Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 21 - Evidence - June 13, 2012
OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 6:50 p.m. to examine and report on the legal and political recognition of Métis identity in Canada, the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and on other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Topic: additions to reserves
Marcy Zlotnick, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, as the clerk of your committee, it is my duty to inform you of the unavoidable absence of the chair and the deputy chair, and to preside over the election of an acting chair.
I am ready to receive a motion for the acting chair. Are there any motions to that effect?
Senator Ataullahjan: I suggest Senator Patterson.
Senator Watt: I second it.
Ms. Zlotnick: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan that the Honourable Senator Patterson do take the chair of this committee. Are there any other nominations?
Senator Watt: Nominations are closed.
Ms. Zlotnick: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion that Senator Patterson take the position of acting chair?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Ms. Zlotnick: I declare the motion carried. I invite the Honourable Senator Patterson to take the chair.
Senator Dennis Glen Patterson (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, fellow senators. I am humbled by your confidence in me.
Senator White: Wait until the meeting is over.
The Acting Chair: Good evening. I would like to welcome all honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or the World Wide Web.
I am Dennis Patterson from Nunavut, and I am happy to serve as acting chair in the absence of the chair and deputy chair. The mandate of the committee is to examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. In addition, we have a specific order of reference authorizing us explore Metis issues, particularly those relating to the evolving legal and political recognition of the collective identity and rights of the Metis in Canada.
The early meetings on this study have consisted of briefings from various government departments, which have provided us with information, including facts on current federal programs and services, the status of Crown-Metis relations, general statistical information, and current legal issues, among other things.
We then heard from two lawyers who concentrate on Metis issues. We have also heard from national organizations that represent a Metis constituency. Tonight we will hear from the Historic Saugeen Métis. Welcome.
Before we hear from witnesses, I would like to introduce the members of the committee here this evening.
On my far left is Senator Nick Sibbeston from the Northwest Territories, Senator Charlie Watt from Nunavik and Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas from New Brunswick. On my far right is Senator Vern White from Ontario and Senator Salma Ataullahjan from Ontario.
Members of the committee, please help me in welcoming our witness. Representing the Historic Saugeen Métis we have Patsy L. McArthur, Secretary-Treasurer.
Ms. McArthur, please proceed with your presentation. Questions from the senators will follow.
Patsy L. McArthur, Secretary-Treasurer, Historic Saugeen Métis: Honourable senators, thank you for the invitation to attend here. I am a Metis woman, born at Saugeen, Southampton, Ontario, a descendent of North West Company voyageurs and their Cree Metis country wives. I am pleased to represent the Historic Saugeen Métis perspective on some of the issues you have discussed already.
I want to give some background information about our community. The Historic Saugeen Métis people are a distinctive historic Metis community residing along the eastern shores of Lake Huron proper and the inland lakes and rivers. As our ancestors before, we reside in, fish, hunt, trap and harvest the lands and waters of the Bruce Peninsula and Luke Huron, our traditional Metis Saugeen territory.
This territory, given our Metis traditional water and land use activities, is a very large area in the present-day counties of Grey, Bruce, Huron, part of northern Lambton, and parts of Dufferin and Wellington counties. It includes lakes and waters and specifically Lake Huron and adjoining rivers, most notably the Saugeen, the Menesetung, known as the Red River and now the Maitland River, and inland lakes.
Our community, distinctive and diverse, emerged over time from the fur trade. Uniquely, our early Goderich and Saugeen Metis families were carriers of the -dish with one spoon'' wampum exchanged in 1818 by the Saugeen Ojibway with Pierre Piché, Saugeen's first recorded trader. The dish wampum between the Metis and Ojibway was a reminder of peace and sharing agreed upon in the Ojibway territory at the time the two met.
When Saugeen's North West Metis families first came to the Saugeen Metis territory, prior to the treaties and settlement, already there were the old Metis trading families from Michigan. Together the Metis resided and traded in a north-south cohesive regional trading network that reached as far as the Killarney area of Lake Huron's north shore. Within the traditional territory, Goderich and Saugeen were the two visible trading posts, then settlements, that developed early in the trading era. The Historic Saugeen Métis community has been here with continuity since that time.
In 2001, Historic Saugeen Métis reorganized and asserted section 35 Aboriginal rights and then identified according to the Powley decision of 2003. In 2008, regretfully, Historic Saugeen Métis had to leave the Ontario collective, the MNO, to protect our historic Metis community and our Metis identity of almost 200 years at Saugeen. We declined to sign a protocol giving jurisdiction to the collective to alter our identity based on a new regional definition that would have transferred jurisdiction for consultation on lands and resource use to the collective. We did violate their policies in that respect.
