THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
VANCOUVER, Monday, October 1, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9 a.m. to examine and report on the legal and political recognition of Metis identity in Canada.
Senator Lillian Dyck (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Good morning. I welcome all honourable senators and members of the general public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or on the web. My name is Senator Lillian Dyck from Saskatchewan. I am the deputy chair of the committee.
We were very happy to embark last week on a series of hearings and fact finding missions that has taken us out of Ottawa to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories to meet with Canadians and in particular Metis Canadians. We are travelling as part of a study on Metis identity. We are very impressed with the amount of engagement in the Metis community and appreciative of your efforts to attend to testify before us today. In fact, the most important part is that we listen very carefully to what you have to say and ask you questions.
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. Today we are exploring Metis issues, particularly those relating to the evolving legal and political recognition of the collective rights and identity of the Metis in Canada.
Before we begin, I would like to introduce the members of the committee who are here this morning: Senator Salma Ataullahjan from Ontario, Senator Nancy Greene representing British Columbia and Senator Dennis Patterson representing Nunavut.
Members of the committee, would you please help me in welcoming our first panel of witnesses. From the Métis Nation of British Columbia, we welcome President Bruce Dumont, and Laurel Katernick, the Director of Registry. In addition, we have from with us Victoria Pruden, Vice-President of the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria.
Witnesses, we look forward to your presentations which will be followed by questions from the senators. We ask that you keep your comments fairly brief, concise but expansive, if you can fill that bill. Please proceed.
Bruce Dumont, President, Métis Nation of British Columbia: Good morning.
(The witness spoke in Tanishi.)
Welcome to British Columbia and welcome to Métis Nation B.C., which is the governing body for B.C. It is a pleasure to see you again after our meeting in Batoche. We spent a few hours there and had a great time. Thank you for the invitation to speak about the Metis in this part of the country and across our homeland.
We had Senator Gerry St. Germain at our assembly this weekend. In recognition of his service to Canada and the Metis across Canada, we honoured him with the Order of the Sash. It is a sash that we commissioned, and it is only handed out to certain individuals for their dedication to the Metis and their services to our people.
I will start with the emergence of the Metis in the Province of British Columbia in the late 1700s. We do have a long history of Metis that have migrated from the prairies. One of those expeditions was the James Sinclair expedition that came out of Saskatchewan and took the people through the Rockies down into southeastern British Columbia, into Montana, Washington State and Oregon. What happened there is they were going down to be farmers. Eventually most of them moved back to British Columbia and Alberta and some to Saskatchewan.
As you know, we are known as the children of the fur trade. Under the North West Company and Hudson Bay Company we traversed the waterways throughout British Columbia and were very involved in the fur trade.
I will turn it over to Ms, Katernick to add some comments.
Laurel Katernick, Director of Registry, Métis Nation of British Columbia: It is a pleasure and an honour to be invited here to provide information on the Métis Nation of British Columbia and the identity of Metis in the Province of British Columbia. My name is Laurel Katernick. I am the Director of Registry for Métis Nation of British Columbia and I have been in that position now for approximately eight years.
Métis Nation British Columbia received funding from the Office of the Federal Interlocutor to establish a process for identifying and registering Metis within the province of B.C. at a provincial level. In the fall of that year Metis Nation British Columbia officially established a central registry to identify and register Metis citizens and harvesters. The importance of a central registry to identify Metis section 35 rights holders became apparent after the Powley decision in the summer of 2003. The inclusion of Metis in section 35 was never defined until the Powley decision came to fruition. The purpose of section 35 is to protect practices that are an historically important feature of distinctive Metis communities and that persist in the Metis community as an integral element of Metis culture.
Prior to the Powley decision, Metis identification was community-driven. However, this simply identified Metis membership at a community level. The Powley decision defined not only who the Metis were in section 35 but affirmed that the specific collective has an Aboriginal right. The Powley decision spoke about the urgent need to develop a more systematic method of identifying rights holders. The court identified four broad factors in Metis identification. This is the core of the Metis identification for Métis Nation British Columbia Central Registry: self-identification, ancestral connection to the historic Metis community, contemporary community acceptance, and a uniqueness from other Aboriginal peoples.
As I indicated previously here, the MNBC Central Registry is responsible for compiling and maintaining a citizen database of Metis citizens identified and registered in the province of B.C. The citizenship database is based on the process requirement identified as per the Supreme Court of Canada, Powley decision in 2003, and also as per the national definition established by our national governing body Métis National Council in 2002.
I do want to give you a bit of information and background on the actual process that individuals are moved through with the Métis Nation British Columbia Central Registry to officially register as a Metis citizen in the province of B.C. The central registry is what we term as the objectively verifiable process that supports the collective voice of the Metis throughout the homeland. Our registry staff assists applicants with completion of their applications and they are then forwarded to the head office, the Office of the Provincial Registrar, for genealogical verification and community acceptance. We do not only look at the historic community connection but there also has to be a connection to the contemporary community as well. Citizenship applicants that meet the four components of the Powley definition and the national definition are approved as Metis citizens and registered as such in the MNBC Central Registry.
Citizenship applicants: It is important to note applicants that do not meet the four main components for Metis identification to register with Métis Nation B.C. They are provided an opportunity for a redress mechanism through the judicial arm of the MNBC Senate. In the case where we are not able to approve an applicant they do have a recourse process and they can appeal to the MNBC Senate if they believe an error has been made either genealogically on the historical community acceptance component or the procedural component of the process.
I did indicate earlier the actual four components that we look at within the Central Registry. Again, the MNBC Central Registry addresses all four of their components. The application form fulfills the self-identification component; the genealogy that is submitted by the applicant addresses the ancestral connection to the historical Metis community; additionally, all individuals that make application to MNBC to be registered in the Central Registry as Metis in the province of B.C. go through the screening process. They are screened through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to ensure not only that they are not on the Indian Register but, as well, that they do not have an application pending. The final and fourth component is the community acceptance component. They must be accepted by the contemporary community as well. Métis Nation B.C. has 35 Metis chartered communities that are recognized throughout the province.
To date, I am very pleased to announce that since the Central Registry was implemented in the fall of 2004, MNBC has just over 75,000 citizens registered that do fit all four components of Powley — 7,500. Sorry. Wouldn't that be nice if it was 75,000.
Senator Patterson: Wishful thinking.
Ms. Katernick: I am getting ahead of myself.
This means that they have met all four components addressed earlier. The 7,500 citizens are eligible to participate in the MNBC governance process. That is to say, they are eligible to participate as candidates and voters in the MNBC elections and are able to speak and vote at our annual governance meetings.
The MNBC is the provincially and federally recognized body for representation for the Metis in the province of B.C. as well as the 60,000 self-identifying Metis that were enumerated in the 2006 census. As such, MNBC provides access to provincial and federal programs that target Metis, most notably the federal Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy, the ASET program, to all self-identifying Metis in the province of B.C.
As previously mentioned, MNBC supports registration of Metis citizens but also acknowledges the importance of Metis being enumerated for access to government programs and services. The advantage of registration over enumeration is that registration allows the Central Registry to conduct the objectively verifiable process and to ensure that individuals meet the four requirements established by Powley and the national definition. Enumeration, however, emphasizes self-identification at the expense of the other three components of the Powley and the national Metis definition.
Now I would like to turn it over to President Dumont.
Mr. Dumont: I will speak to the governance of the Metis Nation B.C. here. Our governing structure is three-tiered in the province of B.C. and across Canada. We have the Métis National Council as the national and federal governing body representing the Metis nationally and internationally. MNBC sits on the MNC Board of Governors and as a representative of Metis in B.C. at the national level. We have the provincial Metis governments such as MNBC of which I am the elected president. MNBC is the recognized representative for the Métis Nation B.C. MNBC has an elected board of directors responsible to the Metis citizens in B.C. The board of directors is elected to serve a four-year term. We just completed our electoral process in mid-September of this year.
The third tier of governance is the 35 chartered communities in B.C. These communities often mirror the provincial organizational structure of the MNBC but are locally driven and focused. Each charter community elects a president to represent the community at the provincial level as the Metis Nation governing assembly.
Provincially the MNBC has a distinct governance structure that consists of the following: the legislative arm, the business arm which is the secretariat, the judicial arm and the governance arm. I will speak briefly to the roles and responsibilities of the four components of the MNBC governance.
The legislative components consist of the MNGA, which is the Métis Nation Governing Assembly, the elected presidents of the chartered communities. As an assembly they are responsible for passing and first reading of any processed legislation. If the MNGA approves legislation, the proposed legislation is then forwarded to the annual general meeting, which just occurred, to the Metis citizens for second reading and approval. In most cases the resolutions are at the AGM and then ratified. If not, they are re-tabled back to the MNGA.
The judicial component consists of the MNBC Senate. It is the role of the senate to receive disputes. Typically the senate is utilized for citizenship appeals. That is to say, if the Central Registry is unable to verify an applicant's Metis connection, and the applicant believes they are entitled to be registered as a Metis citizen within MNBC, the senate will hold a tribunal to determine if an error has been made on the part of the MNBC Central Registry.
The business component consists of the secretariat which is the Métis Provincial Council of B.C. The MPCBC is a society established by the B.C. Metis under the Societies Act for the purpose of conducting administrative business and functions of the Métis Nation B.C.
The governance structure component of the MNBC consists of a provincially elected board of directors, regional governance councils which are responsible for the communities and are chaired by the regionally elected director who sits on the MNBC board of directors. As previously mentioned, chartered Metis communities through their locally elected presidents also contribute to the governance components. In addition, both women and youth are represented on the provincial board of directors, the regional governance council and the chartered Metis communities. So you have representation for the youth and the women and of course the elected regional directors and elected presidents of the chartered communities.
Given our governance structure, MNBC is truly democratic and representative of the Metis and responsible and accountable to the Metis citizens throughout the province. Furthermore, the MNBC operates in a non-discriminatory manner in that we have a Metis senate to ensure that there is a mechanism to address any grievance that may arise between the Metis in B.C. and the MNBC.
For the benefit of this honourable senate I have included copies of our legislation and governance structure as well as a copy of our organizational chart which we will send to you electronically.
I will turn the floor over to Victoria.
Victoria Pruden, Vice President, Métis Nation of Greater Victoria: Good morning, everyone.
[The witness spoke in Michif.]
Victoria Pruden is my English name. I am very appreciative of your consideration to fit me in his morning to speak to you on behalf of my community, the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria. The community that I am representing today as vice-president is a community largely formed of transplanted Metis people originally from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba who currently reside on Vancouver Island.
I wanted to just give you some context in terms of my Metis lineage. I am from the Delorme/Pruden/Falcon/Landry families originally of Red River who travelled over to Saskatchewan, Meadow Lake, Batoche area and Cochin, north of North Battleford.
