Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

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.

[English]

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 engagement.

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 2008.

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 Aboriginal.

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 dogsleds.

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 any response.

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 this.

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 comments.

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 particular.

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 provinces.

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 day.

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 sure.

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 small-town communities.

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 French.

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 extra food?

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 ancestors?

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 is that?

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 you.

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 Indian Act.

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 gone.

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 on time.

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 Metis?

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 lineage alone.

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.)