After suspensions of our rights by the collective, Historic Saugeen Métis resigned and became an independent Metis community.
The Historic Saugeen Métis message to the Senate committee is that identity is important to each Metis person in Canada, as is respect for our historic Metis communities. We are attached to our lands and waters, and Aboriginal rights are not portable, in our opinion. Modern political identities of rights-bearing Metis communities, wide and expansive as in the Prairies, are not supported by fact in the Great Lakes. For this reason, we ask that honourable senators consider in their deliberations the diversity of the Metis experience in Canada and how it is important to include diversity in your recommendations on Metis identification.
Further, Historic Saugeen Métis see the following identity-related issues and ask that you consider them. We believe, first, that Metis must have the right to identify themselves; second, independent rights-bearing historic Metis communities across Canada have the right to identify their own citizens and maintain their own registries; third, governments must be encouraged to provide resources to independent Metis communities to identify their rights-bearing members, as provided to similar others; and, last, a definition of rights-bearing Metis communities must respect diversity of Metis communities right across Canada and not reflect political agendas.
The Historic Saugeen Métis appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the process. I am pleased tonight to answer your questions. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. McArthur. We will begin, then.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for being here this evening and thank you for your presentation. I love the uniform look of — I do not know what you call that sash.
Ms. McArthur: We are very proud of it.
Senator Ataullahjan: It looks wonderful.
With regard to the Supreme Court legal test, to be considered Metis within the meaning of section 35 an individual claimant must self-identify as a member of the Metis community, show an ancestral relationship with the Metis community, and be accepted by a contemporary community that exists in continuity with a historic rights-bearing community. What determines inclusion in the Historic Saugeen Métis community? Since you are a distinct community, is it solely based on ancestral connection or lineage?
Ms. McArthur: Yes, at this time it is. We represent the descendants of the historic families who are identified as having been in the regional territory that we have identified as being used by the Metis. They have continued until today. At this time, we are in the process of considering — we are now in our fourth year — the policy we will have for either a citizenship or a Metis membership, and we will be exploring that. The citizens will decide on who will be included.
The one message I could say is that we know it will be an inclusive policy.
Senator Ataullahjan: I am asking because we have previously discussed whether simply growing up in a certain community and feeling a sense of belonging makes one a part of that community, even if you have one grandparent or parent who is partly Metis.
Ms. McArthur: If the ancestor was there prior to settlement and was one of the historic families that were using the territory at that time, in exercising the right, then the descendants must prove genealogical connection to that ancestor.
Senator Sibbeston: It is interesting talking to a Metis from another part of the country. I come from the Northwest Territories. I came from a Metis family that had its origin in the Red River area. There has never been any doubt about our identity and existence. We received scrip, and my grandfather received scrip for his family. We come from that kind of background.
I think generally in the West there is a consciousness about the Metis. They have played a significant role in the development of the country in terms of being the guides, the river boat pilots, the interpreters and so forth — very much a go-between for the White people and First Nations people.
It is interesting to hear from you that you have Metis so far east. You mention that you come from the voyageurs and coureurs de bois, people who were in the trading business. Is that it in terms of your origins? You mentioned some of the families coming from the States, but they would have been similar, all with trading backgrounds and a distinct people.
Ms. McArthur: Yes. I would say by the late 1700s there had started to emerge an identifiable mixed-blood community that had a group awareness. There has been a lot of discussion about whether the group awareness that existed in the West, for example, in those places did translate to smaller subgroups. We precede the Red River. Part of our descendants or ancestors came from ancient trading families that were in the lakes for a century or more.
The Northwest Territories' families who did come to our community — half a dozen or more — were in the West as voyagers with the North West Company for some 20 years before coming down. We do say that we have that identification and group awareness. They were exercising the Metis lifestyle. We really do feel we have that awareness.
The ancestors of old trading families in Michigan were born in Mackinac. There were two hubs where fur-trading posts emerged. One was Mackinac and one was Detroit. At the turn of the 19th century, in 1800 or so, they were very much being pressured by a loss of territory and so on within the Michigan territory. Of course, 1821 was the merger of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company, and that left a lot of French out.
As people flowed and tried to find some location where they could continue their lifestyle and practise their practices, they came down into the basin of Lake Huron. Yes, we do believe we had a group identity there.
