Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 29 - Evidence - December 5, 2012
OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 6:45
p.m. to examine and report on the legal and political recognition of Metis
identity in Canada.
Senator Vernon White (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I would like to welcome all honourable senators and
members of the public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or the Web. I am Vern White, from
Ontario, chair of the committee.
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters
relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. Today we will
continue to explore Metis issues, particularly those relating to the
evolving legal and political recognition of the collective identity and
rights of the Metis in Canada.
This evening, we will hear from two groups, the Canadian Métis Council -
Intertribal and the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation of Nova Scotia.
Before hearing from our witnesses, I will take the opportunity to
introduce the members of the committee who are present this evening. With us
are Senator Nick Sibbeston from the Northwest Territories, Senator Lillian
Dyck from Saskatchewan and deputy chair of the committee, Senator Sandra
Lovelace Nicholas from New Brunswick, Senator Larry Campbell from British
Columbia, Senator Jacques Demers from Quebec and Senator Selma Ataullahjan
from Ontario. Senator Asha Seth from Ontario will be back in a minute.
Members of the committee, please help me in welcoming, from the Canadian
Métis Council - Intertribal, Tanya Dubé, Secretary/Treasurer and Board
Member; and from the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation of Nova Scotia, Jerome
Downey, Federal Government Liaison.
We look forward to your presentations. I would ask that both witnesses
and senators keep their comments brief and focused, as exactly one hour from
now we will have to end this meeting as a number of people have another
Tanya Dubé, Secretary/Treasurer and Board Member, Canadian Métis
Council Ð Intertribal: I would like to start by thanking the committee
for inviting us and giving us a chance to speak about Metis rights in Canada
and how they are implemented. My name is Tanya Dubé. I am speaking for the
Canadian Métis Council Ð Intertribal. I have been working with the
organization since late 2008 and have been a registered member since early
Our organization has been representing the Metis for over 15 years. The
Canadian Métis Council was established in 1997 to further the economic,
political, spiritual and cultural aspirations of Canada's Metis people. We
have been incorporated as a non-profit since 2009.
Before 2009, the Canadian Métis Council Ð Intertribal was comprised of
over 50 community councils and affiliated Metis organizations in every
province of Canada. Since 2009, we still have representatives in every
province. As well, treaties have been signed with the Metis organizations in
the United States. Our organization has over 10,000 members all across
Canada and the United States.
The Canadian Métis Council Ð Intertribal, also known as CMC, is governed
by a board of directors. Our organization is a non-profit organization
concerned with cultural issues, harvesting rights, education, health, youth,
justice and other related issues that directly affect the Metis people of
North America. The CMC is also dedicated to the promotion of Metis culture
and history. We encourage the involvement of our members with other
political and cultural organizations.
Our head office is located in New Brunswick. In Canada, most of our
members are recognized as being Metis, and only a few are not recognized.
Those who are not recognized live in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
These three provinces state that there are no Metis who are recognized and
that the Metis are from the West of Canada. This is not so. Most of our
members from these three provinces have genealogies that show differently.
They are direct descendants of First Nations mixed with European descent.
Our oral history shows that the expulsion of 1755, when the British took
the French and expelled them from Eastern Canada, not only took the French
but also Aboriginal women and children, since they were intermarried, as
well as those who were affiliated with the French. Those who fled and hid
continued their way of life. Most of our ancestors had to deny they were
Aboriginal because they were still in fear of being taken from their homes.
Most of them stated they were other races, all except for French and
When everything calmed down and the French started to return to the
Maritimes, everyone would start speaking their languages again. Then, later
on, they were in fear of being recognized as being Aboriginal, so they
stated they were French to be able to keep their land, children and jobs.
To this day, there is still discrimination towards the Metis. Even before
the term ``Metis,'' we were called coureurs de bois, bois-brûlé,
voyageur, half-breed, mixed breed, breed and many other unmentionable names.
In the Constitution Act, 1982, section 35(2), the federal government
recognized the Metis of Canada, but for certain reasons, some provincial
governments will not recognize us. Those provincial governments should
follow these regulations.
