Métis National Council rejects idea of new Ontario Métis communities after 2nd identity forum

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David Chartrand, vice-president of the Métis National Council, says communities outside northwestern Ontario saying are not connected to the Métis homeland or to the culture of the nation. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
David Chartrand, vice-president of the Métis National Council, says communities outside northwestern Ontario saying are not connected to the Métis homeland or to the culture of the nation. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Métis National Council (MNC) has released a statement flat out rejecting "new Métis" communities, particularly in Ontario.

Debate about membership and who is and who isn't Métis has caused divisions among the various provincial Métis organizations.

"You start looking at the Métis Nation, and everybody's saying 'Wait a second, I'm mixed blood, and I want a piece of that.' So you're now finding people that are coming and trying to take a shortcut, through the back door of different organizations like the [Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO)]," said Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand.

Chartrand, who is also the vice-president of the MNC, attended a virtual forum hosted by the organization this past weekend to discuss Métis identity and those outside of the Métis homeland who have mixed heritage.

According to the 2016 census, there are 120,585 self-identifying Métis people in Ontario, a 40 per cent increase from 2011 and an increase of 64 per cent since 2006.

Chartrand is worried that many of the new people who claim to be Métis in Ontario might have mixed First Nations and European ancestry, but don't necessarily have a connection to Métis culture, history or the Métis homeland.

He said the homeland of the Métis extends to parts of northwestern Ontario, including the regions around Kenora and Fort Frances, but questioned the validity of communities in other parts of Ontario.

The map of the Métis homeland released in 2018 with controversy, encompasses all of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, extending into parts of northwestern Ontario, northeastern B.C. and southern N.W.T.
The map of the Métis homeland released in 2018 with controversy, encompasses all of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, extending into parts of northwestern Ontario, northeastern B.C. and southern N.W.T.(Manitoba Métis Federation)

Chartrand said some communities recognized by the MNO like the Mattawa Métis Council and the Barrie South-Simcoe Métis Council have no connection to the Métis Nation and don't have any Aboriginal rights under Section 35 of the Constitution granted to them through the courts.

He said many of these communities have no ancestral or cultural connection to families from the Red River area and that they wouldn't pass the Powley test.

The Powley test, which stems from a 2003 Supreme Court of Canada decision, considers 10 criteria, including self-identification, ancestral connection and community acceptance, to determine whether someone is entitled to exercise Métis rights.

"We cannot allow somebody that's part of our nation by name brand, to start opening the floodgates and bring the new Métis people in," said Chartrand, who referred to the new communities as an "invasion."

According to Chartrand, the decision by the MNO to recognize such communities could have long-term negative effects for Métis people as a whole.

"They're going to start bringing people in because they'll say, 'It's my province,'" said Chartrand.

"So then what's going to happen to our nation? There's going to be a court case, whether it's hunting or something . . . and they're going to lose . . . because they don't have no connection to us."

MNO should have opportunity to take part, says president

The Métis Nation of Ontario was put on a one-year probation by the national council in 2018, and was suspended in January 2020 over a perceived lack of adherence to the national council's definition of citizenship, adopted in 2002.

According to the national council, "Métis" means someone who has ancestors connected to the historic Métis Nation who lived in the historic Métis Nation homeland.

Métis Nation of Ontario president Margaret Froh says the communities in question have been identifying as Métis for generations.
Métis Nation of Ontario president Margaret Froh says the communities in question have been identifying as Métis for generations.(Métis Nation of Ontario)

MNO President Margaret Froh said this past weekend's forum on identity is the second forum held by the national council meant to undermine her organization, and the MNO hasn't been able to address its point of view.

"The MNO should have had the opportunity to take part in any discussions or presentations about issues that directly spoke to the MNO and our recognized historic communities in Ontario," said Froh, who is originally from the Qu'Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan.

"One of the things that has been flagged and it's been thrown out there is this concern about floodgates and Métis Nation of Ontario letting in hundreds of thousands, if not millions," said Fohr.

"We have a current citizenship of just over 23,000 people. We have rigorous citizenship criteria. We actually do apply the national definition as adopted by the Métis National Council."

While Chartrand worries that the number of people illegitimately self-identifying as Métis will continue to increase, Froh has said she shares the same concerns and would like to address them with the national council directly.