Senator Sibbeston: How many are there of you?
Ms. McArthur: Currently we have less than 200 registered, because we register only adults. If you multiply that by the children that would be in families, we calculate it would be somewhere around 500.
Senator Sibbeston: I know amongst the Metis we always kind of laugh at ourselves a little bit because we are distinct in the sense that we are independent, we drink, and we chase the opposite sex — things of that sort. Do you have any of those characteristics in your men or in your women at all — things that are uniquely different from other people? Let us say the British. They are different. They are kind of prim and proper and even if they go into the Arctic, they wear their own uniforms, swords and stuff like that.
People are different in some respects. I am curious to know whether you have that Metis distinctiveness that we know in the North and West?
Ms. McArthur: Senator, we have never used those criteria to identify our community, so it is difficult for me to say. Definitely we have criteria that can be used to describe Metis. With the decision our community had to make, with pressure on us to re-identify our community as being something other than we had been asserting for so long and that was our experience, you could say we are very free, independent and willing to stand for the rights that we believe our ancestors passed on to us because of the contributions they made prior to the treaties.
Senator Sibbeston: I do not know whether you have ever read the book Buffalo Days and Nights. It is a book about Peter Erasmus. It is a terrific story. He was a Metis in the late 1800s residing in the Fort Edmonton area. He was a typical Metis. He was on the road all the time, guiding or chasing buffalo. He apparently went to the little community of Lac St. Anne and fell in love with this girl he wanted to marry, but she would not marry him because she said he was really unsettled. He was all around the country, never home, so she would not marry him then. When he settled down, she asked him to come back. The guy left, and eventually when he came back a number of years later, she was married to someone else.
It is a good story about the life of a Metis person. He was not a settle-down type of guy. He reminds me of my uncle, too, who fell in love with a girl up in the Fort Nelson area. He was engaged to marry her the following summer, and he left. Next summer, when he came back to marry her, she was married to someone else. His synopsis or his statement about that is to never try to marry a good-looking girl because you never have all of her because she is so attractive that other men like her.
Eventually, Mr. Erasmus ended up going to another little community, and again he went into somebody's house and saw a beautiful girl, a younger girl. That night, in the course of just being there for a few hours, he ended up proposing to her and eventually married her. Such was the life of Metis people.
Ms. McArthur: Certainly, our families traded in the north-south trading network, settled along the shoreline of Lake Huron, and some did go down to Detroit and marry into some of the very old families. Some married into very old families from Michigan. Because the traders were trading as far north as the north shore, we had two daughters who married into the Wikwemikong reserve and remained there.
We had other Metis from our families marry into other Metis families, the old trading families from Michigan. We had one of our daughters marry at Wikwemikong and become embroiled in the only recorded Ontario Metis/First Nation dispute over fishing on Lonely Island. She was married to a Proulx, a nephew of the very first priest there, and she went to the Killarney community and raised a very large Metis family. They, of course, married into other Metis families, and there is a very large connection there.
We did have that travelling lifestyle for the communities. Metis people in the community became fishermen after the trade ended, and they did travel for trade. This is recorded by Professor Shute who interviewed some of our elders in the 1930s. He told about the Metis lifestyle they led, loading everything into their canoes and boats — chickens and all — and going away for months at a time at particular times during the seasons. The families had fishing shanties at the fishing islands and were very much a part of the fishery because Metis did become fishery oriented in the first days, and then went into boat building. They went into being mariners, captains, on schooners, on boats, and they were the very first mariners.
We had that lifestyle that you described and going around intermarrying. I am sure they had some of the qualities or traits that you have mentioned. We were a typical community that was outside the other two communities.
The French Catholics loved their church when they came out of the bush, and the Metis signed the very first petition at Goderich to establish St. Peter's before any other church, other than the church at Sault Ste. Marie, before St. Ann's at Penetang, before the one at Wikwemikong. The very first church was established at Goderich by petition, which the Metis signed separately showing the group awareness of who they were.
At Southampton, the very first confirmations in the church there, when it did get established, were all Metis, except one, and from this group of families trading along the shoreline.
Yes, I understand now that you are talking about the traditional Metis lifestyle, and as I said, our people drank a bit, just like everybody else, and they loved the fiddle and they loved a good time.
Senator Sibbeston: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: That was a very good answer to a challenging question.
Ms. McArthur: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Ms. McArthur, you referenced a Professor Shute. Is there any written material you could pass along?