I am speaking primarily this morning in support of the issue of settlement of the matter of Metis survivors of residential schools, in particular the residential school at Ile-a-la-Crosse. I had the pleasure this year of co-moderating the National Métis Residential Schools Conference in March. It was a profound and heartbreaking experience to witness the testimony of many of our elders, many of our people, who experienced trauma, violence of a sexual, emotional, physical nature, as well as the testimony of myself and others who are the children and grandchildren of those people who attended either day or boarding schools at Ile-a-la-Crosse. There are many survivors who I am sure you have heard and you know are still waiting patiently for resolution with respect to this issue. In particular, the non-recognition of their attendance and their experience is profoundly disappointing.
As a multi-generationally impacted woman —
[The witness spoke in Michif.]
— I am appealing in support of recognition and more importantly a compassionate and humanitarian response and approach to programs, services and supports for both boarding and day school attendees.
In our communities and in my professional opinion as someone who has worked in anti-violence with women, both Metis First Nations and non-indigenous women, for 15 years, I believe not unrelated to these issues of unresolved trauma are damaged identity, experience of family violence, victimization, breakdown of our families and breakdown of parenting skills. The demise of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the lack of access to trauma treatment, unlike some of our First Nations relations that may be eligible for psychological counselling, trauma treatment sessions through FINIB, the lack of access to programs like that is a profound weakness for our people.
At the residential school conference held in Saskatoon this year a number of priorities emerged out of our deliberations, number one being recognition of Metis residential school attendees. We had the privilege of hearing a recording of Prime Minister Stephen Harper making a personal commitment to the attendees of the Ile-a-la-Crosse residential school. It left us — it is hard to describe the disappointment of hearing our leader make that commitment given that it is still unresolved to date. One of the other priorities that emerged was a need for support for healing and a plan to address the inter-generational effects of the trauma related to residential school attendance, particularly for Metis.
I want to mention to you, even out here in beautiful Vancouver in British Columbia, there are many of us who either have been impacted by the experience of those people who attended the residential school at Ile-a-la-Crosse. We married and moved and lived and are impacted by what happened at that school, even thousands of miles away here in British Columbia. There is a need for resolution on this matter, one way or the other.
I will leave you with a few final thoughts. In British Columbia currently there are close to 800 Metis children in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The latest study on sexual violence and exploitation of Metis women which was led by the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the Métis Nation of British Columbia indicated fractured Metis identity as being the primary indicator of risk for sexual violence and exploitation. I would just put out a curiosity to you. I think in our communities and in our professional community we can see the connection between unresolved trauma, fractured identity, fractured parenting and the socio-economic effects. The social indicators I believe are not unrelated to the unresolved and unsupported impacts of trauma like those experienced by survivors of the Metis residential school experience. That was the primary message that I wanted to communicate to you today and, again, I thank the committee for entertaining me this morning as a last minute addition to your speakers' list.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much. Did you have another comment, Mr. Dumont?
Mr. Dumont: Yes. When we met in Batoche, was that recorded or documented?
The Deputy Chair: There is not a public recording. We have notes, but those proceedings were not on the public record. This meeting, for example, is broadcast and a transcript of the hearing will be available. Notes were taken by our researcher but they are not posted. They are available to the committee, but a record of the fact finding meeting is not available to the general public.
Mr. Dumont: To reiterate my ancestry, my mother was born in Onion Lake of Cree and Scottish heritage and my dad was born in Alberta of Cree and French heritage, so you could say on my mother's side half-breed, my dad's side Metis but we were always known as half-breed people. Just to expand on the residential schools topic, I was born in 1944 and I have four older siblings. My mother made sure that we were not taken away to residential school. We were very mobile for the first few years. Being a good mother protecting her children, she did not indulge, other than to have one cigarette a day before she went to bed. We will always cherish what she did for us.
We were road allowance people. We lived on the road allowance for 12 years in Central Alberta. We squatted there and my mom and dad earned a living there working in the logging industry. We did move off the settlements in 1941. My brother older than me was just a baby at that time. They had four children and my mother and father did a lot of walking. When they were married in 1937 in St. Paul, Alberta — formerly St. Paul des Metis — they walked from Onion Lake to Goodridge, Alberta, and settled on the Beaver River just on the edge of Kikino Métis Settlement. It was not a settlement at that time but it was a settlement when they left. Also on my dad's side, I am a great grandson of Isidore Dumont, so a great grand nephew of Gabriel Dumont. Our family exists from Duck Lake. Of course Isidore Dumont was the first Metis killed in the resistance of 1885, so we have a long history there.
I moved to B.C. in 1972. I have been here for 40 years. I have been a Metis since I was born because English was a second language to my parents. Both are fluent in Cree, one in Woods Cree and one in Prairie Cree. Moving out here I raised my family of four and my children all know their ancestry; they all have citizenship cards with Métis Nation B.C. I think it is very important that we understand that as a result of section 91.24 of the BNA Act and section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 that the federal government is responsible to the Metis. As one of the distinct Aboriginal peoples of Canada we keep getting bounced back and forth between provincial and federal legislation and I think it is long past due that we are recognized as Aboriginal peoples of Canada and the responsibility of the federal government. Those are our struggles, trying to get recognized and be recognized and supported because our people are being marginalized all across Canada: healthcare, education, housing, inherent rights. It is important that we move in that direction.
As you know, Metis are very persistent; we never, ever give up. We will keep moving forever.
I thank you for listening to us and hearing us out.
Laurel, do you have any more comments?
Ms. Katernick: Not at this time.
Ms. Pruden: May I?
The Deputy Chair: Yes. If you could be brief, we would like to ask some questions as well.
Ms. Pruden: Certainly. I just need to say something as a responsibility to my five-and-a-half year old son, Quinicen Pruden Ledray. I just need to mention to you that only four percent of Metis children in B.C. according to the last Aboriginal Peoples Survey can understand any Cree, Michif or Ojibwe. We are on the verge of decimation in terms of our language. If we look at what has happened in terms of federal policies with respect to Aboriginal languages we need help.
That is all.
The Deputy Chair: We will now open the floor for questioning. As the deputy chair, I am going to ask some questions handed over by our researcher. They have to do with the appeals.
How many appeals have been heard by the MNBC Senate, and approximately what percentage would that be of the number of applicants? I am wondering if you know or keep track of the grounds for the appeals. Is there a main source of appeals and could you identify what might be the major hurdle?
Ms. Katernick: To date, the MNBC Senate has heard 127 citizenship appeals. We do keep a record of the appeals that are heard and to date we have received approximately 10,000 applications to date and, then again, you do get individuals that move out of the province, different factors that come into play. I would say out of the 10,000 that we have received to date 127 have appealed the decision of the Central Registry and we do keep a record of that information. The majority of them are in two categories. No Aboriginal ancestry was identified in the research conducted by the Central Registry. Of the other half approximately, their ancestry does not connect to the historic Metis nation homeland; that is to say, they are primarily from the Maritime Provinces and Quebec.
The Deputy Chair: You said you had about 10,000 applicants that 7,500 have been approved. Of those who have not been approved, the majority do not fit the Aboriginal identity. I guess what I am trying to get at is this: Of those who do not appeal, would you say that a large proportion of them do not belong to what is defined as the Metis homeland?
Ms. Katernick: Is that for the ones that do not pursue the appeal process?
The Deputy Chair: Yes.
Ms. Katernick: It is about half and half in that group as well, there is no connection to the Metis homeland or there is no Aboriginal ancestry identified in the research.
The Deputy Chair: Have any been successful in their appeal, first of all?
Ms. Katernick: Yes. We did recently have one case that was overturned, and that is an important thing to note, particularly for Metis identification in the province of British Columbia. Our senate sat over the course of this past weekend. I am not aware of what the outcome is for those hearings. Before the previous hearing, new information had been obtained and before they actually went before the senate, I as the director of registry overturned three decisions previously made by myself and the registry.
The Deputy Chair: If the person has appealed and they lose, is there any other recourse? Could they, for example, take them to provincial court? Has that sort of action ever been taken?
Ms. Katernick: Currently to date, no, the action has not occurred. It is important to keep in mind with regard to Metis identification and cases that have been previously heard by the MNBC Senate where the ruling was not in favour of the appellant, they do have the opportunity should they find new additional information to submit that to the Central Registry, and we will re-evaluate the case and that does occur quite frequently. Additionally, as well, each year that goes by more information becomes available. You have a better understanding of Metis identification for individuals say outside of the Prairie Provinces, for example, the province of B.C., province of Ontario. It is not a quick process but we do on a regular basis go back and audit some of those cases and see if there is any new information that has since come available and is pertinent to that individual's application.
Senator Raine: It is great to hear from you. My questions are for Ms. Katernick.
You described a little bit about the historic Metis community that you have defined. Do you limit that to the people who are traditionally in the fur trade and sort of the waterway travellers in the Red River Valley or do you go further into Ontario, Sault Ste Marie area, for instance, and do you also take into the Metis historic community those in the North where it was primarily Scottish and Aboriginal? Are they all classified as part of the Metis historic community?
Ms. Katernick: Yes. It does extend over into Ontario, the Sault Ste Marie area. That is actually a very interesting area of research, and I will give you a little bit of background.
When I first came on to the MNBC Central Registry I was very familiar with Metis identification within the Prairie Provinces only. Within the Central Registry if we received applications that pertained to Ontario that was a little bit scary for us. That was new for us. We have spent a significant amount of time educating ourselves within the registry, the staff has, on the identification of Metis in the province of Ontario, and the extension of the homeland has expanded. What we know as the historic Metis nation homeland, I can say quite confidently, has expanded somewhat since I have been in the Central Registry and it does include areas in Ontario and also in the North, as you mentioned.
Senator Raine: We have been holding hearings across the Prairie Provinces and we came across one woman who was quite distraught because she has been living in the Metis community and her family has been living as a Metis person for some five generations. After doing the genealogical tracking she learned that her ancestors were not from that part of the historic homeland, they were from Quebec. They had married Aboriginal people in Quebec and then got into the business of, I suppose, coming out West like so many people did. Because her Aboriginal ancestors were from Quebec she was told she is not Metis, and yet you could see her heart and soul are Metis. It is a slippery slope when you try to define it too tightly. Is there a way in your definition of Metis to not require all four of the points? Can long-standing Metis identity overrule where the original ancestors came from? It is almost as if you need to define immigration now that you are a Metis Nation.
