Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 148, Issue 172
  Tuesday, June 11, 2013
"The People Who Own Themselves": Recognition of Métis Identity in Canada Report
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words before we move to adopt the report.

This is the first parliamentary report on the Metis and I would like to thank all senators on the committee who participated in the study and all the staff. We have access to some brilliant researchers and analysts. We have support of translators, and so on, who helped us to do the committee work when we travelled.

I would also like to thank the various Metis people who welcomed us into their communities. Everywhere we went on our study, they welcomed us with open arms and shared passionately their ideas about who they were, what they wanted and what they thought our recommendations should be. I wanted to mention those people specifically.

I would also like to give my special thanks to the former chair of the committee, the Honourable Gerry St. Germain. He led us on this committee. He was somewhat reluctant to undertake this study, perhaps because he saw it as being a conflict of interest since he is a Metis person and was the first Metis to self-identity when he was in the House of Commons as an elected member of Parliament.

As honourable senators know, the report was tabled last week. This week we tried to bring attention to it with the media. Senator White and I, at the suggestion of our Communications Officer Ceri Au, tried to get the media outside the chamber to see the work we had done. Unfortunately, they said it was not of interest at this time. That is too bad, because it is one those reports that shows the important work that we, as senators, do. As I said previously, it is the very first parliamentary report on the Metis people of Canada. They have been long ignored and now they are recognized.

There are two legal cases with respect to the Metis people that will bring it to the forefront of Canadian attention: The Manitoba Metis Federation won a legal battle in Manitoba with respect to land; and there is also the Daniels case, which is now being appealed by the federal government. The Daniels case essentially said the Metis people should be considered as Indians under the Indian Act. Prior to that, they had been excluded. That will bring more and more attention to the issue of Metis identity as we continue and as these challenges and court cases begin to show some practical effects within the communities.

Our report had three major recommendations. The first one was that the department should go out and continue to collect demographic and statistical information on the Metis people so we know how many Metis people there are and where they live. The second recommendation focused on historical documentation and encourages the government to continue to support academic researchers in their endeavours to look into the history of the Metis in Canada and also to develop programs so that the Metis communities, the Metis people themselves, can also develop their own histories.

On the committee's trip, we heard from many communities where families are documenting their history. They are going right back, for instance, to the Red River Metis settlements to prove they are Metis according to at least one set of criteria.

The third recommendation was that the federal government should continue to enter into bipartite and tripartite agreements with organizations and that they should develop an action plan to move forward with Metis organizations. As Senator White stated, we expect to get a progress report from the government within a year's time.

One interesting feature to this report is the lovely way that our communications people and our staff have put it on the Senate website. One can go to the Committee on Aboriginal Peoples website and see the whole report. It lays out the news release, the order of reference, the recommendations, the senators who took part in it, the full text of the report and the community profiles.

What is really neat about the community profiles is that if one clicks on it, it actually takes you to a map of Canada and shows the places we visited during our study. If you click on, for example, Northwest Territories, it will take you to the information that we received from the Northwest Territories. That makes it really user-friendly.

I am not sure, but I do not think any other committee has adopted that approach. I think it will make it very useful to the people out in the community, and I think that the communities we visited will be very happy to see this. People from Duck Lake and Batoche, Saskatchewan, will be able to click and see what we heard and what we have said about them. That is a great addition, and I hope it is appreciated by the Canadian public. I think it is a good report, and I hope it is well received and I hope we move forward.