Ever since Europeans began settling on our Atlantic coast in the early 17th century there have been Métis people of mixed indigenous and European ancestry in Canada. With the advance of the fur trade and colonization, they came to live in every part of our country. The Métis peoples have always been counted among Canada’s aboriginal peoples – a historical fact that has now been upheld in law by the Supreme Court of Canada’s in Daniels v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development), on April 14, 2016.
Canada and its Parliament are on a path toward full reconciliation with aboriginal peoples. After a century and a half of wrongs and injustices under the residential school system; decades of inaction with regard to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women; repeated failures to recognize and respect the identity and role of all Canada’s indigenous peoples, it is now time to take a fully inclusive and proactive approach. The June 2016 Thomas Isaac report provides important recommendations in this regard.
Canada’s Métis people live in every part of Canada. They have a rich history on the Red River and elsewhere in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as deep roots on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in Ontario, British Columbia, the Yukon and Northwest Territories. They have a reputation for self-reliance – as “the people who own themselves”. Their ancestors built Canada, maintaining and expanding vast trading networks. With their aboriginal, French- and English-speaking heritage, Canada’s Métis have touched every aspect of our national life.
For too long the federal government has been in denial about the role of Métis as aboriginal Canadians. For too long the federal government has failed in its responsibility to negotiate with all Métis communities across Canada. For too long federal and provincial governments have been engaged in a “tug-of-war” – in the Court’s phrase – which ended with “passing the buck”. It’s time to engage with Métis peoples – on the basis of “rights, respect and partnership” but also in confidence that a better future is within reach, that old wrongs can be righted, and that all Métis have a central role to play in a New Canada.
Under my leadership a new Conservative government would:
(i) further to recent court decisions, introduce legislation to give shape and meaning to the Crown’s partnership with Métis under the federal government’s fiduciary responsibility, including by ensuring respect for historic community-held rights and resolving claims in good faith;
(ii) consult in full respect with all existing national, provincial and territorial Métis organizations, which already celebrate the cultural diversity of Métis across Canada;
(iii) further to the Daniels and Powley decisions (R v Powley, 2003) and the Isaac report (June 2016), work with all Métis groups to support the operation of Métis registries, continue historical data research collection relating to Métis history, define Métis aboriginal rights, strengthen social programs and unlock new economic opportunities;
(iv) formulate a policy to address Métis Section 35 claims and related issues founded on the legal principles of reconciliation and honour of the Crown, in partnership with the provinces and territories;
(v) enhance funding for Métis organizations; provide training on Métis history and Métis rights for all Government of Canada staff responsible for Métis affairs; and pursue and sign consultation agreements with all Métis organizations;
(vi) ensure reasonable, transparent and broad engagement with Métis on a Section 35 Métis rights policy framework, including negotiations to give effect to the Manitoba Métis Federation Declaration; and
(vii) work to support and promote Métis culture, in both French and English, from Acadian Métis in the Maritimes through Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the Métis of BC, all three territories and Newfoundland and Labrador, with the goal of ensuring Canada’s Métis communities and the larger story of all indigenous peoples are central to our shared Canadian citizenship.