When it comes to lands set aside for the Metis, we do not have this
option in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Quebec. I know that Crown lands were
set aside for Aboriginal people, but right now, the Province of New
Brunswick is in the process of selling wood on Crown lands to big companies
such as Acadian Timber, Fraser and Irving, to name just a few. What do these
companies do to the land set aside for Aboriginal people? They clear-cut it
and put up signs as privately owned land, where no one has the right to go
and cut their own firewood or gather their traditional medicines because
most of the medicines were crushed by the heavy machinery. We are not even
allowed to hunt or fish in New Brunswick without purchasing a licence, only
during certain seasons and only in certain places.
If we want to get firewood on Crown land, there is a licence you can
purchase at the ranger's office. It is called the roadside cleanup licence.
To purchase it, you must have the lot number of the cleared section of Crown
land, and then you have to go to the ranger's office to see if it qualifies.
If it does, then you have to pay $25 for the licence and are allowed seven
cords of wood from wood that has been left on the ground. Not much quality
wood is left. These companies waste a lot of wood and take even the small
trees; nothing is left standing when they are done.
What happens to the animals? They leave. This also poses a problem for
hunting and trapping. The Metis are trappers, hunters, gatherers, fishermen,
cultivators, preservationists and keepers of the lands. We have many jobs
and are taught all of this at a young age to preserve our culture, to be
proud of our ancestors — the Europeans, either French, English, Scottish or
Irish, and the Aboriginals, either First Nations, Inuit or Metis — and to
teach our children who they are and to be proud.
For some of our members, their language was lost, but for some their
language is still strong. In New Brunswick, there is a dialect of French
called Brayon. It is a mix of French and native languages. Not many French
people from other areas outside of New Brunswick understand it. Many elders
still speak it, as well as some younger people. In Quebec, the French is a
lot different than ours. In New Brunswick, there are three dialects of what
we call French; they are Acadian, Brayon and Shiac. The Acadian language is
strong among the Acadians and the Shiac is somewhat strong among the
southern part of New Brunswick. The Brayon language is a dying language.
Our Metis language is dying with our elders and those who were raised to
speak their language. The government does not recognize Brayon as being
Metis. Our ancestors had to change their language to hide the fact that they
were Aboriginal, so they devised a language called Brayon, which is not
fully French and not fully Aboriginal. It is a mix of both languages. We see
lots of comparisons with the Michif language. Many of those words we apply
to our own.
Our members are still continuing their culture. Those who were not taught
are learning and are eager to learn. For most of our members, it is freedom
to finally be able to come out of the closet and be recognized as Metis. Our
culture is still strong today. We still have trappers who trap for fur and
food, and nothing is wasted. Trappers still use the whole carcass of the
animal they trap, such as the bones, which are used in jewellery making,
decorations, et cetera. The bones themselves are a healing medicine. We
still to this day break the bones to use the marrow for its healing powers.
The hides are used for leather and drums. They are cured the traditional
way, which is brain tanned, smoked, salted and de-furred. The hunting method
is the same as trapping. We do not believe in wasting even one ounce of the
animal we take. The hooves, paws, claws, et cetera, all have a use.
When fishing, we gather fish not to waste but to feed our people. We do
not believe in catch-and-release because three quarters of the fish are hurt
so badly that they eventually die, and for us, it is considered a waste.
Basically, we eat what we catch.
The use of wood is essential in our culture. We use wood to build our
homes, heat our homes, make furniture, canoes and medicines. Sap is used as
maple syrup and for other medicines. Traditional foods are still cultivated
to this day by our members. They start in the spring with the first
traditional greens, which are the dandelions, then the fiddleheads, then
fishing, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, hazelnuts, sage,
sweetgrass, garden foods, the hunting season and traditional medicines.
Every season has cultivating, whether big or small. It is still important to
continue our tradition and to teach the younger generations. Winter months
are not forgotten. There is still trapping with the use of snowshoes and
We are what people call independent. We do not rely on government funding
to be able to survive. The creator gave us two hands, two legs and hopefully
good health to be able to do all these things for future generations. These
are their basic survival skills.
Our organization is trying hard to preserve the culture and the rights of
the Metis, but with the little funding and regulations that are in place, it
is hard to practise our culture.
In our bylaws, we state all preservation and teaching our children the
ways of our ancestors, but we are unable to unless we still hide to this day
to be able to practise them. If we are caught, we are sent to court, fined
and possibly jailed for practising our culture. This is unfair.