Ms. McArthur: The papers he left are in the Bruce County archives and museum. I can have them prepare a copy and present them to the committee. We had been documenting our community for 40 years, and we are very pleased and thankful for all the activism and those who came before us, like Dr. Belcourt and the old Native Council of Canada, the first group that started to activate for Metis rights. We are very thankful for all those people. We cooperated with the heritage foundation in Ontario, and they put up a fur trade plaque at Saugeen. That is the very first thing we did as far as documenting and providing information.
We did write a book in 2005, which I was the editor of, and that has been very popular. We have sold over a thousand copies. We have produced one land use study with a Canadian arm of an American firm that interviewed our people and recorded all that. We have completed another more expansive land use study by Dr. McNab, a Metis historian out of York University.
Currently, we will have published in October an historical atlas that is partly written by Dr. McNab to write our history into the context of Ontario's history. The community, and I am doing a large part of it, is writing the biographies of the families that we have identified were in the community historically, bringing them down three or four generations. That part will be published. The other documents were not.
The Acting Chair: What is the book called?
Ms. McArthur: It is called Historic Saugeen & Its Metis Peoples.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Ataullahjan, did you have a supplementary?
Senator Ataullahjan: I did, but I do not know if I remember it now after all that talk of romance.
You mentioned the numbers. I just wanted to know the breakdown. What is the percentage of youth, elderly and male and females? Do you have those numbers?
Ms. McArthur: I do not have those, and I probably could not give you the children because they are not all recorded because we do not record or register the children until they are 16 years of age. However, we do have very close connection with the families and know who they are.
Senator White: Thank you very much for your presentation. I actually wanted to question Senator Sibbeston after that.
I had a question as to whether or not there are people within your community who would disagree with their status as Metis and instead would identify as First Nations.
Ms. McArthur: There would not be.
Senator White: There is not?
Ms. McArthur: There are not. As I said, we have been very careful about who we register, and because we have been doing genealogy for such a long time, I can say there are not any. However, we do have people who come into our office, whose children or grandchildren are losing status, asking if those people could be registered.
Senator White: Losing status as First Nations?
Ms. McArthur: Yes, and who have been raised on the reserves, as I understand it. If that person could prove Metis ancestry in the community — because it is all tied to land, water, place and time — what land and water was your ancestor using at what time; it has to be before effective control.
If those persons who had taken status at some point, but through the Indian Act had lost their status, came into our office and said they would like to register, they would have to prove back to a Metis that had been in our asserted territory.
Senator White: They could not have status under First Nation and as well be members of Metis?
Ms. McArthur: No, definitely not, because you have to be one of the three.
Senator White: You have to give up one to accept the other.
Ms. McArthur: You have to be Inuit, First Nation or Metis. You cannot register several times in different places.
Senator White: Thank you very much for that. I appreciate it.
Senator Meredith: One of the things that we have heard several times is around identification. Your race is one of your points in that Metis need to identify themselves. You have been around in terms of documentation since the 1820s. One of the questions I would raise is around the language, culture and the preservation of it. I know it is very near and dear to your community, so my question would be around language. Is that still practised? In part of the self-identification, does someone have to prove that they can actually speak the language or practise in the culture?
Ms. McArthur: Unfortunately, as many Metis communities in Canada, we have almost lost our culture as far as the language goes. I remember my grandfather could speak the native language and he spoke French, but currently I would say that we have lost our language.
Senator Meredith: As you look at identifying the next generation of Metis, or those who come and self-identify, look at claims to their ancestral lands and right to those lands, is there an effort through organizations that are helping to bring back this culture and the language? I know that as part of First Nations — and again you do not identify as First Nation — you look at how to make sure that linguistics, cultural, and all those things are brought back.
Ms. McArthur: Certainly we would try to introduce the language at some point. What we are currently doing is with our elders. We hold luncheon meetings and workshops with them, and we have had people in to start to talk about the culture and reintroduce them to it. It has been very successful in that way.
Language is a whole different thing because few communities have anybody left speaking it, especially in Ontario. Perhaps very far north, and I know that the collective is making an effort in that area. Certainly at some point we will do such a thing too, but being just four years old, there have been an awful lot of things to do. However, the culture is very important to us.
Senator Meredith: Along those lines of you talking about the elders, what are some of the challenges facing the youth within your community? Are they similar to what the other First Nation youth are facing?
