This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Issue 23 - Evidence - October 1, 2012
We will have a brief presentation from George and Terry Goulet. Are you doing separate presentations? Terry Goulet, Metis Historian, as an individual: Yes, separate. Klahowya 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 to discuss the Metis of British Columbia and in doing so we have no alternative but to discuss also the Metis across Canada. I am going to try and be as brief as I can. To do this at the end of this session we will provide each of you with a copy of our book, The Metis in British Columbia: From Fur Trade Outposts to Colony, so as to provide you with a better picture of that historical Metis that is just as valid as the homeland of the Metis in the very confined definition that has been presented to you by the Métis National Council and the various Metis organizations across Canada. We also will be providing you with a portfolio and we have copies for the other members of your committee as well as your researcher. In that portfolio we have an article on the identity of the Metis versus the Powley case, which is extremely important because there have been a lot of misconceptions given to you concerning the Powley case. We also have an article on what is a nation, and I think that is something that needs to be addressed. Together with that we are giving you a folder showing various historic Metis sites and locations within British Columbia which will provide you with a very specific idea of that. George Goulet is Metis; his parents were Metis; his grandparents were Metis; his great grandparents were Metis. His great grandfather was Pierre Delorme. Pierre Delorme was a member of Louis Riel's provisional government. He was the first member of Parliament for the federal constituency of Provencher when Manitoba became a province. He also was the first member of the legislature of Manitoba from the constituency of St. Norbert. At that time you could be a member of both constituencies. That was on his mother's side. On his father's side, his great uncle was Elzéar Goulet, the Metis martyr who was stoned to death on the banks of the Red River for his involvement in the Red River resistance. Today he proudly wears the Elzéar Goulet sash at this meeting. What we want to do is express to you the importance of opening a dialogue on Metis identity in a much broader concept than is presently being offered to you.
I now defer to George. George Goulet, Metis Historian, as an individual: Good morning, senators. The matters I am presenting you today are my own opinions and not of anyone else or any other organization. The first opinion is when it comes to Metis identity there is no one-size-fits-all. I will give you examples. We have the Metis political organizations. The two national organizations as you know are the Métis National Council and Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. The Métis National Council adopted a national definition about ten years ago, and we find that very restrictive, flawed in many respects. For example, it refers to a Metis being a person of historic Metis Nation ancestry. That is like saying an Italian is of Italian ancestry or a horse is a horse. There are other examples but the point is it is restrictive. On the other hand, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is too loose, too broad. It essentially amounts to self-identity, so there has to be something in between. On the constitutional legal aspect, you are all aware of course of the Powley case decided in 2003. When this came out we thought it was a great win for the Metis people. In hindsight, it has proven very problematic. The way the Supreme Court defined a Metis community is far too restrictive. They defined it in terms of a geographic area. The Metis community is far more than that. It is a community of kinship, a community of shared relationships, a community of history, heritage and culture. That does not appear in the judgment. We have other problems with that judgment. If a Metis wants to establish his claim under section 35, the court said it would have to deal with matters on a case-by-case basis. If a Metis has to go through numerous courts to establish a constitutional right, and probably bankrupt himself in the process, that is not much of a right. The next aspect of Metis identity is self-identity. This is used by Statistics Canada, by many children and family service groups and by schools. It was even used by the Province of British Columbia in a press release last year when it referred to 60,000 Metis in the province. We are sure many of them simply self-identify. The approach we favour — at least I favour and I believe my wife Terry does — is a sociocultural approach to being Metis. Being Metis is far more socio-cultural than biological, political or constitutional. It means someone feels in the depths of their being that they are Metis. As Senator Raine said a few moments ago, they feel it in their heart and soul. To be accepted as a Metis in this category requires that one have some Aboriginal ancestry, that they participate in the Metis community, they contribute to it, they are accepted by it and recognized by it. I will give you an example of quite a famous Metis in Canada, David Bouchard, a well renowned Metis author, a member of the Order of Canada and Governor General award winner. He was President of the Victoria Métis Council. When he applied for membership in the Métis Nation of British Columbia, he was rejected because he could not prove his ancestry in the Metis Nation homeland which is ill defined and we do not think extends to Ontario or west of the Rocky Mountains, so we think there should be a more liberal, generous — pardon the word "liberal'' — liberal, generous interpretation. I am using the expression used by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sparrow case in interpreting the Constitution and we do not think they interpret it in that way in the Powley case. Thank you. Ms. Goulet: I think the word you might appreciate is "inclusive.''
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much for your presentations. Before we begin, I was wondering if I could ask the Goulets to submit a short written summary of what you have said today. You clearly have written materials, written books and so on, but if you could encapsulate what you gave to us this morning, we would be glad to receive it. Mr. Goulet: We would be happy to do that. Ms. Goulet: We are more than happy to do that.