Ms. Katernick: That is very good question. That is a question we get asked quite frequently in the Central Registry. You have to be very sensitive, as you indicated, to people's long-standing identification of Metis and living the life as Metis for a number of generations. Currently within the Central Registry when we are not able to fulfill those four components, as I indicated, there is a redress mechanism. As well, we are very diplomatic and respectful of the individuals who apply in that we do not tell them they are not Metis. We indicate to them in the official written letters that they receive from the Central Registry that at this point in time we are not able to validate and verify their genealogical connection to the historic Metis community. Additionally as well, it does not stop them from identifying with and participating in their communities.
Approximately two to three years ago, we had discussed with our board of directors about looking at a process — we have a Citizenship Act that we adhere to, Powley compliant, the four components, but looking at what we had called a membership act that would allow provisions for individuals who do not fit the criteria of the Powley definition to still be able to register with Métis Nation British Columbia. We have recently, within the past three to four weeks, had preliminary discussions with President Dumont and with our executive staff revisiting that proposal in the near future, going forward.
Senator Raine: At the national level, does the Métis National Council have sessions where you and the registry representatives from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario get together and address the issues so that it is similar across Canada?
Ms. Katernick: At this point in time no, we have not literally discussed that issue. We do stay connected with each other. We have, with the other governing members, registries and their directors of registries, and that is an important note for next time we meet, to bring that up with them and to discuss that with them and see how they feel about that process.
Senator Raine: Would it be helpful if there was only one source of Metis cards in each province?
Ms. Katernick: Yes, it would be helpful and we have discussed that. I have been with the MNBC Central Registry for eight years. That discussion has come up numerous times. National President Chartier did discuss that at our recent AGM during his presentation. The first step in moving closer to having a national registry is the process that we are working on right now. Each one of the governing members registries have held a meeting over the last two fiscal years to discuss what is the common theme in the documentation that you collect? Do you collect long form birth certificates, baptismal certificates, census records? In the provinces where scrip may not have been issued, what do you look for in the absence of scrip? That is an ongoing process right now. The first step is to define what the common forms of documentation are that we collect. The second step would be to establish a recognized transfer protocol amongst the governing members registries and ultimately to look at a national registry. It is a topic of discussion that does come up quite frequently, and it would be good to see a national card issued. Exactly how that would look or how that would unfold I do not know, but we are taking the initial steps there.
The Deputy Chair: Is any of your information with regard to the historic communities available to anyone who might apply? You say, for example, that you found people in Ontario who are actually eligible. If you were to look on your website would there be an indication of what sort of community has been identified as historic Metis?
Ms. Katernick: Not currently at this time but I am following up next week with the Métis Nation of Ontario. They have published a number of documents, reports, research papers, approximately eight, that are definitely very interesting, very educational, well worth reading. They are available on their website, but I will be coordinating with their registrar next week because I do want to create a link to those documents. They are extremely well written and there is a lot of important information contained within them. Making them available, much more accessible would be important.
Senator Ataullahjan: I am interested in the demographics of the Metis community that you represent, like the number of males, female, youth, seniors and do these numbers transfer to the Metis needs of the Metis people?
Ms. Katernick: We do keep track within our citizenship database, we are able to break it down demographically within our regions, how many citizens are registered by gender, by age group, so we do track that information, we do look at that information as very useful for us as a governing body in the province of British Columbia. What was the second part of your question?
Senator Ataullahjan: Do these numbers translate to the major needs of the Metis?
Ms. Katernick: In what way?
Senator Ataullahjan: What do youth need? In the case of women, there are health issues. We keep hearing of diabetes being almost epidemic. Are those needs being looked after? Are you aware?
Ms. Katernick: Yes. It is unfortunate that she is not here today, but this is the main focus of Tanya Davoren, our Director of Health.
We are able to break down the statistics and the demographics within the Central Registry and to provide that information internally to our staff. For example, Victoria previously was working on our Child and Family Services portfolio so we are able to provide her with information as to how many children in care have registered for Metis identification in the province of B.C.. For Tanya Davoren, that health information is important too because she is able to look at say, for example, in Region 7, how many women are registered there. We just did recently our chronic disease survey. I do not have a lot of information on how it transfers. Tanya Davoren would better be able to provide you that information. There is definitely a connection there. The information definitely is helpful and useful.
Senator Patterson: It is great to see President Dumont again. We had a very memorable, worthwhile session in Batoche. I should just mention that although the proceedings were not recorded, I think they can still form part of our recommendations so they will be useful I know.
I was impressed by the description of the governance structure, President Dumont, and I would like to ask — and I am portraying my ignorance here — how is this structure established? Is there a constitution or a set of by-laws? You said you would give us some information, and I would be interested in learning more about that.
Mr. Dumont: If you go to our website home page, we have our governance structure there. We do have a constitution. We have a citizenship act, a veterans act, electoral act, senate act, a women’s act and youth act, the Metis Nation governing assembly, the MNGA act. We have all the legislation in place and it is available on our website. Our government structure is that you have to be a Metis citizen, have a citizenship card at all three levels, at the local level, the community level. When the president and vice president sit at the Métis National Governing Assembly, all the presidents from the charter communities are empowered to sit at that table. We have our Metis Nation governing assembly, where there is usually anywhere from 45 to 50 people, and you are required to have a citizenship card at the community level, at the regional governance, 1 to 7 regions, whichever one you are in. To run in a provincial election you also have to have a citizenship card.
Senator Raine: British Columbia is no different for Metis people than it is for other Canadians, other than it is Lotusland. The West Coast is warm and people tend to move here to retire. Your organizations are not the only people who have lived in Metis communities since the opening up of the West. Newcomers are emigrating from other Metis nations across the provinces. Do you differentiate in any way in your membership between the newcomers and people who have roots to the land here?
Mr. Dumont: From the Metis who originated here?—
Senator Raine: Who have been here for a long time. I am looking, for instance, at the Kelly Lake information that we have been handed, and it is obvious they have been there since the 1700s, as you mentioned.
Mr. Dumont: We do not differentiate as long as they have the ancestral connection. The names are so familiar throughout the homeland. I guess basically coming out of Southeastern Manitoba and those 12,000 families that were there, we can make that connection with those names and those ancestors, so we do not differentiate in that respect at all. I guess it is self-telling. When you meet a Metis person, when you have been around as long as I have, you pretty well know that they are Metis. Of course we make the greetings in our language of Michif or whatever. It is easy to distinguish who they are. We call them "neechee" which means "You are one of us."
Senator Raine: When people move to British Columbia, wherever they happen to live, they are invited to join that community. You said you had how many communities in B.C.?
Mr. Dumont: 35 chartered communities.
Senator Raine: Are they all active in the organization?
Mr. Dumont: Yes.
Senator Patterson: A Metis Nation protocol was signed between Canada and the Métis National Council in 2008. It seems to establish a bilateral process to examine a number of important issues, including the important issue Ms. Pruden mentioned of the whole question of Metis former students of the residential school system and many other critical issues. I note it expires, unless renewed or otherwise replaced by a new agreement, in 2013. It seems like potentially a worthwhile process for addressing this marginalization issue that you talked about so eloquently. Would you have any comments on that process, that protocol and whether it has been helpful, whether it should be renewed? It seems kind of focused on the Western provinces too as I read it, so I am wondering from your point of view if you have any comments on that.
Mr. Dumont: That is a good question. The protocol agreement does expire in 2013 and of course the work will not be done before then. It is important that we continue and extend those dates regarding the residential schools because there is a lot of work and a lot of research that has to be documented and prepared. I think we have only met twice since then on residential schools, the last big conference being last March. There is a lot of work to be done and we need to continue with that work.
Senator Patterson: Is it a worthwhile process? Do you think that it has potential to deal with some of these issues?
Mr. Dumont: Absolutely it is a worthwhile issue. The findings of our Metis people here in the Province of B.C. alone, we talk about the migration from the Prairie provinces to here, and some of these people are getting very elderly who have experienced residential schools — mind you, there are some middle-aged people there also. It is a worthwhile venture. We have to continue and make sure that we document all the information that we have and a lot of people still have not come forward. Our residential survivors need to be recognized and dealt with, the problems that came along and that were sustained from the residential schools.
Senator Patterson: I know the residential schools issue has been tied up with lawyers and the settlement of the case. Do you feel that the protocol outside that process, which I fear lawyers would dominate, with all due respect to the profession I belong to. Do you feel that this protocol, the opportunity for bilateral negotiations is the route to dealing with this unresolved issue?
Ms. Pruden: I think it certainly could be. I think as a community leader with an affiliation to the Métis Nation British Columbia we really wholeheartedly support the Métis National Council and our national president Clem Chartier in continuing to engage, to advocate, to negotiate for renewal of a national Metis Nation protocol. We need protocols like that as a framework within which we can explore our issues in a number of different areas, residential schools and beyond, recognition, many of the other challenges that we are facing. The implementation of the outcomes of the Powley case, for example, the agenda of the Metis Nation. I think it represents an incredible opportunity and as community grassroots leadership we definitely support our Métis National Council in continuing to engage federally in that way.
The Deputy Chair: I have two short final questions with regard to harvesting. Is MNBC involved in managing the activities of Metis harvesters in B.C. and how do the Metis harvesters identify themselves to provincial and federal officials that might be involved?
Ms. Katernick: I cannot speak at length about that but what I can tell you is yes, Métis Nation British Columbia does issue harvesting cards. We do issue them with or without hunting and we absolutely track their activity quite extensively and in depth. We have been issuing harvesting cards since November 2008, I believe. To date, there are approximately 375 harvesters registered in the Province of B.C. A lot of the work to date has been done on collecting their historic harvester practices going back one, two, three and four generations and mapping it out, so we do have quite an extensive process for tracking their traditional land use in the province here. In B.C. right now it does not afford them the opportunity to be able to go out and harvest or fish at this current time. It is quite limited and restricted to migratory waterfowl at this current point in time.
The Deputy Chair: With that, I wish to thank our witnesses for their presentations.
We will now hear from the British Columbia Métis Federation represented by President Keith Henry and Vice-President Daryl Piper. With them at the table we have George Goulet and Terry Goulet, who are appearing as individuals.
Witnesses, we ask you to limit your remarks to five minutes and your presentations will be followed by questions from the senators. Please proceed.
Keith Henry, President, British Columbia Métis Federation: Thank you, Madam Chair. My name is Keith Henry and I am President of the B.C. Métis Federation. I want to start by acknowledging the territory of the Coast Salish people, in particular the Squamish, Musqueam and Klahoose nations. We have provided a submission to the Senate themselves. I believe everyone has been provided a copy and we are going to quickly go through it given the timeframe.