We have written letters to complain about the regulations and the abuse
of our rights as Metis. We wrote to the Queen and sent copies to Stephen
Harper, the Honourable David Johnston, the United Nations, David Alward and
Jean Charest. We have had no response back, except from the Queen. In the
letter of response from the Queen, we were told that we did the right thing
in contacting the other departments of government, that it was the Governor
General that took care of everything. We did this and still fell short with
no response. To this day, the different branches of government have not sent
We gladly appreciate the chance that was given to us to speak on behalf
of our members to senators, who hopefully understand our frustration with
the government branches and will take into consideration the rights of Metis
in North America to be equal and fully recognized.
Jerome Downey, Federal Government Liaison, Eastern Woodland Métis
Nation of Nova Scotia: Honourable senators, thank you for the
opportunity to be here today. I am the federal government liaison for the
Eastern Woodland Métis Nation. I was appointed to this role and have been
acting in this role for the last seven months. I have been a member of the
Eastern Woodland Métis Nation for three years. In that time, many of my
other family members and individuals within the community where I came from
have also joined. The Eastern Woodland Métis Nation has been incorporated
since 2000. It was done so by our two founders, Gilbert, Mary Lou Parker and
Chief Adrienne Speck. Our membership is 11,000 strong and growing. We are in
Nova Scotia, based in Yarmouth.
Over the course of the last six months and the discovery that has been
happening since I have taken on the position to represent our nation here in
Ottawa, there has been a lot of self-discovery — the concept of identity. As
an African Nova Scotian man born of African Nova Scotian parents, I have a
lineage dating back to 1812 when Aboriginals, African Nova Scotians and
French Mi'kmaq were interrelated. The fact that there are inconsistencies
within the perception of what it means to be a Metis is why we are here
today. I commend the committee for coming together here today to discuss
Our mission with the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation is to promote and
preserve the Metis identity and heritage in our community. We strive to
promote education, training, business opportunities, leadership, health and
justice. Our goal is to be economically sustainable and self-reliant. Our
values of the ultimate authority of the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation reside
with its membership. A consensus is sought from the grassroots membership
and is ensured by organizational structures that take into account
traditional values that our ancestors have given to us with the belief that
the whole community and not just one individual group is to be represented.
Our vision is to be self-actualized, as laid out in the Royal Commission
Report on Aboriginal Peoples.
The purpose of our nation is to protect the rights of all Metis and
non-status Aboriginal peoples in Nova Scotia. We have done so quite well
since our origins. In 2000, we were incorporated; in 2002, we entered into
an interprovincial treaty with the Port McNicoll Ontario Metis Allegiance;
in 2003, we provided a seminar for seniors on domestic violence in homes,
which was funded by the Department of Justice Canada; and in 2004, we were
successfully able to implement a healing strategy program funded by Justice
Canada as well.
I would like to thank senators for coming together today and allowing us
the opportunity to present ourselves. We have been having tremendous
difficulties getting a consensus and having a dialogue with the Province of
Nova Scotia and the federal government. I have a letter here that was
written on November 10, 2004, a copy of which you will receive. It
summarizes essentially the main point of what is going on here. It states:
A formal request for recognition is very important, as information
and Government and communication released by the Federal Interlocutor
for Metis and Non-status Indians Office, indicates that your office
advocates building capacity of only 2 national Metis organizations,
which we assume are the Metis National Council and the Congress of
Aboriginal Peoples. We are NOT under the umbrella of either of those
organizations nor are we under the umbrella of NSNC (Nova Scotia Native
Council) nor do we seek to be under their control and decision making.
Consequently, we seek a voice in your office, at your discussion tables
and during all issues associated with Metis/Aboriginal Peoples. We seek
national recognition for our peoples.
This letter was sent to the Honourable Andy Scott, then Minister of
Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Many things have changed since that
time, and there have been tremendous developments for the Metis people of
Canada as a whole. I note the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Métis Voyageur
Development Fund signed by the provincial government as a tremendous step
forward for many Metis nations across the country. The fact that the
Government of Ontario stepped up to make a 10-year commitment of $3 million
per year is an exceptional opportunity for the Metis people of Ontario.
However, I am here representing Nova Scotia today, where no such dialogues
are in place. It is important that if we are to have a consensus and if we
are to treat one Metis nation differently from another, then we must have
some sort of criteria so that we know how to navigate the bureaucracy.
We have done very well to date. We have always put together strong
applications. We have a strong success rate with funding for specific,
targeted demographic bodies. However, the question is whether we can have an
opportunity to actualize ourselves and be recognized by the federal
government and by the Government of Nova Scotia. That is our situation as
the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation. I just wanted to leave you with those
The Chair: I thank you both very much.