Ms. McArthur: Yes and no. We have particular families who are not as fortunate as others and are disadvantaged for various reasons, but we live in a fairly rich area with the nuclear industry and other large industries. We do not have the employment problems that they have, say, in other communities farther north. However, the challenges for us are to ensure that our students are given every opportunity to become educated, and we run an education program. The first year we were independent. The community itself funded six students for an amount, and it was without a means test. We want to help and encourage everybody, because we understand with the makeup of the family today there can be many blended families and so on.
In the last two years we have funded 10 students going to university and college each year. This year, as well as the students we fund, we are assisting one single mother to go back to college. Education is one of our main goals and we have to look after the youth and ensure that everyone has the maximum opportunity that is possible.
The other is to look after our elders and address their needs. I would say in that respect we have similar goals that all Metis have across Canada. We are no different than any other Metis community. We identify so strongly and have so much history with Saugeen — our home, our territory and our people. Some may say that our community must be blended into this region, or that our contributions really were not in that territory and that we were just nomads wandering around, but we were not.
I believe we have, in Ontario, one of the few communities that can satisfy the criteria of Powley. We developed over time out of the fur trade. We operated a regional trading network where the people were identifiable. It was cohesive. It was economic, and we have a continuity of people today from that time until now. We maintain an elected council that represents the communal rights that they have passed on to us.
Senator Meredith: I have a quick question on the challenges of sending your young people off to colleges and universities. We have read and seen the reports of some young people who are not coping as well. What kind of mechanism do you have in place to support these young people as they go off?
Ms. McArthur: We ensure that they try to get into a college that has an Aboriginal program, and we try to stay connected to them. They come back and volunteer at the Saugeen Rendezvous and so on. We have a storefront office right in Southampton, Ontario, which has been the best thing that we did, and we tell our Metis that it is not our office, it is their office. We have started to make a real connection with people who drop in for different things, come with their families and so on. We support them if they come in and say they have a problem, and we are able to do that because we have the personal connection.
Senator Meredith: Thank you so much.
The Acting Chair: You mentioned that the Historic Saugeen Métis had violated the policies of the Métis Nation of Ontario with respect to lands and resources. Could you give us a little more detail on how that occurred and why?
Ms. McArthur: Thank you very much for the question. I was hoping someone would ask that.
The policy of the Métis Nation of Ontario is that it is limited to people who agree to follow their policies. We agreed with that. They have a process called the chartered community process, and in 2001 we were very happy to join the Métis Nation of Ontario. We are totally into our history and have a strong sense of identity. We had a very good relationship with the people and still do.
I say we have already violated the policy because they changed the definition of rights-bearing community from what we considered was Powley's definition of being within a regional trading network. We considered that we fit Powley, but Powley did not say how big the region was. That has created some problems.
In the beginning of 2008, MNO changed its definition of rights-bearing community to become a much larger area that would stretch from Goderich to over near Peterborough and to south of the French River. In doing that, it changed our identity. We were identifying according to Powley, as the Historic Saugeen Métis community that had been here, and we had the history to prove it. We believe we fit Powley. Then, for whatever reason, MNO adopted this idea that all rights-bearing communities are large and expansive as in the West. That was not our experience.
The rights-bearing community then would have been regional. It would have been managed by a committee for the lands and resources. It was all about lands and resources consultation. The proposal was that they have the regional policy; we now have to go over to Penetang and we were not significant in the history that we had or anything because now it is that Metis are all over the region and they are the rights-bearers, all these Metis, but we still claim according to Powley.
It was all about land consultation. Our consultation and relationships that we would have had with the Crown, the government, would then be transferred and taken out of our hands and taken to the regional committee. The lands and resources department was then developed in Toronto, where they would run all the lands and resources consultations from the regional committee, of which we would have only one voice in Penetang. It changed our identity, and it also changed the relationships we could have directly with the Crown and with the community, because lands and resources consultation is about municipal consultation, everything from a bed and breakfast to a huge sewer project or something like that, and the Crown owes consultation to the rights-bearing community in the area. It is consultation with your Ontario province over projects they have in the area. It is consultation on federal nuclear projects in the area, and we have two large ones. We had relationships with some of those municipalities. After that, it would have been taken over to a regional committee, and it is not that we would not have had a voice, but it changed totally our relationships that we wanted to develop with our community, with our Crown and so on, because it regionalized it. That is what we rejected.
