Métis Nation Receives Special Recognition in BC Legislature

In a letter sent to Premier John Horgan and all BC MLAs last week, President Clara Morin Dal Col has requested the Métis Nation be formally recognized when elected officials make public statements inside and outside the Legislature. It has been a long-standing practice for BC politicians to make public greetings and acknowledge First Nation traditional territories.

On Monday, July 13, 2020, BC Liberal MLA Sam Sullivan used – for the first time – the revised suggested greeting language as part of his Member Statement. He opened up his comments on the floor of the Legislature by stating “I honour the traditional territory of the First Nations people and acknowledge the ancestral and continuing connection to this land of the Métis Nation.” A video recording of this greeting is provided below.

MLA Sam Sullivan recognizes Métis Nation prior to his Member Statement in the BC Legislature

“I’m very pleased to see MLA Sullivan has already responded to MNBC’s request to ensure the Métis Nation is provided with equal recognition in British Columbia,” says President Dal Col. “This is a great first step but it’s vitally important that other MLAs also recognize the ancestral connection our people have to British Columbia.”

The following is an excerpt from MNBC’s letter to Premier Horgan:

Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) is formally requesting all members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia recognize the Métis Nation when acknowledging the traditional territories of the B.C. First Nations. MNBC is rarely, if ever, mentioned during traditional territory affirmations, despite holding equal status to the B.C. First Nations as Section 35 rights holders.

The Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, states in Section 35(2): “ʻAboriginal peoples of Canadaʼ includes the Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada,” affirming the Métis as a distinct Aboriginal people of Canada. Thomas Isaac, a nationally recognized authority on Aboriginal law, stated in his 2016 report to the Government of Canada, A Matter of National and Constitutional Import: Report of the Minister’s Special Representative on Reconciliation with Métis, “There is no hierarchy of Aboriginal rights within Section 35. Métis are a distinct aboriginal peoples with equal but unique Aboriginal Rights as other Section 35 Aboriginal Peoples.”

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, (DRIPA) passed by the B.C. Legislature in 2019, states: “ʻIndigenous peoplesʼ has the same meaning as Aboriginal peoples in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982,” and also “the government must consider the diversity of the Indigenous peoples in British Columbia.” This is reinforced in the Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, which states: “The Province recognizes First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit as the Indigenous peoples of Canada.”

Solely focusing on the First Nations of B.C. in traditional territorial affirmations and ignoring the presence of the Métis in B.C. is contrary to the DRIPA legislation of B.C., and fails to respect the Métis as equal Section 35 rights holders to First Nations. Mr. Isaac notes “Reconciliation is more than platitudes and recognition. Reconciliation flows from the constitutionally protected rights of Métis protected by Section 35 and it inextricably tied to the honor of the Crown, and must be grounded in practical actions.” It is time for the members of the Legislative Assembly to begin recognizing the Métis Nation and nearly 90,000 self identified Métis people that reside in B.C. Therefore, I respectfully suggest that MLAs state the following: “[local First Nation acknowledgement] and acknowledge the ancestral and continued connection to this land of the Métis Nation.”

MNBC will report out in the coming weeks regarding any formal response we receive from the Premier and whether other MLAs also publicly recognize the Métis Nation.