Senator Demers: I am listening to this, and it is pretty sad. I
will ask you a few questions. You seem to be alone in left field, as they
say. Do you feel like you are not wanted? Keep that in mind to answer later.
How many members do you have? What are the membership criteria for your
organizations? I will leave you with three questions. The first one is very
important, not that the other two are not, but it seems from what I hear,
and I paid really good attention to what you said, that no one is reaching
out to you. You are trying to get to them but no one is coming back to you.
Mr. Downey: It is my belief that Atlantic Canada has been
isolated. When you think about where everything started, it was in Atlantic
Canada. Migration then went westward. Things did not stop with the expulsion
of the Acadians as some fled, some hid and some stayed. Where things are at
now with our provinces, particularly with Nova Scotia, which I can speak to,
and Ms. Dubé may speak to New Brunswick, is that there is distrust and there
is no dialogue. The province tells us that we need to talk to the federal
government, and the federal government tells us that we need to talk to the
provincial government. There is a lack of ownership. We are ready at the
table — we just need the platform. We need to know the rules and the
guidelines. That is what we are looking for.
With regard to your second question, there are 11,000 members in the
Eastern Woodland Métis Nation. The criteria are self-identify as a Metis,
have distinct ancestry and heritage that link you to a Metis nation, and be
accepted by the nation. Unique about the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation more
so than most other nations that you might come across our acceptance of
African Nova Scotians and those who have Aboriginal lineage. We are a lot
more open and accepting than most others, for which the criteria include
that you be French-speaking.
The primary difference of the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation is that we
are an open circle. North Preston, a historic Black community in Nova
Scotia, is accepted because, through our research, we can show Aboriginal
descent from there. That is an aspect of our community that is a little
different from most.
Senator Ataullahjan: Do you actively seek new members, or do
people come to you?
Mr. Downey: People come to us. We have established ourselves well
in Nova Scotia over the last 12 years. We have an open forum. Most of our
membership has come from individual members doing their research on their
own. As you can imagine, Nova Scotia communities are quite tightly knit and
news spreads like wildfire. Individuals started to look at their ancestry.
It is more a claiming of our history, which, for most Metis individuals
in Nova Scotia, has been wiped out. We have been here since 1812 and there
has not been much dialogue. Indigenous people have been looking back and
finding their Metis heritage.
Senator Sibbeston: Welcome to both of you. Since we have begun
this study, it seems that more and more Metis people are coming to the fore
wanting to be recognized, which is very good.
Mr. Downey, you are not the first African Metis that I have seen. In the
1940s, as part of the war effort, some African-Americans came to the
Northwest Territories to build a pipeline and such things. They spent some
time with Dene native people up North and there have been some results.
There are some Black First Nations people and some Black Metis. You are now
just part of the crowd. It may be good for you to know that there are people
like you in the Northwest Territories.
In Western Canada, the Metis are a very prominent group, in part because
of their number. There are huge numbers of First Nations and Metis people,
and they have a history. They were involved in the Riel Rebellion and other
confrontations with the government. They have a history to which they can
attach themselves, so it seems that they cannot be ignored. They are a
significant force in society, and government recognizes them. They have made
great advances in the last few decades in every aspect — organization,
economic development and education. They have their own schools and so
forth. There has been very positive movement for the Metis people in
In your case, you are probably less known. How do you see your future?
How will you get yourselves to the point where you will be recognized by
society and government and funded by government? Do you see yourselves
coming up in the world, as it were, coming up in our society?
Ms. Dubé: Most of our ancestors from the East fought against the
Americans in the War of 1812. We have always been here. Our ancestors have
been here. It is just that mistrust was built up. Many people still remember
the expulsion, and there has always been mistrust of the government in our
Many families feel that they cannot reveal the secret that they are
Aboriginal because something bad will happen; they will take everything or
send our kids off. Many of the elderly still believe that. The kids now are
saying, ``Look, things have changed, Grandpa; things have changed, Grandma.
It is not like that anymore.'' We want to be proud. We want to finally be
able to say who we are so that we can continue our culture.
We have almost 15,000 members from across Canada. We added
``Intertribal'' to our name because we are so mixed with different
Aboriginal groups. Some are of Cree descent, some Montagny, Mi'kmaq,
Maliseet and Mohawk.