I want to quickly introduce myself. I am Metis. I am originally from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I have been involved in the Metis movement since my grandparents dragged me to local community meetings as a child. I have been around through a lot of this membership conversation. I was there when the national definition was ratified in 2003. I was there as a guest watching and it is a very passionate issue for a lot of our people in communities across this country right now. Vice-President Daryl Piper will quickly introduce himself and we will start into the documents.
Daryl Piper, Vice-President, British Columbia Métis Federation: Thank you, madam chair. I also would like to acknowledge the Coast Salish, Salteaux and Squamish nations. I am Daryl Piper and I became involved in Metis issues roughly in about 2004 and have done various things in the Metis community since then, so I have been quite busy in the Metis community.
I would like to start off with who the B.C. Métis Federation is. We became incorporated in June of 2011 in response to some serious concerns related to another organization known as the Métis Nation of British Columbia, also known as the MNBC. There were a number of issues including the mismanagement of funds and dysfunctional governance. There are roughly 60,000 self-identified Metis in the province of British Columbia and the MNBC provides a variety of services and they also address Metis identification as well.
The B.C. Métis Federation today feels there has been a lack of meaningful action by governments to address serious financial issues within the MNBC which has had losses in the millions of dollars to taxpayers. There has been serious division within the Metis communities themselves and, of course, we also have the problem of the identification issue. The consequence of this government inaction is that there has been a number of direct impacts on our Metis people and our section 35 rights have yet to be recognized.
Then we have historic communities such as Kelly Lake that have virtually been ignored by the province, and the province has stated repeatedly that there are no section 35 rights to Metis people in B.C.. Of course, we disagree with that. The federal government also remains inconsistent in various approaches to recognize Metis rights.
The main issue is the impact of how governments have supported MNBC and how services have been provided only to MNBC members. For example, we are going to submit a page here from a MNBC newsletter submitted publicly in the spring of 2012 where the MNBC themselves only provide services to their membership. However, all governments are aware that MNBC does not represent all Metis people in B.C., and the registry is only about 10 per cent of the total self-identified population here in Metis.
The B.C. Métis Federation is formed by a group of volunteers who wanted to seek change and there is a vision to rebuild our dysfunctional governments as we see it. Key issues are Metis rights and identification and they should be addressed by all Metis people. Our current board members are volunteers. We have representation from here in the Lower Mainland as well as all parts of the province.
In the documents that we submitted to you, we show our breakdown and we show our community volunteers. and our office staff is also volunteer as well. We have an office here in Vancouver on Kingsway and we are currently financed by donations from our board members, people in the community, as well as our volunteer office staff. Everybody is committed to our sustainability with the B.C. Métis Federation. Approximately $70,000 has been raised and we put that into cultural activities. We believe in building relationships with Metis communities and families and we believe that is very significant. The B.C. Métis Federation has led a number of regional community-based meetings and forums and they have been attended by over 30 community and regional meetings in the last year. We have had regional engagement, and between March and May of this year we reached 14 communities and over 300 Metis people attended. The B.C. Métis Federation released a comprehensive report as a summary of the community and regional engagements, and there was growing support for genuine interest in rebuilding the Metis governance here in B.C.
The B.C. Métis Federation has designed agreements to support our mandate and we have over 6,300 members at present. We have signed statements of cooperation with various communities, including Vancouver Métis Citizens Society, Kelly Lake Métis Settlement Society, Nova Métis Heritage Association in Surrey, Fort St. John Métis Society, the North Saanich Michif Society on the Island, Dawson Creek Métis Federation, the Northern Interior Métis Cultural Society and the Métis Veterans Association. We have signed also with some outside agencies, including the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans, the Prince George Urban Aboriginal Justice Society, the Kikino Child and Family Services, White Buffalo Aboriginal Health Society and the Metis Commission for Children and Family Services. So going forward the B.C. Métis Federation will focus on discussions with all Metis organizations or service delivery agencies.
Mr. Henry: I am going to carry on with Part 2, if you are following the document at all. Quickly talking about membership, we initiated the organization and we identified membership through our bylaws. Our bylaws are somewhat consistent with what we see in terms of what is known as a national definition, self-identify as a Metis, be of historic Metis ancestry, accepted by the Metis community and distinct from other Aboriginal peoples. We essentially follow that and respect sort of the required genealogical information that is needed to validate ancestry.
I am going to skip up to number 3 on page 9. Identity continues to persist as a hot topic, and it is not going away any time soon. Many people believe the MNBC and the national official definition is too restrictive. Metis leadership claims that the MNBC citizenship process is objectively verifiable. For many among them their Metis identify flows from a very definite view of 19th century history and geography with no room for divergence. Their identity has become standardized, frozen to look and act a certain way for political purposes. Many Metis people who themselves fit the definition are uncomfortable with this restrictive posturing because of its colonial underpinnings. Despite all the progress in defining themselves, Metis across Canada will struggle with inconsistent acknowledgement of rights by governments as well as jurisdictional avoidance. Governments deny our historical rights and choose to let the courts lead the day.
The Deputy Chair: President Henry, I am sorry to interrupt you, but we do have restricted time. If you could tighten up your comments, it would be much appreciated.
Mr. Henry: Sure. The commentary speaks for itself.
What we are just trying to get across to the Senate is that the Metis definition in British Columbia leaves a lot to be desired right now. There is a significant division in how we are identifying people. There is not enough research done and there is a significant amount of what we believe is Metis history. In our concluding comments we state that not all First Nations have one culture, one approach to who is a First Nation. First Nations in this province alone are made up of several nations. We believe the Metis history and the research would show something similar. Yes, we have some common identity and cultural practices, but clearly there is still a lot of history to be still researched in this province. We have been mandated to hold a summit that we will be convening shortly. We will be interested to see what comes out of that because we believe the people in B.C. are still yet to have a full disclosure on this issue.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
We will have a brief presentation from George and Terry Goulet. Are you doing separate presentations?
Terry Goulet, Metis Historian, as an individual: Yes, separate.
Klahowya Tillicum — welcome, friends. My greeting to you is in Chinook Jargon, or Chinuk Wawa, the traditional trade Michif language of the Pacific Northwest. We are here today to discuss the Metis of British Columbia and in doing so we have no alternative but to discuss also the Metis across Canada. I am going to try and be as brief as I can. To do this at the end of this session we will provide each of you with a copy of our book, The Metis in British Columbia: From Fur Trade Outposts to Colony, so as to provide you with a better picture of that historical Metis that is just as valid as the homeland of the Metis in the very confined definition that has been presented to you by the Métis National Council and the various Metis organizations across Canada.
We also will be providing you with a portfolio and we have copies for the other members of your committee as well as your researcher. In that portfolio we have an article on the identity of the Metis versus the Powley case, which is extremely important because there have been a lot of misconceptions given to you concerning the Powley case. We also have an article on what is a nation, and I think that is something that needs to be addressed. Together with that we are giving you a folder showing various historic Metis sites and locations within British Columbia which will provide you with a very specific idea of that.
George Goulet is Metis; his parents were Metis; his grandparents were Metis; his great grandparents were Metis. His great grandfather was Pierre Delorme. Pierre Delorme was a member of Louis Riel's provisional government. He was the first member of Parliament for the federal constituency of Provencher when Manitoba became a province. He also was the first member of the legislature of Manitoba from the constituency of St. Norbert. At that time you could be a member of both constituencies. That was on his mother's side. On his father's side, his great uncle was Elzéar Goulet, the Metis martyr who was stoned to death on the banks of the Red River for his involvement in the Red River resistance. Today he proudly wears the Elzéar Goulet sash at this meeting.
What we want to do is express to you the importance of opening a dialogue on Metis identity in a much broader concept than is presently being offered to you.
I now defer to George.
George Goulet, Metis Historian, as an individual: Good morning, senators. The matters I am presenting you today are my own opinions and not of anyone else or any other organization.
The first opinion is when it comes to Metis identity there is no one-size-fits-all. I will give you examples. We have the Metis political organizations. The two national organizations as you know are the Métis National Council and Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. The Métis National Council adopted a national definition about ten years ago, and we find that very restrictive, flawed in many respects. For example, it refers to a Metis being a person of historic Metis Nation ancestry. That is like saying an Italian is of Italian ancestry or a horse is a horse. There are other examples but the point is it is restrictive. On the other hand, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is too loose, too broad. It essentially amounts to self-identity, so there has to be something in between.
On the constitutional legal aspect, you are all aware of course of the Powley case decided in 2003. When this came out we thought it was a great win for the Metis people. In hindsight, it has proven very problematic. The way the Supreme Court defined a Metis community is far too restrictive. They defined it in terms of a geographic area. The Metis community is far more than that. It is a community of kinship, a community of shared relationships, a community of history, heritage and culture. That does not appear in the judgment. We have other problems with that judgment. If a Metis wants to establish his claim under section 35, the court said it would have to deal with matters on a case-by-case basis. If a Metis has to go through numerous courts to establish a constitutional right, and probably bankrupt himself in the process, that is not much of a right.
The next aspect of Metis identity is self-identity. This is used by Statistics Canada, by many children and family service groups and by schools. It was even used by the Province of British Columbia in a press release last year when it referred to 60,000 Metis in the province. We are sure many of them simply self-identify.
The approach we favour — at least I favour and I believe my wife Terry does — is a sociocultural approach to being Metis. Being Metis is far more socio-cultural than biological, political or constitutional. It means someone feels in the depths of their being that they are Metis. As Senator Raine said a few moments ago, they feel it in their heart and soul. To be accepted as a Metis in this category requires that one have some Aboriginal ancestry, that they participate in the Metis community, they contribute to it, they are accepted by it and recognized by it.
I will give you an example of quite a famous Metis in Canada, David Bouchard, a well renowned Metis author, a member of the Order of Canada and Governor General award winner. He was President of the Victoria Métis Council. When he applied for membership in the Métis Nation of British Columbia, he was rejected because he could not prove his ancestry in the Metis Nation homeland which is ill defined and we do not think extends to Ontario or west of the Rocky Mountains, so we think there should be a more liberal, generous — pardon the word "liberal" — liberal, generous interpretation. I am using the expression used by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sparrow case in interpreting the Constitution and we do not think they interpret it in that way in the Powley case. Thank you.
Ms. Goulet: I think the word you might appreciate is "inclusive."
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much for your presentations. Before we begin, I was wondering if I could ask the Goulets to submit a short written summary of what you have said today. You clearly have written materials, written books and so on, but if you could encapsulate what you gave to us this morning, we would be glad to receive it.
Mr. Goulet: We would be happy to do that.
Ms. Goulet: We are more than happy to do that.
The Deputy Chair: The whole panel has presented a view on the whole issue of Metis identity. With any kind of identification there will always be the issue of whether it is too stringent or not stringent enough. I think the crux of what you are saying today is that the stringency is perhaps too tight in that it is disallowing some members whom you think should be included.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much for coming.