Since becoming independent, we decided that we would do things differently, that we would go into the community, reach out to the municipalities, to the province, and still we wanted to maintain our relationships and any agreements we had with the nuclear proponents, because the benefits from those come to our community. We had to put our foot down. What we had to do to let it happen was to sign a new protocol in addition to our chartered community council protocol. We had to sign a protocol that would give our rights for consultation to the MNO. That is what we rejected.
We started in February or May — I think it was May. The regional concept was introduced in our territory on February 9, 2008. We wanted to work within the system if we could, but we were very uneasy about it. We tried to get a protocol. We did six drafts of a protocol, trying to get a protocol that would let us remain and maintain some independence and have some say over our affairs, but it did not work out. It finally came down to the framework that came out. We were a little bit concerned just at the way things were going there.
Finally, I guess they got fed up with us and they suspended us, which is the way to get rid of someone who is causing a problem. They suspended us, thinking that we would go away but keep the charter and move other people in. We were the people. We just stepped aside and said no. We had to resign. We had to give up harvesting, which we have not got back yet. We knew we had to get an office, because we had been working for all those years on someone's dining room table. We just stepped aside, got our office and carried on.
We were fortunate that some of the proponents with whom we had relationships stuck with us, and the federal government stuck with us. We were getting participation funding for a nuclear project. It was a year before we were lucky enough to get new relationship funding from the province, and we are now enjoying the new relationship funding. We are in the third year of having a lands and resources person.
We wanted to transform our relationship. We deliberately tried for a transformative relationship with the municipalities and we had a consultant. We went out to the municipalities. We met the planning departments and everything. I must say, with the assistance we have with our lands and resources department, the person we were able to hire, that we have been able to carry on successfully. We do a lot of business out of an office that has 4 people. It would probably take 15 or 20 people to look after things in the MNO office in Toronto or in a First Nations community.
Now the proponents in the territory have to consult with two Metis communities. They consult with us and with the MNO.
The Acting Chair: Thank you for the very thorough answer. To quickly make sure I understand, members of your Saugeen Metis are not able to get Metis harvester certificates.
Ms. McArthur: Metis harvest is negotiated with the MNR and it is a separate protocol. We have had meetings and hope to regain our harvest, but that is the sacrifice we had to make temporarily to maintain our community identity. Having the local community interact with the municipalities and reach out into the community, it does help make a safer community. It is just natural.
Senator Ataullahjan: In May 2012, you announced your participation in a three-year research project on the rights of Aboriginal people with disabilities. Could you describe your role in that and the reasons why you became involved? Are you aware of the percentage of individuals with disabilities in your community?
Ms. McArthur: We became involved because of our connections to York University, which was looking for partners. Some of the people we work with, the historians are professors there. We became aware of that. It is the second time we have done something like that — we did something with a community college — and they are looking for Aboriginal support for their projects. We have not had any meetings, since it was just awarded and so on. The role of our community will be determined at some time in the future. It is up to York. We certainly want to participate.
We do have some disabilities in our community, yes.
Senator Sibbeston: I was going to ask Ms. McArthur about the matter of hunting and fishing. You mentioned it in your statement. How significant is it to you nowadays? In the North, hunting and fishing was a way of life in the past. There was no other way to live except to hunt and fish. Through time, things have changed, so hunting and fishing are not as significant and not as much a necessity. One can live without hunting and fishing, if you have a job.
How significant is this matter of hunting and fishing to your people?
Ms. McArthur: Connection to the land is the most important thing to a Metis person. Our families traditionally were hunters and fishermen. Just like the broader community, there are fewer people who hunt and fish. However, we do have particular people who have been avid hunters — their parents were avid hunters — and avid fishermen, and they continue to hunt and fish.
When we were with the MNO, we did hold two community harvests because whitefish fishing is a big thing. We had a member go out with a fish boat who was an MNO member. There were no charges from the MNR or anything, but that was under the MNO harvesting policy.
It is important. You go in the fall and get your fish. Deer hunting is very important in our area, as is fishing. A lot of the men moose hunt, which they did not do traditionally in our area, but they do hunt. They exchange their fish for moose or moose for venison.
I have been fishing since I was a kid. I go out to the islands and pick berries in the summer. We had our traditional harvesting that other people did. Many of the Metis families did have fishing stations.
In all local history and in all the writings of the county and the historical books of the three counties that are on the Lake Huron shoreline, the Metis people — our people — are identified in the books as being the earliest there, and very connected to the land.