We want to set up schools. We bid on a school in New Brunswick at the
beginning of this year and our bid was denied. We said that we wanted the
school in order to teach our children their culture and language, but we
were not heard. A religious group got the school for the same amount that we
had bid, because we were applying as Metis.
We went to court on fishing rights. An elder who was starving used his
cultural rights to get food. He was charged for catching 22 very small
trout. If it were not for my husband and me, he would not have eaten that
The Government of New Brunswick and the courts state that there are no
Metis in New Brunswick and never will be. That is their opinion. However, we
have historical documents that show that our ancestors came from that
province. Yet, that is not enough. We tell them that in the expulsion of
1755 most of the documents were lost or burned, but that is not enough.
Mr. Downey: Senator Sibbeston, the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation
is in a good situation right now. I took on the role of federal government
liaison in part because I feel a sense of duty and responsibility. I am a
Nova Scotian. I was born in Ontario, raised in Toronto, but I am a Nova
Scotian. My grandfather served in city hall in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for 27
years. I went to high school in Nova Scotia and graduated from Mount Allison
University in political science.
The Acadian culture is prominent and strong and proud. It is very
important that people know who they are. The fact that I am appearing here
today indicates that we are coming up. We need a lot of organization.
The Metis in the other provinces are well ahead of us, no doubt. However,
we are laying the groundwork. We are looking for the opportunity for
dialogue so that we can help Canadians and Metis. Our nation is diverse.
We have public servants, business professionals and academics. These are
individuals who are contributing to society. I grew up knowing that Canada
was a cultural mosaic. This is part of our values, and we want to be part of
that. We want to contribute more. We are looking for the opportunity to be
able to do that, because of the head start that so many people around us
were able to have. That is where we are at.
The Chair: Only Senator Sibbeston can lead us to that question in
the way you did.
Senator Sibbeston: I was going to deal with the question of
spending a night or two; I was under the impression that it takes more than
that. Maybe it is more than one or two nights, but I do not really know for
The Chair: Senator Sibbeston, I am so sorry. I am actually sorry.
Senator Seth: Thank you so much. Listening to all that history, I
am puzzled. I would like to know the following: You say Metis is a
population of 11,000 or 15,000. How many languages do you have? You are
mixed with different parts of French and Europe and all those languages. How
many languages do you have, officially? How do you manage health care? I am
worried about that part. As a physician, I think what must be there and how
is it looked after? Do you have a clinic, hospital? Can you describe this
for me, please?
Mr. Downey: The Eastern Woodland Métis Nation has made health a
prominent part of what we do as far as organizing when seeking federal
government grants or for specific projects that are project-based and
locally based. In Atlantic Canada, there are a lot of seniors. We have a lot
of Metis seniors who are experiencing different forms of dementia that are
coming on, and different health aspects are starting to hurt our
communities. When you have a lot of youth leaving for Central and Western
Canada for those opportunities, I am concerned for the long-term future of
Atlantic Canada, and in particular, my province of Nova Scotia and the
With regard to health, obviously the statistics with regard to Metis
Aboriginal communities and where they are with the rest of the proportion of
the population is self-evident with crime and other things of that nature.
We are addressing it. However, it is an issue of concern and one of the
reasons we are here and looking forward to having relationships to develop
and grow to be able to address this serious issue. There are individuals who
really require the help of this country and governments to step in to help
them support and facilitate themselves. We are in an okay situation.
However, it is a deep concern. It is something that will only become a more
prevalent issue in the future if something is not done soon.
Senator Seth: You did not tell me how many languages you have.
Mr. Downey: We have two official languages. We have English and
Ms. Dubé: Same here. We have two official languages, which are
English and French. There are too many languages all across Canada and the
U.S. to be able to keep up with them all. In the United States, it is mostly
English, and in Canada it is English and French. It is surprising, because
there are quite a few French members in the United States. For health care,
we do not have our own hospitals, but we have lots of members who are
doctors, lawyers or who are even into government jobs.
We are so diverse. There are lots of people. We even encourage our
children to eat the traditional foods, because we have elders who, at 90
years old, still walk and eat their traditional foods. He keeps telling us
to eat more beans. It is so nice to see our elders try to encourage the
younger generation to get off the junk food, the Pepsi, have less sugar, be
healthier and eat more traditional stuff. If you want sugar, take the maple
syrup. The elders have always said the biggest problem is diabetes. Diabetes
comes because we have been taken off of our traditional diets. We could make
a balance and teach the young kids to take a balance with their food, watch
what they eat and they do not have to eat what shows up on TV, the
McDonald's and all this stuff, but it is hard.