We know that this issue is very complex and that there are probably more questions than answers. In one of the presentations we heard is the need to define quite tightly who is a Metis in order to ensure that privileges reserved for them are filled by the proper people. For instance, at the University of Saskatchewan in the medical faculty they have ten seats reserved for Aboriginal and Metis people, and they are now quite concerned that there are organizations who give out Metis cards without following the national definition that seems to be accepted by most people.
My question is for Mr. Henry. Is there no way you can work with the Métis Nation of British Columbia to resolve the differences so that there would be one organization, one registry for Metis people in British Columbia, or could you define your roles differently and somehow work together, or are the roots of your organizations too different?
Mr. Henry: I will try and answer that the best I can. The issue of working together has never been one that we have not wanted. I just want to be clear with the Senate. We have invited that conversation on several occasions. The issue of politics in B.C. has been divided so significantly because of issues not necessarily around only identification. So we have been on record, we have sent letters. That has not been our issue, to not sit down and talk, just to be very frank about that.
Our Metis federation came about because there is a groundswell of people who are saying that they do not want to be involved in this anyway. I think it is past that pendulum. I have been involved in Metis politics for many years, and I have seen organizations rise and fall. I think right now in B.C. the pendulum has swung so far. The financial and administrative issues facing that organization are substantive. The question that a lot of us have out there and have had for several years, although federal and provincial officials have continued to stand by and allow it to unfold, is in my view substantive. When the public fully realizes the gravity of the situation I think it is going to be a substantive issue that someone will have to answer for. You cannot let a non-profit organization go millions in debt. The question will become what could have prevented this, because that fundamentally for many of our leadership today is what really split our nation apart.
I say this with the utmost respect. There is a lot of rhetoric about what people are doing and what they are not doing. At the end of the day our people want their culture, their programs, their service delivery taken care of in a responsible manner, and that has led to some substantive issues. Again, in saying that, organizations have to be willing to have a respectful dialogue and take responsibility for the situations. In B.C., I just think that the pendulum has swung so far that I think it is going to be next to impossible at this point.
Senator Raine: I see that you accept as the genealogical qualifications you require membership in the Métis Nation B.C.?
Mr. Henry: That is correct.
Senator Raine: So that work that is being done is not the issue?
Mr. Henry: I think that the work that has been done so far is sufficient. We are not sitting around. We have been mandated. We went around the province again in the last few months and this identification issue is very big for the Metis people in British Columbia. Myself, I am one of those people that came from scrip, came from the homeland, but there is a lot of mixed blood ancestry here that George and Terry are referring to that has yet to be fully realized. Under the current system, all these people are not included in that process. We are trying to figure out how to address that. This has impacts on what they can access for services in some respects; it impacts on having a voice at a table with government. There are all sorts of reasons why this needs a serious look. We accept part of it but what we are saying is we have been mandated to have another summit about this because people want to reopen it. We know it is a complex issue.
I am a Metis studies major from university as well. I understand the history of what I have been taught so far and my own family history. What we are trying to say to governments is — when I hear things like we should tighten it up, it is easy to say that in places where it is very clear. In British Columbia there is been very minimal scrip in this province, although there was mixed blood communities. Does that mean to say that we do not have it clearly defined that these people are not Metis? I do not agree with that statement. I would never agree with that.
Senator Raine: I appreciate that.
In your studies, did you ever study the Sami people in Norway?
Mr. Henry: I have actually, not studied them but I have read some literature. I do a lot of Aboriginal tourism and I was very surprised with indigenous tourism of the Sami people. It is quite interesting. I found it similar in a lot of respects, some of their history and their story.
Senator Raine: We were privileged in the Senate to have a presentation by members of the Sami community and their parliamentarians. By self-identifying as a Sami person, you can decide to vote for a Sami representative in the parliament. They have some specific rights in the North with some fishing territory and also they are the only ones allowed to herd the reindeer. There are Sami people living throughout Norway. When I asked them what entitlements Sami people get in the rest of Norway apart from the North. They sort of looked at me as if I was crazy and they said Norway has very good social programs and good education programs and health and we have access to that just like any Norwegian. I said, why would anyone want to be a Sami then? To preserve our language and culture, and that is what binds them together. It might be a good model for the Metis.
The Deputy Chair: Do you want to make a comment?
Mr. Henry: I have one quick comment. That is what we are trying to get across to the committee. When I hear George talk about sociocultural, I think of the Michif language my grandparents spoke. What I heard around the table, there is not a lot going on to help preserve that right now and we have a deep-seated fear about how we maintain that. My historic community was from around Batoche, but I am here in British Columbia. That does not mean I am not Metis anymore. It just means that maybe I have a different understanding — I am not going to shoot a moose, if there ever was one, on Whistler. That is the issue that we are trying to wrestle with and I think that needs to be seriously addressed.
The Deputy Chair: As a follow-up to the membership issue, what would you estimate is the percentage or the proportion of people who fall out of the category of being eligible for membership in MNBC?
Mr. Henry: Of the self-identified Metis people in B.C., I would say it is well over 50 per cent. It is substantive. Of the 60,000, I would think it is at least 50 per cent if not more. There are the Hudson Bay Company forts and the Northwest Company in B.C.. With respect to how those communities integrated, a substantive number of people are sort of sitting in limbo, do not have representation, do not take part in their own governance which is another inherent right, so it is a substantive issue in British Columbia.
The Deputy Chair: You were saying there were fur trading posts in B.C. I think there were forts in the Interior, in the Okanagan Valley. Those people would have established a community around the fort and would never have participated in the scrip, as it were, so those types of communities would not be eligible according to the definition of membership by MNBC. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Henry: Yes, that is what I am saying. It is important for this Senate committee to have an awareness that the scrip commissions stopped around 1899. They just did not bother coming to many of the communities. A couple pieces of land scrip were issued, and I gave one example. We have been able to identify a couple of handfuls that we have been researching as half-breed scrip, but there are still a lot more. I think Terry or George could answer better because they have done a lot of research around the fur trade posts.
Ms. Goulet: What you have to go back to is the North West Company and their job. The Powley decision specifically states, and this is the pearl of the gem in the Powley decision, that the genesis of the Metis people occurred post-European contact and pre-European control. Now, prior to the Powley case, all Aboriginal cases appearing in the courts had to prove pre-European contact. So what you have to look at is when did the people come into British Columbia, the Europeans? As Bruce Dumont admitted, they came in the late 1700s. They came with the three great explorers and they all belonged to the North West Company. They all built forts. Prior to their merging with the Hudson Bay Company in 1821 under the continuing name of the Hudson Bay Company there was something like 71 forts in the Pacific Northwest, and those communities built up around them. They became the cities, the towns and the communities that are part of British Columbia today.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that clarification.
I have one other question with regard to the membership cards that the B.C. Métis Federation issues. What advantage would there be to having one? Who would recognize them? Would that make a cardholder eligible for harvesting or programs or services?
Mr. Henry: Programs and services are supposed to be for self- identified. Here is the crux of one of the issues. Unfortunately often these programs and services get politicized so we would argue that yes, they are supposed to be eligible for programs and services. We see governance very different for the Metis people in this province. One of the issues that has created some of political turmoil we are in is we think there should be a complete separation between service delivery and governance which is not there right now. That would make service delivery objective and fairly accessible for everyone that is applying and that is not the case we believe today.
Our card today, was launched this past year. We have been quite pleased by it and we continue to meet with governments. In fact, we just met with the provincial minister last week. We continue to build awareness about what our organization is doing, and last week there was finally some movement in terms of the province saying that they agree to sit down and start some bilateral conversations with our organization because we clearly have a legitimate mandated base from a number of communities in this province. That presents a real future and growing challenge to the whole issue in the sense of how programs are administered.
I will leave you with this: We have no interest in delivering programs. There needs to be a provincial governing body that provides policy and provides guidance for consultation and all the industry and the other things we deal with on a day-to-day basis. We think right now there is a lot of work that needs to be done to correct a lot of things.
The Deputy Chair: When we were in Saskatchewan, we heard from representatives from the University of Saskatchewan with regard to people trying to apply to the college of medicine and they actually contacted the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. With respect to your membership issues, do you have any dealings with any of the Human Rights Commissions in British Columbia?
Mr. Henry: Not yet, but we have started to look at that for sure. If I understand the question or the comment correctly, we have serious concerns about people being left out of services because they are a member of the B.C. Métis Federation. We absolutely are looking at that. There are cases where people have gone in for support for various programs and they have been told their card is not recognized. In fact, I submitted a document to you as some evidence for the committee out of the newsletter. I think it was referenced in the opening comments. It was a document put out in the spring and it says Do Not Be Fooled, Know the Facts and it gives a checklist of what you are accessible to with Métis Nation B.C. registry or other B.C. Metis registry organizations and this kind of stuff. Considering the fact that the organization benefits from supporting or allegedly providing services to 60,000 people they cannot politicize programs and services. I can understand the politics and the governance, but I take strong exception to the program and service delivery being politicized. This is why we continue to say to government there needs to be a complete re-look at this and you have to take this serious because this is, for all intents and purposes, discriminatory in its nature and it is what it is.
Senator Raine: Everything you are saying is also valid for off-reserve Aboriginals, urban Aboriginals. Are we maybe going down the wrong path of having a differentiation in services based on your roots as opposed to based on your needs?
Mr. Henry: There was a time in my life when I believed the Metis-specific agenda was very important but seeing what has unfolded — and I have been around this for a lot of years. There is a difference between program and service delivery versus cultural/political governance in a lot of ways. I would have to agree that this whole urban Aboriginal approach needs to be seriously looked at. Who is delivering services? Who is accountable for the services? Who is really the voice of that urban community?
Take the Aboriginal off-reserve people in B.C. The current organization is defunct. It is really not functioning in terms of providing a voice for these people to help shape the programs and services, so always I wonder how these programs and services they keep handing them out are being guided? Who is supporting them? I think there needs to be a broader approach to urban programming for sure.
Senator Patterson: I thought Mr. Goulet had an interesting take that the Powley case looked like a great leap forward, which turned out to be a disappointment, if I am correctly summarizing what he said.
Mr. Henry, I noted in your presentation that essentially you are rejecting the Supreme Court's view of the definition of a Metis as being narrow based on a colonial history and too restrictive. I think that the Métis National Council and the Métis Nation of B.C. are taking a different approach that Powley is the way to define Metis. I am not slavish to the Supreme Court. They could well be wrong and probably have been, but how do you overcome that? It is a respected body and, for better or worse, their ruling has shaped government policy. How do you justify or explain how this can be gotten around? I hope this is not a difficult question because I am asking myself that same question, how do we get around that with all the weight of the Supreme Court?