Senator Meredith: A couple of my questions were answered already with respect to harvesting and the economic impact. When you look at the community and building, you look at the young people possibly going into harvesting just to survive and feed their families. My question was around that, but it has been answered.
One of the particular things you mentioned was with respect to the MNO wanting do this regionalized approach. You felt that your identity would be lost in all of this. What was their reasoning for wanting to go into this regional approach and take away your identity? Did your membership feel that this broader approach — expanding your territory, expanding the region — would cause that distinctness you have to be lost? Did your membership feel that way, or is it that the MNO wanted to impose something on you?
Ms. McArthur: The distinctiveness would be lost. We knew who we were. A lot of Metis communities do not have the history we have, or they are searching for their community because rights are tied to community. We knew who we were.
When we got our status from the collective, it was not a matter that we had to search around for a community. We had an established community; we knew who we were. Immediately, when Powley came out — because I am the local historian — we matched ourselves up with Powley and we fit it. We knew who we were and we were just getting our feet under us.
The area is very historical. There are so many marine societies, historical societies, et cetera. Traditional history, when it was starting to be written in the 1960s and 1970s, should have reflected who was in the older centennial books and so on.
Oral history was left there about who the earliest traders were and they were verified with the Piché wampum, which ended up in the Royal Ontario Museum. The Piché wampum for peace in the territory was passed down to my great grandmother and from her to her daughter. From her daughter, it went to Fred Lamorandiere, who became the clerk at Cape Croker and she married him.
When she died she left the bead wampum. He went to Owen Sound and notarized the story of the wampum and it ended up in the ROM. The ROM has it in their records. They are looking for it but unfortunately cannot find it.
That ties us to the earliest trade as far as taking you back and being distinctive within Canada.
I believe there is diversity. There is one Metis people, but many Metis peoples. We want to preserve the distinctiveness of our community because it is a historic one. Ontario has principles of diversity, and large organizations should have diversity. We did not go to Peterborough. If I go over to Penetang, which is the other large community, and say, -I am home; I am here for your homecoming,'' they do not have me on their list. If I go to Peterborough, wherever the line is, I am not on their list.
I am certain that our ancestors did not use that territory, because I have recorded where the families in our community were throughout 200 years. I know who is in the community from all the research we have done. The peninsula was a big barrier. You did not cross the peninsula. There were very few intermarriages with the Metis on the far side who collected there after 1828. We preceded all of that.
Communities should be allowed their diversity, in our opinion, and their history. That is a big thing. The Ontario Historical Society recognized our people with a plaque and wrote a background paper.
The heart would be gone. Where is the heart to write your history, do all this stuff, if it is a control from over here? It does not make sense.
Senator Meredith: Ms. McArthur, you have a lot of heart and passion for this in terms of where you are building and how you are moving forward. I commend you and hope for your continued success. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Ms. McArthur, I wonder if you might introduce the members of your community who are with us here tonight.
Ms. McArthur: I will. This is a family thing here. I would like introduce my daughter, Krista Lewis, who lives in Thornhill. This is my niece, Cindy Zarzycki. My other niece is Cathy Zarzycki. My sister is Goldie Mielhausen.
Senator Meredith: Welcome.
Ms. McArthur: Thank you very much.
Senator Watt: My question is more of a clarification along the line that the chair questioned you. First of all, welcome to the committee. In times in the past I have worked with your people, like Harry Daniels, for example, and Tony Belcourt, leading up to 1982 and entrenchment in the Constitution.
Ms. McArthur: I as well worked for Tony Belcourt. I worked as the acting registrar for the Métis Nation of Ontario in 1999 and 2000, and I very much respect that he has given his life to the Metis.
Senator Watt: The item that I tend to feel I need some clarity on is the point of the Métis Nation of Ontario, what you call MNO, I believe.
Ms. McArthur: Right.
Senator Watt: Your group works under Powley in relation to the court ruling that was handed down with regard to three men who were prosecuted for hunting in the past. I can remember when it went to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I see a bit of tension between the two groups — if there is a tension that exists, I do not know. That is for you to tell me.
I guess what you are saying is that this is something we know best as a community. It should be our responsibility, and it should not be taken away by the regional organizations, to have the responsibility of dealing with the other regions. Therefore, you would like to have your relationship with the government, if there is development that has to take place, keeping in mind also that there seems to be a project in your community with regard to uranium. Do I understand you correctly?
Ms. McArthur: We do have nuclear —
Senator Watt: Nuclear power?