For health care, it is pretty much like every province. They fall
underneath provincial health care for every province, because we do not have
anything extra set up. We have lots of members who have asked if we have
anything set up for prescription drugs so that they can get benefits,
because it is so expensive. There are some who are on social assistance and
some who are very low income and they are debating: My daughter needs her
insulin and we need this. At the same time, can we provide a little bit of
Senator Seth: Does social assistance not cover the medication?
Ms. Dubé: Social assistance covers certain amounts.
Senator Seth: Most of the medications?
Ms. Dubé: Most of it. However, there are certain things. This is
what I was told from our members, because they keep me up to date with what
is going on. With the complaints, there are some who are low income. It is
almost like social assistance, but it is not. It is bare minimum. With the
health care coverage they have, it does not cover everything.
Senator Seth: Even in my practice, I remember I used to have some
patients who were fully covered for glasses, dentist and every medication,
which normally other people on social benefits are not covered for. They are
given a special substitute for that, and it was quite amazing. My experience
and what I am telling you may be different for Metis. I do not know. With
what I have gone through, I thought the government was very supportive.
Ms. Dubé: We have tried to set up to contact Blue Cross to see if
we could do a special plan for some of our members and if they can cover
prescription drugs. It is not for the ones on social assistance, but the low
income. We tried to see if there is something extra. I am still waiting for
that phone call. I have not had a call back.
Senator Dyck: Thank you to our witnesses for coming and giving us
your presentations. You have added a new set of nuances to the committee's
study. As you may know, most of the witnesses we have heard to date have
really talked about Metis people arising from the fur trade. They talk about
historic fur trade communities, mixing with the French and the English and
creating a distinct culture that was neither French nor Indian or English
and Indian. In your cases, that does not seem to be the case. When you talk
about your history of being Metis, what do you relate back? You mentioned
historic documents and the War of 1812. Was there any fur trade activity
there? Is there a distinctiveness to your communities that makes you
different than First Nations or different than your European or African
Mr. Downey: There is a fusion, particularly within the situation
of Nova Scotia, the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation. We call it the awakening.
It is essentially that our way of life and living is very distinct within
the African Nova Scotia community, and also when you add in our Aboriginal
roots. Through food, culture, music, the way of living is very distinct and
different, and we have slight nuances from other aspects of individuals that
live within the region. It is one of those things that you feel. It is not
necessarily something where you can point to something directly. It is a
self- identification with an aspect of your ancestry, your heritage and your
lineage. For us, it is very much driven from a genealogy standpoint. That is
how we identify with ourselves.
Ms. Dubé: Like Mr. Downey said, it is a fusion. We took both
cultures and we fused bits and pieces. The French were trappers, and of
course the Aboriginals trapped and hunted. It is pretty much the same. There
are many people today who do not even follow their traditional roots, and
there are some who do. It depends on where they live.
Mr. Downey: I would say, to give you an indication, up until the
late 1970s, within many of our communities there were still one-room
schoolhouses in Atlantic Canada where many of our community members were
being taught. It was a very traditional setting that has been adopted, very
much off the grid. A lot of gentrification is happening in our traditional
communities that have been more or less isolated, and now you are seeing in
many of our communities' way of life and living assimilation going on, and
there is no doubt about that. However, that is why it is important and
prevalent now that we sustain and show a presence of who we are. It is
difficult when you are not able to have a dialogue and come to terms with
that with the province because they are just not really acknowledging it or
it is not a policy that is of importance to be on the agenda. It is
something that does not come to bear. There is a dialogue within the
province of Nova Scotia, within the legislature and within many of the
representatives. However, the actual coming to the table and putting things
together has never transpired.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you for your presentations. Why
are some Metis recognized and some not? You mentioned the United States. Why
Ms. Dubé: To answer for the United States, the reason they
approached us to have a treaty with us is that most of their members'
ancestors were from Canada. They are originally from here, and they cannot
apply for their status because they are not originally from the United
States. It goes back to the ancestors. There are certain very fine laws that
are put in. If your ancestors are not originally from there, you cannot
apply. The Métis Nation of the United States, MNUS, approached us, and we
said, ``Yes, your ancestors are from Canada, and back then there were no
borders. We still believe there is no border. We represent North America.