Mr. Henry: I will do my best to answer it. I can only share what my understanding is of that case.
The Powley case did not define the Metis. It set the test for how Metis harvesting rights could be asserted. It did not define the Metis. It said if you want to exercise hunting, some sort of harvesting practice, here are 15 points critical to meet that test. So there is a difference between exercising your rights and identifying as a Metis person who lives outside of your area which is the issue a lot of Metis who have migrated to other parts of Canada face. I am not saying that the definition or the Supreme Court of Canada got it wrong. They did not define the Metis. In fact, in the court ruling they said it is not a definition. What they said is, "Here is the test." In B.C. itself because of the lack of research, I think there are historic areas of this province where Metis could exercise section 35 rights. I absolutely am convinced of that from the initial work we have been doing.
You are going to hear from Kelly Lake right away. They have a long, well-known history in this province. They do not work with the Métis Nation in B.C.; they do not work with Métis National Council. Yet every season they go out and harvest, they hunt and fish and Wildlife does not bother them. They did not need a card for that. There are things happening irrespective of any political agendas or governance or anything else. I think the struggle that we all have in identifying Metis is how do we tackle those issues in a responsible way?
A lot of people within the MNBC — because I used to be one of them — were also led to believe we were going to get rights because we got that card. That is not true. I could have an MNBC card and I can assure you if I go out fishing in B.C. in the summer, chances are the Fish and Wildlife or someone is going to charge me and it has happened many times over. In fact, I was at the MNBC when we lost the case called the Wilson case in 2004. That card does not necessarily mean you are going to get rights. I think a lot of Metis people across this country have been somewhat at times misinformed as to the extent what these cards can or cannot do. What I would say is we need a significant amount of public education, and there needs to be some more support for understanding Metis culture and how these communities are connected. I am not suffering as a Metis person because the government does not recognize section 35. I like the Sami example. I have access to services, but what I am striving for and I hear a lot of families striving for is they want to keep their kinship connection, social cultural connections and where communities are exercising their rights, great, let us identify those because there is not a whole lot left out there. If we do not do something to deal with this definition we are going to have flawed misconceptions, which is what I am trying to submit in my paper and that is what I am more concerned about than anything.
Mr. Goulet: Both MNBC and Powley require an ancestral connection to historic community and recognition by a current community. Well, literally that would mean that for me to exercise my rights I would have to move back to Manitoba and sit on the corner of Portage and Main and shoot a moose if it happened to come by because my only ancestral connection is to Red River. I think the Supreme Court could broaden that in a forthcoming case by saying that the Metis community in Sault Ste Marie was a geographic area but a Metis community in a particular area of the West was a community of kinship, cultural heritage and that sort of thing.
As far as the Sami people go, I wanted to mention to Senator Raine that the mother of Renée Zellweger, the Academy award winning actress, was a Sami.
The Deputy Chair: Time is our enemy and I would like to thank our witnesses on the second panel for the presentations and the evidence they have given to the committee.
Senators, we now welcome our third panel. Lyle Letendre is President of Kelly Lake Metis Settlement Society Incorporated. We also welcome June Scudeler, President of the Vancouver Métis Association, and J. Paul Stevenson, Elder.
Witnesses, if you could please keep your comments brief so that we have adequate time for questions. We are catching a plane immediately after this hearing, so we will adjourn at 12 noon.
Lyle Letendre, President, Kelly Lake Métis Settlement Society Inc.: My name is Lyle Letendre. I am President of the Kelly Lake Métis Settlement.
[The witness spoke in his native language.]
I would just like to thank you for allowing me to speak today on behalf of our community. I do not even know where to start, but I can begin by talking about the atrocity that I have had to live with in 51 years of this province, the discrimination by the Province of B.C. itself, just the province. I just wanted to start with that.
Just a quick brief of who I am. A quick insight, my grandfather Campbell looked at me at 17 years old when I had asked him after coming from high school, "Who are we and where do we come from?" Two words that came out of my grandfather's mouth: We are first born to this country and first seen this country. Now I know what he meant, after 40 years, I understand what he meant. What he meant is the seven to eight families that live in Kelly Lake today which is our fifth settlement over the last 350 years were born to the 50 first families that came from France. That is when we were born, that is what my grandfather meant when he said we were first born here. What he meant is when we, both sides of my family as a Campbell and a Letendre, first saw this country, both my great grandfathers and my great uncles accompanied Alexander Mackenzie to the area I live today — 1792, Baptise Bashon, Joseph Letendre. Joseph Letendre opened up a Hudson Bay store in McLeod Lake in 1805. We have not left and we are still here.
I have been listening to some of the questions that were asked out here and you guys need it brief and quick. Well, I am probably only the half-breed in this province today, maybe Western Canada and maybe even Canada that can hunt, fish and do what he wants in the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. I know a lot of my cousins and lot of my friends in the Metis world hate the word the Powley decision. Well, not for me. When that was read to me I nearly fell over. The hair on my back stood up. I kept wondering, do these people know we exist? The Powley ruling or decision was written for my settlement or community to a T. Eight deputy ministers at a meeting asked me one time about the Powley ruling and how we felt about that and our response was, "Whoever wrote it actually wrote it for my settlement."
I just gotta go back. I have a real bad dyslexia problem and it is really hard to read anything I write or anybody else writes. It comes from here in my heart. That is all I can say. I am all over the place, but at the end of the day it all comes together.
Guys, I just want to say — like Keith said before — we have not joined an organization in 25 years. The reason is because I have seen politics since 1970 in this province. This is not the first time this happened. I do not need an organization like the MNBC to tell me how to hunt, speak my language or go fishing because I do that and they cannot.
Forty per cent of the population in Kelly Lake still speaks and understands the language. There is no murder, suicide. We do not have alcoholics or drugs addicts and our kids have never been in the welfare system ever since we existed and lived together. Again, I could sit here for days and days talking about my history and who we are, but the Senate is here to ask basically what a Metis person is and how we feel what a Metis person is. That one is really hard to answer because of who we are and the uniqueness of where we come from.
Kelly Lake if you want to know, because nobody ever knows where it is, is 90 kilometres south of Dawson Creek, 90 kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie, Alberta. Grande Prairie was settled by the same families of Kelly Lake in 1803. I forget what year the government first showed up in Grande Prairie and then we started claiming land titles there. Kelly Lake is a land-based settlement. It is one of the very few if not only the land-based settlement in Canada for Metis people. What that means is we live all around the lake. Every family, and even myself, we are all landowners. We own our own land. It has always been that way. Grande Prairie, Jasper House, Lake St. Ann's outside Edmonton, Edmonton itself, Batoche where both my grandfathers, Xavier Letendre and Louis Campbell were in what we call a war, you call it a rebellion.
I always wonder why I come to these things to always get asked these questions about who we are, where do we come from. It is really hard, guys. It is really hard to be a half-breed. I come from the North Peace, South Peace, whatever. If you really want to live like a half-breed, come there. It is the same way. To answer a lot of these questions and even to be here to say who we are, all I have got to say is one day, and it is coming, we will get our Aboriginal rights the same thing as our cousins, the Indians and the Eskimos, but we choose to do ours differently. I really do not know what to say. It is easier for me to answer questions.
The Deputy Chair: We will definitely be asking you some questions. If we could have the witnesses from the Vancouver Métis Community Association please.
June Scudeler, President, Vancouver Métis Community Association:
[The witness spoke in her native language.]
I am President of the Vancouver Métis Community Association. My ancestors are from Red River and Batoche. It is a mistake to say that there is a single Metis Nation. Rather, Metis historically were communities that came together in times of crisis or of celebration. Metis have been and remain community-based. Each community has its own definition of Metis and decides who to accept into their community. "Metisness" is not based on government definition. Being Metis is not about having a card to prove your "Metisness." The Metis political bodies are playing a numbers game if they assume everyone who self-identifies as Metis supports them. By following government's imposed definitions Metis organizations are jeopardizing traditional independence and becoming an agency of the crown. Because the Government of Canada funds certain organizations it does not give these organizations the right to decide who is or who is not Metis. By following government-imposed definitions Metis organizations would not be following the historical tradition of self- definition. Community members do not need to originate from the so-called historic homeland to be Metis as there are many Metis communities with a long history prior to the settlement of the West.
The Supreme Court of Canada definition of Metis stipulates that a community must have a distinctive collective identity and its members must live in the same geographic area and share a common way of life. It makes no mention of the historic homeland.
The Vancouver Métis Community Association uses self-definition and community involvement as the fundamental criteria for acceptance in our society. Traditionally, Metis people would adopt children who did not have families or whose families could not take care of their children. We take into account individual people's life stories to help them be a part of the Metis community. For example, adopted children or children in care who do not have access to genealogical records; are we supposed to tell them that if they do not fit narrowly defined criteria they cannot be part of a Metis community? The Vancouver Métis Community Association started the Walk Bravely Forward initiative, which worked with incarcerated Aboriginal people, who are very proud to receive their Metis cards. Who are we to tell these people that they are not Metis? Our goal is to develop a safe and healthy community that welcomes our Metis brothers and sisters. We certainly have no intention of becoming an historical society reliving a brief period in our long history.
We should not be letting the judicial system dictate who is Metis. For example, the Powley decision leaves out urban Metis, some of whom have lived in cities for generations. An individual must first demonstrate membership in present-day Metis community that can trace its existence back to an historic Metis community with a distinctive culture, which is an impossibility for many Metis. Urban Metis organizations like the Vancouver Métis Community Association are still communities, albeit in an urban setting, which is reflective of the reality of most Metis.
The emphasis on the historic homeland definitions means that Metis people are going backwards in time, rather than focusing on contemporary Metis achievements. We are bickering over what happened in the past. We need to be concentrating on the future of Metis identity and the future of our children's children, not on the past. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Mr. Stevenson.
J. Paul Stevenson, Elder, Vancouver Métis Community Association: I co-wrote that.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that concise and informative summary.
Mr. Letendre, I was not quite sure if you were saying your community did fit the Powley decision or did not fit the Powley decision.
Mr. Letendre: I apologize. I owe more to my people and community than what I am doing. I should be more professional, but again, I get so nervous and so dyslexic. Yes, we do fit the Powley decision better — like I told one deputy minister, better than the O.J. Simpson glove. She was surprised at that, but we do. We fit that to a T. Every criteria the Powley ruling has put out we do fit it. The only reason we are not in litigation today is because our lawyer passed away and my community has nothing. Then when we did put our litigation against the provincial government in 2007 I gave the Attorney General's office three extensions on our piece of paper and on September 10, 2007, they did not strike our lawsuit, but our lawyer passed away and his law firm would not take it on. We were at the edge of that. The last 20 years because of the diversity, certain families do not want to be Indians. We still call them Indians. We do not call them First Nations. I apologize for that but that is just there. Ever since then the government has used that against us because we are —
(The witness spoke in his native language)
We are half-breeds. It runs in our blood being strong and standing for who we are. Yes, we do fit the Powley ruling to a T. That is why I say I can hunt in Batoche, Lake St. Ann, Jasper House, Grande Prairie and in Kelly Lake under the ruling itself because of the historical significance.