The Deputy Chair: You were saying there were fur trading posts in B.C. I think there were forts in the Interior, in the Okanagan Valley. Those people would have established a community around the fort and would never have participated in the scrip, as it were, so those types of communities would not be eligible according to the definition of membership by MNBC. Is that what you are saying? Mr. Henry: Yes, that is what I am saying. It is important for this Senate committee to have an awareness that the scrip commissions stopped around 1899. They just did not bother coming to many of the communities. A couple pieces of land scrip were issued, and I gave one example. We have been able to identify a couple of handfuls that we have been researching as half-breed scrip, but there are still a lot more. I think Terry or George could answer better because they have done a lot of research around the fur trade posts. Ms. Goulet: What you have to go back to is the North West Company and their job. The Powley decision specifically states, and this is the pearl of the gem in the Powley decision, that the genesis of the Metis people occurred post-European contact and pre-European control. Now, prior to the Powley case, all Aboriginal cases appearing in the courts had to prove pre-European contact. So what you have to look at is when did the people come into British Columbia, the Europeans? As Bruce Dumont admitted, they came in the late 1700s. They came with the three great explorers and they all belonged to the North West Company. They all built forts. Prior to their merging with the Hudson Bay Company in 1821 under the continuing name of the Hudson Bay Company there was something like 71 forts in the Pacific Northwest, and those communities built up around them. They became the cities, the towns and the communities that are part of British Columbia today. The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that clarification. …. Senator Patterson: I thought Mr. Goulet had an interesting take that the Powley case looked like a great leap forward, which turned out to be a disappointment, if I am correctly summarizing what he said. Mr. Henry, I noted in your presentation that essentially you are rejecting the Supreme Court's view of the definition of a Metis as being narrow based on a colonial history and too restrictive. I think that the Métis National Council and the Métis Nation of B.C. are taking a different approach that Powley is the way to define Metis. I am not slavish to the Supreme Court. They could well be wrong and probably have been, but how do you overcome that? It is a respected body and, for better or worse, their ruling has shaped government policy. How do you justify or explain how this can be gotten around? I hope this is not a difficult question
because I am asking myself that same question, how do we get around that with all the weight of the Supreme Court? Mr. Henry: I will do my best to answer it. I can only share what my understanding is of that case. The Powley case did not define the Metis. It set the test for how Metis harvesting rights could be asserted. It did not define the Metis. It said if you want to exercise hunting, some sort of harvesting practice, here are 15 points critical to meet that test. So there is a difference between exercising your rights and identifying as a Metis person who lives outside of your area which is the issue a lot of Metis who have migrated to other parts of Canada face. I am not saying that the definition or the Supreme Court of Canada got it wrong. They did not define the Metis. In fact, in the court ruling they said it is not a definition. What they said is, "Here is the test.'' In B.C. itself because of the lack of research, I think there are historic areas of this province where Metis could exercise section 35 rights. I absolutely am convinced of that from the initial work we have been doing. You are going to hear from Kelly Lake right away. They have a long, well-known history in this province. They do not work with the Métis Nation in B.C.; they do not work with Métis National Council. Yet every season they go out and harvest, they hunt and fish and Wildlife does not bother them. They did not need a card for that. There are things happening irrespective of any political agendas or governance or anything else. I think the struggle that we all have in identifying Metis is how do we tackle those issues in a responsible way? A lot of people within the MNBC — because I used to be one of them — were also led to believe we were going to get rights because we got that card. That is not true. I could have an MNBC card and I can assure you if I go out fishing in B.C. in the summer, chances are the Fish and Wildlife or someone is going to charge me and it has happened many times over. In fact, I was at the MNBC when we lost the case called the Wilson case in 2004. That card does not necessarily mean you are going to get rights. I think a lot of Metis people across this country have been somewhat at times misinformed as to the extent what these cards can or cannot do. What I would say is we need a significant amount of public education, and there needs to be some more support for understanding Metis culture and how these communities are connected. I am not suffering as a Metis person because the government does not recognize section 35. I like the Sami example. I have access to services, but what I am striving for and I hear a lot of families striving for is they want to keep their kinship connection, social cultural connections and where communities are exercising their rights, great, let us identify those because there is not a whole lot left out there. If we do not do something to deal with this definition we are going to have flawed misconceptions, which is what I am trying to submit in my paper and that is what I am more concerned about than anything. Mr. Goulet: Both MNBC and Powley require an ancestral connection to historic community and recognition by a current community. Well, literally that would mean that for me to exercise my rights I would have to move back to Manitoba and sit on the corner of Portage and Main and shoot a moose if it happened to come by because my only ancestral connection is to Red River. I think the Supreme Court could broaden that in a forthcoming case by saying that the Metis community in Sault Ste Marie was a geographic area but a Metis community in a particular area of the West was a community of kinship, cultural heritage and that sort of thing.
As far as the Sami people go, I wanted to mention to Senator Raine that the mother of Renée Zellweger, the Academy award winning actress, was a Sami.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.