For us there is no border.'' They were ecstatic. I even have some members
whose parents are full status in the United States, but the children are not
recognized. They cannot apply because they are less than 51 per cent, I
think it is in the U.S. It is either 49 or 51 per cent. They cannot apply
for their status, but they can apply as Metis with us because we know their
parents are full status.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: I was trying to understand that. Thank
What is it you want from the Senate? Do you want us to ask for you to
have Aboriginal rights, as in hunting, fishing, education, the rights that
Aboriginal people have?
Mr. Downey: The Eastern Woodland Métis Nation would like the
opportunity to have a direct dialogue and bring our case, just lay it out
there, where we stand and why we are a distinct community. Whether or not it
would be the pleasure of the province and/or the federal government to
recognize us, that is really what it comes down to. We have the membership,
we have the long-standing organization, we have the structure and the
consistency, and we are working very hard and diligently not only to gain
the confidence of the province and the federal government but also to
continue to grow. These nations arise and individuals get very ecstatic
about their lineage, and then two years later the organization leaves
because it is just one individual's idea. This is not an idea; this is an
actual awakening of a community and a culture, and it is growing. This is
not something that will go away.
We would like to be able to implement strong policies within our nation,
within our communities, that can be able to address health, education and
business development. The Senate can make a recommendation to the federal
government, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or the Province of Nova
Scotia to have dialogue and to come to the table with us. That is really
what the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation would like to have, because we
represent the largest proportion of Metis in the province of Nova Scotia and
we are the first.
Right now, so that you can have a little more clarity on our situation,
we are able to do the things that we are within our community through back
channels. We signed a treaty with the Port McNicoll Ontario Metis Allegiance
in 2002. That treaty distinctively made out the parameters that they
accepted us under their branch and that they recognized us within our
province, and we have a direct treaty with them. Essentially, with my Metis
card, we have it under their number. This is a political and a bureaucratic
thing outside of being able to do it within our own province. That is really
where the clarity comes, because we would like to be able to do it at home.
We do have this treaty, and it is standing and recognized, but it would make
things much easier for us if we were able to do it at home and build and
develop our community in that manner.
Senator Campbell: The Powley decision listed three criteria
for meeting the definition of ``Metis'': self-identification, ancestral
connection to Metis council and acceptance by a Metis community. Would you
agree with those three definitions?
Mr. Downey: Absolutely.
Senator Campbell: I note that you have an application on the Web
to join your organization. On the application, basically one of the criteria
is genealogical references, someone who is Metis from North America or
someone who is a member of First Nations in North America, and you may
include copies of ancestral Indian status cards or documents showing them as
That is basically it. There is no more great lengthiness. Then you note
that a Metis citizen is distinct from First Nation, Inuit and
non-Aboriginal, and you have a $50 application fee.
Basically, as I read this — and if I am wrong, please tell me — if I can
show that I have First Nations ancestry — and there is nothing here that
says I have to show that it is First Nations from Nova Scotia; just if I can
show First Nations ancestry — then I can register with you and be classified
as a Metis under your organization. Is that correct?
Ms. Dubé: That is partly correct. For our application process, you
have to fill in a three-page application form. The second page is what they
call the Aboriginal chart. That gives us the basis of where to start with
your genealogy, because you have to send in a photocopy of your genealogy.
Senator Campbell: It does not say that anywhere here, though. The
second page is just applicant signature.
Ms. Dubé: On the third page it states that.
Senator Campbell: The third page?
Ms. Dubé: Yes.
Senator Campbell: There is not a third page on your website.
Ms. Dubé: There is application page 1, 2 and 3 on our website.
Senator Campbell: All you have here is 2. It says: Sign here. Keep
between the lines. That is page 2.
In any event, what I am trying to get at is that if you accept the
Powley decision as a reference for Metis, then do you accept that with
your membership? For instance, acceptance by a Metis community, which seems
to be pretty much a major agreement from many of our witnesses that they are
accepted by a Metis community, be it in Quebec, Ontario, or across the
Prairies. They may be English or French, but there is that acceptance. Do
you agree with that?
Mr. Downey: If I may, with regard to what you are talking about
with the Powley decision, an individual who self- identifies as a
Metis, that is an individual decision.