The Deputy Chair: Do you fit the definition of Metis that the Métis National Council has?
Mr. Letendre: It would not matter in the next 300 years any organization can come up with a definition the Metis people of Kelly Lake would fit it.
The Deputy Chair: Fit any definition?
Mr. Letendre: If you were first born to this country.
The Deputy Chair: You are saying first born as opposed to homeland, the Metis Nation is defining the Metis homeland whereas Powley I do not think specifically mentions homeland.
Mr. Letendre: Here is what my grandfather said — my uncle Dennis was really strong in the politics in Manitoba, Red River: Unless some white guy fell out of a plane in the 1600s, then you are looking at homeland. My family comes from the Trois-Rivières of Quebec. That is when the first French came here. That is where we were born, not Manitoba. Fort Garry was founded and lived in by the same families of Kelly Lake long before it was called Fort Gary.
The Deputy Chair: You said that Kelly Lake is a land-based settlement. How did that come about, and do you own your own land? Is it fee simple, private or communally owned by the whole group?
Mr. Letendre: How it came about is the same way Lake St. Ann came about. You come to a place. You do not want to be called a squatter. You are already farming it, just you and your family and the other families, and all of a sudden the government comes in long after you are there and says you have to start paying for your land, however that works. That is how we did that.
We did have scrip in the Campbell family. They took 160 acres of Grande Prairie at the site of the town itself is also taken by the Campbell brothers and uncles, the whole town site.
Flying Shot is another settlement two miles out and they are all privately owned. I own 95 acres; I inherited 10. All the eight families own 165 acres and another individual owns 5 acres.
The Deputy Chair: I do not know if you specifically mentioned it but somewhere I saw something talking about Bill C-31. I am wondering if in your community whether some of your community members have become Status Indians, and in that case does that create any problems?
Mr. Letendre: That is what I was mentioning 20 years ago. When I was the president dealing with B.C. government they respected who we were at that time and when industry and the boom came into the northeast those individuals through political connections cut through Bill C-31, and when the federal government finds out how that happened they are going to get a pretty good surprise. You cannot turn an Iroquois into a Stό:lō. That is who we are. Our background is Iroquois, Mohawk, Cree, French.
The Deputy Chair: Did you wish to make a comment, Mr. Henry?
Mr. Henry: Just to provide some clarity on that issue, because I know my friend Lyle can get very animated. There are about 50 or 60 homes in Kelly Lake and eight or so major families. When Bill C-31 came out, a number of those members who married into the adjacent Stό:lō First Nation community started to get Bill C-31 through marriage. There was an insinuation that by taking Bill C-31 in that area in the 1990s there would be all these medical rights and all these things that would flow as a result of them marrying into that.
Lyle and the Letendre family and many others have continued to not take that approach, and there is a real political struggle between people trying to assume now that that was originally a Stό:lō community when in fact the Metis were there. The Stό:lō came there in the late 1800s after the Metis had already been homesteading, if you can call it that, in that area since the early 1800s. I think in Canada it is one of the worst examples of how Bill C-31 can be helpful in some communities, but in that situation it has really divided that community to a really bad point today.
Mr. Letendre: Out of 420 members at Kelly Lake, only 32 are Bill C-31.
Senator Ataullahjan: Lyle, your heart is in the right place and you should not be nervous. We are here to learn and we can learn a lot from you. I must commend you.
You said that you do not have a problem with any alcohol, suicides. You seem to have gotten it right. What are you doing differently?
Mr. Letendre: We still hold our culture; we still speak the language. What I am wearing today, I made the hides. There is elk, moose, deer on this. My great great grandmother did the beading. This was handed down to me. I am really proud of it. This is my second vest.
Forty per cent still speak the language. It is our culture. The grandparents literally take control. I guess that is what keeps us together and it is passed down that way.
Senator Ataullahjan: It is interesting you should say that because I have always felt that if you instill in children at a very young age a sense of pride and community and they have strong family ties, I think that helps them a long way.
Mr. Letendre: That is the history, the stories. As kids and even today — we do not sit beside a little stove anymore — the stories are still told because if they are not you will lose your identity. Do not get me wrong. I have met so many people that used to know the language but have lost it. Where I come from it is hard to grasp how you lose a language. That is what makes it so different. We just got phones in 1999 and they come from Alberta. I guess the isolation with the culture really helps at the same time. It is hard to explain. Our elders step forward and if something goes wrong they take over.
Senator Raine: The school in Kelly Lake is teaching Cree. Is the school a Cree school?
Mr. Letendre: It is ironic you ask that. The school was built in 1923. The reason is the people of Kelly Lake knew what was going on at the residential school. Our people have never been in residential school. We built our school in 1923. For that reason, we had a school long before the District of Dawson Creek did. Our language was held strong even though the odd teacher would give you a wrench of the ear, but that was it. You still spoke your language because your parents would be there, grandparents looking at the teacher not the same way we would be looking at them. We held our language in that way. I am really proud of our kids. Here goes your discrimination by government and district out of Dawson Creek. They closed our school in 2001 over $20,000, but they turned around and gave a German school $250,000.
Senator Raine: They closed the school in Kelly Lake?
Mr. Letendre: Yes, in 2001 for over $20,000.
Senator Raine: But you did not let it stay closed?
Mr. Letendre: Where are you going to get the money? The government is not going to give you anything. The government has never ever given any kind of help to my community.
We got power from Alberta in 1968, and we got phones from Alberta in 1999. I have a driver's licence from Alberta and I have insurance from Alberta. I get my mail in Alberta. Premier Lougheed came to Kelly Lake in 1972 and built the road for us. My dad was the president in 1968 and he went to Edmonton for help because Victoria would not help us.
Senator Raine: What do the children do for school today?
Mr. Letendre: They are all bused into Alberta.
I went to school in Beaver Lodge. I was born in Beaver Lodge. I went to junior high and high school, but now they go right from day one.
I think I just mentioned where I come from, the South and North Peace. If you want talk about discrimination and you want to talk about being born a half-breed, you have to be there. I stood in front of the board and told them God could be standing beside me and you are going to close our school and they did anyway. Half the people that sat on that school board were not even from Dawson, were not even born there, so they did not know anything about us. This one lady from Prophet River that moved there, she goes, "You know, Lyle, when the native kids in Prophet River come to Fort Nelson they were just all carted in. I said, "Lady, we are not animals." My grandfather brought Alexander Mackenzie here, and if it was not for him I do not think Mackenzie would have made it, or Selkirk or Thompson. It is hard really. How do you turn to your own government when they turn you away?
Senator Raine: How many children do you have in your community now?
Mr. Letendre: There are about 425 of us, but because we have five generations there are probably 10,000 of us. The original is 400 and some. We have about 60, 70 kids in school, and we have had 8 kids leave high school in grade 12 from an Aboriginal community of 150 because there are only 43 dwellings. Their first question is, "Lyle, I do not want to get into a $50,000 hole; I do not even know if I will get work after that. How do Ì move forward?" Every year we produce three to four kids out of high school.
The Deputy Chair: That is good.
Mr. Letendre: But they do not go anywhere. Running a saw because we are loggers, or on a rig, in a restaurant, is not fair. Do not get me wrong. We have two nurses and four power engineers. We have carpenters and electricians. We have all the trades because they felt strongly they have to move to the next level.
The Deputy Chair: For the witnesses from the Vancouver Métis Community Association, I got the impression that you were saying that Metis who live in the urban centres like Vancouver are not eligible for membership in MNBC, but, let us say, if I were a person who had historical roots back to the Red River settlement —
Mr. Stevenson: I am not sure what the Métis Nation B.C. eligibility is right now. Our organization predates that. We were one of the founders of MNBC. We chose as things got political — Metis politics is just exactly like White politics. I would like to say we learned our lessons from Ottawa and Victoria well. The Vancouver Métis Association is not affiliated with any political body. We made that choice when we started to see the issues going on. I am sure if some of our members wish to join that as well, that is fine with us. It is not an issue for us.
The Deputy Chair: Ms. Scudeler, you briefly mentioned the Walk Bravely Forward initiative. You said you are working with Aboriginals who are proud to receive their Metis cards. In this case are you referring to Metis cards from your organization?
Ms. Scudeler: Yes, I am. Obviously they have problems finding their genealogical records so we had a wonderful worker who went in to prisons to work with people, and even some non-Aboriginal people. There were incidences of another Metis organization following our footsteps that we started and working with Metis people in prisons and telling Metis people they do not qualify for a card. We are like, "You self-identify as Metis, welcome to the community."
Mr. Stevenson: If I can add to that, I was at a Native Brotherhood meeting. I am an honorary member of the Native Brotherhood at the Pacific Institution. I am one of the people who goes out to the institutions. We go out and normally it is a very welcoming situation. There was tension and one of the lifers stood up and he said the Metis were here last week and I am Mohawk and mixed blood. I have always said I am a Metis and they told me I am not a Metis. What do you have to say about that? I explained to them the difference between membership and identity. As individuals we own our identity and nobody can take it, nobody can change it. Our identity is ours. Membership is like a club, so if that club will not let you in, there is probably another one that will and do you really want to be in that club? That is how we handled that.
There is a big difference between Metis identity and membership in various organizations. The three of us sitting here all know each other, and we all have different roles as Metis people. We all identify in our own way, the way our community identifies us. When people join us, sometimes you will get a phone call saying, "What do I get?" When you join the Vancouver Métis Community, you get the opportunity to fellowship with fellow Metis and to volunteer. We have no federal funding because we do not want it.
The Deputy Chair: That was my next question. If I had a card, other than identifying as a Metis, what would I get from it? You are saying just the opportunity to socialize and be part of the community?
Mr. Stevenson: As our community. If you have a Vancouver Métis card, you have access to HRDC programs as a Metis. Education, sobriety and a safe and healthy community are the things we push.
The Deputy Chair: That card will allow you to get services through an HRDC program?
Mr. Stevenson: Absolutely.
Ms. Scudeler: Yes. It also helps with educational funding. I am a PhD candidate at UBC and it is recognized by educational institutions as well.
