of hostility, personal agendas, fear, intolerance, greed or cynicism, the decision is ours whether we will seek to be reconcilers or otherwise. On a daily basis, we make individual choices whether wisdom and balance will guide us as we seek to relate and build community. When we draw from this wisdom, our shared understanding of humanity is increased.
There is now a heightened move to treaty reconciliation among Métis, with First Nations, and with Canada. I encourage all in this coming time of celebration to take time to reflect on why you are involved in Métis cultural life and political affairs, or why you provide support as ‘friends’ of the Métis. There is still much work in front of us as Métis, as we begin to educate others about what it means to be Métis across Canada. This will impact negotiations and new relationships going forward.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve Métis people of BC as Secretary on the executive committee of the BC Métis Federation. Finally, I want to thank those people around me who continue to participate, often at great personal cost, in this often challenging but immensely rewarding journey we have undertaken!
[i] Thanks to Métis Elmer Ghostkeeper for the idea of Métis wisdom
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