Senator Campbell: I agree. Yes.
Mr. Downey: I will skip the historic one, and then there is
accepted by a Metis nation. Let us just say you are accepted.
Senator Campbell: By a Metis community.
Mr. Downey: By a Metis nation or community. We are looking at the
historical aspect of how you determine whether or not a Métis nation fits
the criteria. Right now, it is arbitrarily set by public policy-makers.
Senator Campbell: No, sir. It is not arbitrarily set by public
policy-makers. It is set by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mr. Downey: The Supreme Court of Canada has put together the
Powley decision. When you look at our nation — I can speak for Eastern
Woodland Métis Nation — we fall within every category here.
Senator Campbell: Where would the historic Metis nation be? Where
would the historic Metis community be in Nova Scotia?
Mr. Downey: Right now it goes through Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis
Valley, and then you also have communities such as North Preston, East
Preston and the surrounding regions there. That is where the history is.
I am not sure if you know the history of Nova Scotia very well, but you
know that they do not have a great track record with regard to
discrimination, to this point in time, and there is still a lot of
institutional racism going on, including Black business initiatives and
other organizations that continually segregate communities versus uniting
them. This is something that I do not view very kindly. However, this is the
politics of the community. This is the reality.
That is where we are. We have to go to the archives. If we go there and
dig deep, we will see that there is distinct nation and communal acceptance
of a Metis nation, and not only that, but of Aboriginal ancestry mixed with
Black, mixed with French-Canadian. That is what it is.
Ms. Dubé: I do not know what application you were looking at, but
I can verify.
The Chair: There are three pages. I looked on the website. He must
have the B.C. iPad. Out here we have all three pages.
Senator Campbell: Okay. Thank you.
Ms. Dubé: There is a lot of documentation in New Brunswick that is
Senator Campbell: I understand that prospect.
Ms. Dubé: Even church records. All of a sudden you try to find
your genealogy, and the people disappeared out of nowhere. Where is the
documentation? You know you came from here. Where? They did the same thing
with the little communities that the Metis were living in, and after that it
was taken and overrun and the British claimed them.
There are lots of little Metis communities that fled. Every season they
kept moving. To be able to say that there is one little specific area that
was Metis, no. Where I am from, Mount Carleton, it is still traditional
territory and it is traditional Maliseet. However, it was not only the
Maliseet, because there was one little stream that separates the Maliseet
territory and the Mi'kmaq territory, plus there were other tribes that came
in. We had the wars with the Iroquois in the small village that I am from,
Grand Falls. I do not know if you have ever heard of her, but Malevine was a
great saviour to many of the nations. If it were not for her, most of our
ancestors would not be here.
The Chair: Ms. Dubé, only because I said we would keep this to an
hour — we have some people who have another event — I will allow Senator
Patterson a quick question, and hopefully a quick response, so we can finish
Senator Patterson: Thank you.
I am curious. I would like to ask Mr. Downey the following: Looking at
the membership criteria for the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation, it says a
person of mixed blood, regardless of how many generations back.
You mentioned your grandfather, I believe. Would you mind telling us a
bit about your previous generations and how you came to define yourself as
Mr. Downey: Excellent. On both sides. I will start with my
grandparents, who are both Queen's Jubilee medal winners. That is quite
incredible. Ardith and Graham Downey.
I will start with my grandmother because that is the easiest. Ardith
Downey's mother was Mi'kmaq and her father was an African-Nova Scotian
settler. Her grandfather, so my grandmother's grandfather, was a French
Caucasian Canadian, and so I am technically one-sixteenth, just from that
When you look at my grandfather's side, his family was born, raised and
settled in North Preston. They found that there were several indigenous
individuals who were mixed in with the Black community there. Down the line
they mixed, and he is one-sixteenth as well.
Understanding that it is prominent within African-Nova Scotian
communities to identify yourself with slavery and freedom from that, I
consider myself an indigenous Canadian because I can trace my roots back to
1812 within the community. Instead of seeing myself as an outsider, I
realize that I am actually indigenous Canadian. Being Metis, I identify with
that more so than the others because of what it represents. I believe it
represents a tie to the land, and that is kind of where my connection is.
It is very complicated when you consider it, but that is where it is.
The Chair: Thank you very much to both of you for appearing
tonight, and thank you for coming to Ottawa for the meeting. I thank the
committee, and we will adjourn for the evening.
(The committee adjourned.)