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George and Terry Goulet Evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

George and Terry Goulet Evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

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The presentation of George and Terry Goulet to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples: Metis Identity, and policy issues on October 1, 2012.

The presentation of George and Terry Goulet to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples: Metis Identity, and policy issues on October 1, 2012.

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Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Feb 20, 2013
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09/17/2013

 
Proceedings of the Standing SenateCommittee onAboriginal Peoples
Issue 23 - Evidence - October 1, 2012
Metis Identity
We will have a brief presentation from George and Terry Goulet. Are you doing separatepresentations?
Terry Goulet, Metis Historian, as an individual:
Yes, separate.
Klahowya tillieum
— 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 todiscuss the Metis of British Columbia and in doing so we have no alternative but to discussalso the Metis across Canada. I am going to try and be as brief as I can. To do this at theend of this session we will provide each of you with a copy of our book,
The Metis in BritishColumbia: 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 confineddefinition that has been presented to you by the Métis National Council and the various Metisorganizations 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 identityof the Metis versus the
Powley 
case, which is extremely important because there have beena lot of misconceptions given to you concerning the
Powley 
case. We also have an article onwhat is a nation, and I think that is something that needs to be addressed. Together with thatwe are giving you a folder showing various historic Metis sites and locations within BritishColumbia which will provide you with a very specific idea of that.George Goulet is Metis; his parents were Metis; his grandparents were Metis; his greatgrandparents were Metis. His great grandfather was Pierre Delorme. Pierre Delorme was amember 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 thefirst member of the legislature of Manitoba from the constituency of St. Norbert. At that timeyou could be a member of both constituencies. That was on his mother's side. On his father'sside, his great uncle was Elzéar Goulet, the Metis martyr who was stoned to death on thebanks of the Red River for his involvement in the Red River resistance. Today he proudlywears the Elzéar Goulet sash at this meeting.What we want to do is express to you the importance of opening a dialogue on Metis identityin a much broader concept than is presently being offered to you.
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I now defer to George.
George Goulet, Metis Historian, as an individual:
Good morning, senators. The matters Iam 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 youexamples. We have the Metis political organizations. The two national organizations as youknow are the Métis National Council and Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. The Métis NationalCouncil 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 MetisNation 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 therehas to be something in between.On the constitutional legal aspect, you are all aware of course of the
Powley 
case decided in2003. When this came out we thought it was a great win for the Metis people. In hindsight, ithas 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, acommunity of history, heritage and culture. That does not appear in the judgment. We haveother 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 gothrough numerous courts to establish a constitutional right, and probably bankrupt himself inthe process, that is not much of a right.The next aspect of Metis identity is self-identity. This is used by Statistics Canada, by manychildren 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 asociocultural 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 areMetis. As Senator Raine said a few moments ago, they feel it in their heart and soul. To beaccepted as a Metis in this category requires that one have some Aboriginal ancestry, thatthey participate in the Metis community, they contribute to it, they are accepted by it andrecognized by it.I will give you an example of quite a famous Metis in Canada, David Bouchard, a wellrenowned Metis author, a member of the Order of Canada and Governor General awardwinner. He was President of the Victoria Métis Council. When he applied for membership inthe Métis Nation of British Columbia, he was rejected because he could not prove hisancestry in the Metis Nation homeland which is ill defined and we do not think extends toOntario 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 theexpression used by the Supreme Court of Canada in the
Sparrow 
case in interpreting theConstitution 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.''
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The Deputy Chair:
Thank you very much for your presentations. Before we begin, I waswondering if I could ask the Goulets to submit a short written summary of what you have saidtoday. You clearly have written materials, written books and so on, but if you couldencapsulate 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:
You were saying there were fur trading posts in B.C. I think there wereforts in the Interior, in the Okanagan Valley. Those people would have established acommunity around the fort and would never have participated in the scrip, as it were, sothose types of communities would not be eligible according to the definition of membershipby 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 anawareness 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 gaveone example. We have been able to identify a couple of handfuls that we have beenresearching as half-breed scrip, but there are still a lot more. I think Terry or George couldanswer 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-Europeancontrol. Now, prior to the
Powley 
case, all Aboriginal cases appearing in the courts had toprove pre-European contact. So what you have to look at is when did the people come intoBritish 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 thecontinuing name of the Hudson Bay Company there was something like 71 forts in thePacific Northwest, and those communities built up around them. They became the cities, thetowns and the communities that are part of British Columbia today.
The Deputy Chair:
Thank you for that clarification.….
Senator Patterson:
I thought Mr. Goulet had an interesting take that the
Powley 
caselooked like a great leap forward, which turned out to be a disappointment, if I am correctlysummarizing what he said.Mr. Henry, I noted in your presentation that essentially you are rejecting the Supreme Court'sview of the definition of a Metis as being narrow based on a colonial history and toorestrictive. I think that the Métis National Council and the Métis Nation of B.C. are taking adifferent approach that
Powley 
is the way to define Metis. I am not slavish to the SupremeCourt. They could well be wrong and probably have been, but how do you overcome that? Itis a respected body and, for better or worse, their ruling has shaped government policy. Howdo you justify or explain how this can be gotten around? I hope this is not a difficult question
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