Mr. Letendre: That is ironic. When you mentioned about cards and what they give you. When I went to school in Beaver Lodge, I knew a lot of people there. I remember some of them with the native here, Indian here, except when the Metis organization of that province were giving out programs, businesses, education, all of a sudden it is, "Hey, where do I get my card?" The same people. That is why it is so hard when people ask how do you identify who is who? Do not get me wrong, ma'am. I met the Sami people. Four ladies came to Kelly Lake to see me make hides and, yes, it was ironic to look at them and see that, yes, we are the same people. That is funny. That is what these people look at in a card. Ours is different. Ours is limited to the eight families of our community. We turn to five elders to be accepted. I have people in my community that have lived there for over 50 years that will never be a member because they married in. That is not the way we do our membership because if I am going to give a membership card from Kelly Lake you could survive on that card. You do not need an education because you cannot eat a book, like my grandpa used to say. You can eat chicken, muskrat, lynx, moose, deer. That card that we give out will give that opportunity for that person. Again, we hunt freely. I have challenged Fish and Wildlife for years. We came to a verbal agreement seven years ago but last year I got so frustrated and phoned them all summer and most of the fall and they would not come out.
The Deputy Chair: I have one other question for you and that is with regard to community acceptance. I will ask both groups to say a little bit about that. You are talking about communities and people and you know who you are, in Kelly Lake you would have one answer to how to determine who is a member of your community, but in Vancouver how do you determine whether someone is actually part of the Metis community and would be accepted by the Vancouver Métis Community Association? What factors do you take into account and how does that work?
Ms. Scudeler: We do need some genealogical proof, obviously, except in special circumstances. I answer the phones. I am kind of volunteering in the office and just when we get phone calls from people about their life stories and they may not have the exact, proper genealogical information, they have gone to another organization and been rejected. I think it is really important to take people's life circumstances into account. They are so happy when they are accepted into our community even though they might not fit the strict definition or have the genealogy going back 200 years.
Mr. Stevenson: Our definition is in our constitution. It is the same definition used by the Metis communities in Alberta: mixed Aboriginal heritage, self-identifies as Metis and is accepted into the community. How they prove that is where we have a little more openness.
The Deputy Chair: That was the question. In your case how is acceptance by the community established? How do you determine that if I were to apply to you for membership?
Mr. Stevenson: Most people have some sort of background where they know the Aboriginal family or there Metis origins. A member of the Lavalle family from Duck Lake joined us just last week. Well, we know the Lavalles from Duck Lake and it was really simple to put that together. She did not have genealogy, but she had her birth certificate from Duck Lake. That is how we do it. We do have one rule from Métis Children and Families Services that handles children in care. If Métis Children and Family Services of the Métis Family Commission contacts us, and they have a child in care that Metis, we issue a card. We do not put that child under any further stress.
Mr. Letendre: When someone asks me something, I always say the Hutterites and the Mennonites are alive and doing well and the same with Kelly Lake. It is so simple. We have been together for 300 years. My wife is non-native. I broke the chain and got heck, but still I did it anyway. If she was with me for 50 years, she would not be accepted. It would have to go to an honorary, and it would be limited as to what they would be able to do under the card.
Mr. Henry: Just to add to Lyle's comments, Kelly Lake specifically accepts only members that have connections genealogically to the community or married into the community. They do not hold themselves out to be a provincial organization or anything like that. They only deal with the membership from the community that they link directly to the community.
Mr. Letendre: One more thing . When people talk about what organization you are from or did this organization help you or did this one help you, we have been accepted and given grants and programs by INAC just as a Metis community, just as Kelly Lake Métis Settlement without going through MNBC, the MNC or whoever is out there. It was simple, phone INAC and challenge who we are and who they were and what they stood for. In the last decade we received probably over $400,000 from INAC or programs and that is to better yourself and what we are doing right now is a biomass project and we are at the doorstep of BC Hydro. If INAC must believe in who you really are or they would not have given us any money. I remember when I phoned the guy laughed at me. He said, "Lyle, do you know who you phoned?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "There is an interlocutor." I said, "You better read your constitution because it does not say interlocutor."
Mr. Stevenson: I would like to add one thing. For clarity, the Vancouver Métis Community Association has over 2,000 members. We do mailings to membership so we track them. We do not track all 2,000 — they move and forget. Eventually you get a phone call saying, "I am not getting my newsletter anymore." Have you moved? Our mail-out is about 900. We are in contact with them at all times. That is the size of our community.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for the information.
Senator Patterson: Mr. Letendre, you are obviously very independent and have shown a tremendous strength despite the lack of recognition or support, but I am curious. I understand you have not applied to be affiliated with MNBC, but are you recognized by MNBC? They spoke about a number of charter communities. I would take it you are not one; is that correct?
Mr. Letendre: The government forced an issue a few years ago, join an organization. We refused and then we tried. We tried to do this and we just stepped away from it. Still that feeling again, watching politics since the 1970s, again, I refused. Again, being the only Metis settlement, I need somebody to speak to me in my own language to tell me what they can do for me. Again, they do not have to but they have to be honest, truthful and they mean to do something for this province, they mean to put the culture back into this province, they mean to better the kids and the elders to keep them safe. If that does not happen do not even bother us, do not even look at us, do not even talk to us because we have nothing to do with you guys. Every time an organization like the MNBC comes to Kelly Lake, the first thing they do is go running back to government: "Jesus, look at these people, they are isolated, they need this, they need that." Yes, they do. Do they get it? Does it come to Kelly Lake? No, it stops somewhere, and it is probably here.
The Deputy Chair: We should have visited Kelly Lake.
Mr. Stevenson: For clarity, senator, the charter communities that they referred to, those are community organizations that the MNBC recognizes. It has nothing to do with anything else. Vancouver Métis Community Association predates MNBC, but we are not a charter community.
Mr. Letendre: There are different definitions for different organizations. Since 1971 this is probably the fifth provincial organization. We are hoping the one just developed is going to last longer than 10 years. Each one of them was given a decade apiece. It seems that is the way it goes.
Senator Patterson: That is helpful. I also notice that you asked Mr. Henry to sit with you, I believe.
Mr. Letendre: He is on the board.
Senator Patterson: Could you describe your relationship with the federation, please?
Mr. Letendre: When things started coming apart, which we knew they would, based on looking at things on the outside, and we realized there was going to be another organization in the making, we sat back for a couple years to see what is the organization looking for, where are they aiming, where are they headed, and what is the purpose of breaking away from the Métis Nation of B.C. I knew Keith before that but not really to the extent because he was involved with MNBC. When he broke away we began corresponding. The elders said he was the only honest leader they ever met in this province, and I believe in the elders. They believe that Mr. Henry and the organization would probably take us hopefully into the next — into this era because we are not there yet. My community, my settlement is not there yet and the recognition that goes along with that. So our relationship with MNBC, we were — I was given the okay by the elders over a year ago to actually join the organization for guidance and help with the government, and it has been awesome ever since then. Again, we upped our profile from probably minus ten to plus ten.
Mr. Henry: I should probably clarify for the Senate as well that Lyle did ask me to sit up here.
I want to quickly add that we promised Kelly Lake Métis Settlement, as a new organization, that we were not going to come in and promise them programs and services. We had no interest in that. We needed their help for culture. For example, we had a number of cultural events last year — I did not actually answer that question very well in the last sitting — we just held a community forum there because they are one of the few historical communities that you can still go and actually live the culture. We had a Metis cultural gathering in August and we did not — we asked for their help so that we could show the urban Metis people what some of the living culture looks like today and listen to the language and that. It was in August and we had 350 people show up from all over pretty much Western Canada. We could not believe it.
To the point of the relationship, the relationship is very much about them not prescribing to our values and beliefs. It is about us trying to lift Kelly Lake up as one of the few remaining historic Metis communities in this country and making sure we do not let them go away and look at the culture in a museum which is not all that far away.
Mr. Letendre: He could not promise us phones because we already had them.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that additional information.
Senator Raine: In following your story, Lyle, you say right now you have 40 per cent still speaking, and you are speaking Cree?
Mr. Letendre: Probably about 10 people still speak the Michif language, the French-Cree mix. I understand it because when you are sitting around the table having supper, if you do not pass the salt you are going to get it. So I still understand a little bit of that. Actually my grandmother could speak to a French lady. They could speak to each other but she is speaking our language. We still do that.
Senator Raine: Is that the daily language in the community?
Mr. Letendre: Yes, always. When you get up in the morning and go to bed at night, that is what you hear all day.
Senator Raine: I am very dismayed that they took your school away. We did a study last year on K to 12 Aboriginal education. I am sorry we did not come to Kelly Lake. We went to Onion Lake where they have a Cree immersion school and they are actually training their teachers from within their own community. I do not know if you have ever been there but it would be fabulous model for your school.
Mr. Letendre: Some of my ancestors are from Onion Lake, Duck Lake — my great grandfather. Some ladies at home speak and do the syllabics that you see on the top on the corner. My grandmother was born and raised in Kelly Lake. She went to university when she was 59, 60, 61 just to get her certificate to do this. We do have two other teachers. You notice in this we are building our own structure for a Head Start program for teaching the smaller kids the language itself. I can say we have six kids who can speak better than the teenagers today.
Senator Raine: I wish you the very best of success in getting support for early childhood education and at least an elementary school in your community. It does not make sense.
Mr. Letendre: Along with Mr. Henry we are going to be talking to the Minister of Education. Again, you go to school at Beaver Lodge, Hythe, Grande Prairie. The native liaisons — do not get me wrong — are really nice ladies, but they are treaty. It just does not fit that way. I am really tired of this melting pot, two peas in a pod. It does not work that way. You do not see me with the headdress guys or drums. You see me with a fiddle and a guitar. That is who we are. When you look at education and wonder why in the last decade 30 kids left high school and never got anywhere, where is their guidance? They really need that guidance from kindergarten to grade 12. When we were in Kelly Lake we were pretty happy and we were succeeding after grade 12. It was not because there was a native liaison telling you where you were going to go. It was your parents telling you where you were going. It was different generation today, ma'am. It is so hard. Parents are trying to make a living and it is hard to make a living and move away from Kelly Lake. It is really hard to take a kid past Grande Prairie without being so scared to leave there and be alone. We need that kind of help. We need that kind of guidance in our school system. I wish it was still in B.C. but it is not; it is all in Alberta.
Senator Raine: There is an artificial boundary anyway. The logical boundary for Peace River is Alberta.
Mr. Letendre: Exactly.
Senator Raine: That is where everybody came from.
Mr. Letendre: I inherited 10 acres right at the B.C.-Alberta border because that is where my grandparents’ land starts.
Senator Raine: Anyway, keep up the good work.
The Deputy Chair: On behalf of all the committee members, I would like to thank you for your presentations this morning and wish you the best.
(The committee adjourned.)