Tuesday, February 8, 2011

CSA to define Metis status?

The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is apparently confused about who is/isn’t/should be/shouldn’t be Métis. It seems that the determination of Métis status has been somewhat haphazard, with various provinces having different processes and systems ranging from simple self-identification to the provision of rigorous genealogical proofs.

This drove the minister and his minions a little bit crazy. So like the good bureaucrats they are, they decided a standardized system was required and initiated a competition through MERX to “identify a set of conditions, standards and means of verifying those standards to a level that provides the government with confidence as to what constitutes a satisfactory membership system”. In other words, design a protocol that will assure the government that anyone identified by any Métis association as Métis really is Métis and is not just a poseur, perhaps a refugee from Ford’s Toronto, who thought it would be cool, or some such thing.

So far so good. While the benefits of being designated Métis are, at present, pretty much limited to having pride in your heritage, there’s certainly value in having a consistent model across the board – a point not lost on the Métis leadership who have been working to define just such a set of standards for some time now.

But what has got the Métis people (or Métis Nation, if you prefer) just a bit riled is that this all happened without any consultation with them. In fact they only found out by accident.  And then to put the icing on the cake, the contract was awarded to the Canadian Standards Association. Yup, the same folks who approve your toaster for sale in Canada are now in the business of deciding how the Métis get to prove they are, or aren’t who they claim to be. Riel CSA(Rumour has it if they do a good job on this, Jason Kenney will use them to help decide whether Iggy is a real Canadian… or not.)

But silliness over having CSA-approved Métis notwithstanding, one has to wonder at the motivation of this government in taking this step. The Métis are starting to flex their muscles in terms of land claims, hunting and fishing rights, resource rights, and so on. And so it’s clearly in the best interests of the federal government to limit their exposure by limiting the numbers of potential recipients of any negotiated deals. But imposing a national protocol will be no easy task, especially since the Supreme Court has already ruled that in order to qualify as Métis an individual must meet these three broad criteria (source: Wikipedia):

  • self-identification as a Métis individual;
  • ancestral connection to an historic Métis community; and
  • acceptance by a Métis community.

Speak No EvilAnd so is the new protocol intended to simply refine these criteria? Or is it to replace them and set up a challenge to the Supreme Court? Only Stephen Harper knows for sure, and he’s not talking. But whatever the motivation, it’s just more of the same with the Harpercons taking unilateral decisions, sowing division across the land as only they can. The mess the next government will have to clean up just keeps getting deeper and deeper.

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