Ms. McArthur: Nuclear plants, yes.
Senator Watt: If I understood you correctly, you are in the midst of negotiations with the municipality on that, or is your regional organization dealing with it? What is happening there?
Ms. McArthur: I think all Aboriginal communities in the area have relationships with the proponents.
Senator Watt: Relationships with whom?
Ms. McArthur: With companies that have activities in the area. I am sure that all Aboriginal communities in the area have relationships with the —
Senator Watt: Your particular community?
Ms. McArthur: Yes, we are a separate community. We are consulted now by municipalities and by others similar to the MNO. The MNO is a collective; we are individual.
Senator Watt: Are you saying to the committee that you do not want the regional body to interfere in your dealings?
Ms. McArthur: We did not accept their policy.
Senator Watt: Who established the policy?
Ms. McArthur: The Métis Nation of Ontario. We did not accept their policies, and that is the way they admit communities. However, communities can reject their charters within 30 days, if they wish. You are not married to the terms. There is an agreement that either party could get out within 30 days, but it seems that once you join, it is difficult to get out. You just have to say no, but we did not want them to take the consultation that was owed our community and that we were able to do ourselves. We wanted to keep that. We had enjoyed being with the collective. There are a lot of benefits to being with the collective, but we went into it thinking that we would be supported.
Senator Watt: You wanted to be what?
Ms. McArthur: To be supported, to make our community the very best it could be and to reclaim our culture. This is the idea. There was no help in those days. If you want to reclaim your culture, we say we have a historic community here. How will we do it? If we can get a charter, then we have the support of a larger group to help us reclaim our heritage.
It came to a point where we felt that the definition of regional communities was that they were historic and could prove that they were operating in a certain geographic area. When that changed, then who are we? Who are our people? This is what they did. Historic Saugeen Métis fits Powley, so why would you change that?
The main reason for changing it was to facilitate, I suppose, lands and resources, but who would be facilitating lands and resources consultation? The group. We rejected that if we today had the right to consult the Crown ourselves, according to Powley, we had a right. Until someone challenges that, I suppose, we have a right, according to Powley, and we have credible asserted rights, so that is accepted. Why would we give that up?
Senator Watt: Then your interpretation of the Powley decision is that it goes beyond having harvesting activities. Is that correct?
Ms. McArthur: No, the Metis communal right is about food, about harvesting. It is a communal right for sustenance. You are consulted on projects that may affect your traditional territory; that must be maintained to pass the right on.
Senator Meredith: You mentioned several times, Ms. McArthur, that you have ties with businesses in the area. What does that mean? Can you explain sort of what that means in terms of economic development? How does your group benefit from businesses that move in the area? Is there negotiation with respect to where they can situate? Or is it just about ensuring that your people can get access to those jobs?
Ms. McArthur: That is part of it. There are benefits, but the way consultation works is you get notification that there is an activity in your area.
Senator Meredith: What is that activity exactly?
Ms. McArthur: For example, it could be a sewer; it could be someone is going to mine a quarry; it could be someone is going to dig a hole in the ground and put nuclear waste in it. It is everything from bed and breakfast activities because you have been identified by the Province of Ontario as having a need to be contacted when these activities take place in your traditional territory. You are then contacted and notified that this activity is taking place. Then, normally, you have an interaction with the proponent, the person who is doing the activity.
Usually, if it is nothing that will affect your rights, you believe, then that is the end of it. However, if it is something that has the potential to impact your rights and you need some assistance or expertise to look at their studies and their documents, then sometimes the proponent is mandated to provide a capacity budget to allow you the capacity to go ahead and study it and give a comment. You comment on all of these things. That is the process.
When you do a capacity budget, you perhaps get a little bit to support your office. There are other benefits that proponents in the area are willing to donate to, such as a scholarship fund, so there are benefits that could come to your community as a result.
Senator Meredith: I just wanted clarification as how that would roll out.
Ms. McArthur: It is a consultation process. It is quite common.
Senator Meredith: Direct compensation is not given, such as here is $3 million or what have you?
Ms. McArthur: No. You are always commenting on things and you have your relationship. It is good to have a relationship with the proponents because sometimes these projects take 20 years to develop, such as a wind project or something like that, and you have to have a tie to them.
The Acting Chair: Ms. McArthur, I thank you very much on behalf of the committee for your very informative testimony. Certainly it is not difficult to tell that you are an historian. Thank you very much as well to those who accompanied you.
(The committee continued in camera.)