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REACTION – First Nations Leadership Council Reject Metis BC Claim for Aboriginal Rights

Fraser Valley – The long standing debate between First Nations and Metis over equal aboriginal rights has always been testy.

On Wednesday, in a terse statement, The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) rejects the Métis Nation of British Columbia’s (MNBC) claim of Aboriginal Rights throughout BC, including harvesting rights, and the claim they are an Indigenous governing body in the province with equal access to resources. First Nations Chiefs rejected the Métis assertion of rights outlined in the Métis Nation British Columbia Report: A Tale of Two Nations: Highlighting the Inequities of the Treatment of the Métis in BC, through Chiefs’ resolutions at the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of BC Indian Chiefs assemblies.

It went on to say:

First Nations in BC have inherent rights, which we have exercised since long prior to settler contact and which continue to exist. First Nations throughout BC hold stories of origin, place names and laws of the land as proper title and rights holders throughout our respective territories. MNBC’s unfounded assertions and campaign to gain constitutionally protected Métis Aboriginal rights in BC disrespects traditional protocols of Indigenous governments and does not withstand legal scrutiny in Canadian law.

“MNBC’s aggressive claims and assertions on First Nations territories in BC are unfounded and are built on a foundation of the settler doctrines of terra nullius and Doctrine of Discovery, European concepts that have long been discredited,” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee. “We will vigorously work to block and disprove any further Aboriginal rights claims made by this organization.”

“Our leadership has fought tirelessly for decades in Canadian courts to protect and advance our inherent and constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights and title on behalf of our Nations,” points out Robert Phillips, Political Executive Member of the First Nations Summit. “It is alarming that MNBC believes it is owed a duty of consultation within BC in spite of not clearing this legal hurdle. Further, in our view, MNBC does not meet the definition of an Indigenous governing body under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, as it does not act on behalf of Indigenous peoples that hold recognized and affirmed section 35 rights that can be exercised in BC.”

“The Métis people have a distinct history in Western Canada, especially in Manitoba. We respect and support the Métis peoples’ claims in the Prairie region, where they were offered land scrip and other rights that may not have been honoured by the Crown. It is not correct to say in BC that the Métis were pre-existing Indigenous peoples living alongside First Nations peoples and present on First Nations territories at the time of contact or when colonial governments were established in BC,” stated Chief Don Tom, UBCIC Vice-President. “This is a political fiction and does not meet the legal or human rights test for Aboriginal rights, title and the existence of a Nation. It is important to stop perpetuating false information about this as it causes confusion, but it also disrespects First Nations peoples’ of this province, including our protocols for visitors on our territories.”

MNBC has repeatedly proclaimed itself as “largest individual Indigenous nation” in BC, which is factually inaccurate and an offensive claim to First Nations here since time immemorial. The exercise of self-determination and self-government on lands that are not their own, and are well outside of the Métis Homeland, cannot be substantiated and is an incursion that cannot be supported.

Louis De Jaeger, is a Chilliwack based businessman and last September, he was elected to Minister of Economic Development and Natural Resources for Metis Nation BC. He told FVN that he echos the MNBC call for co-operation. Their statement came on Thursday:

Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) recognizes the inherent rights of First Nations in British Columbia and does not seek to take territory or funding away from First Nations.

Under section 35 of Canada’s Constitution, there are three distinct Aboriginal peoples: First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. There is no hierarchy of rights under the constitution. Métis Nation rights are unique to First Nations rights and have unique timeframes and legal tests. The Supreme Court in Daniels confirmed that a duty to consult Métis was already settled law.

Under the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), “the Province of British Columbia recognizes that all relations with Indigenous peoples need to be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government.” Under DRIPA, “Indigenous peoples” has the same meaning as aboriginal peoples in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and “Indigenous governing body” means an entity that is authorized to act on behalf of Indigenous peoples that hold rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.  Métis have the inherent right to self-government in BC. At MNBC’s 2020 Annual General Meeting, our citizens voted for self-government, with the ultimate goal to raise the education, health and economic outcomes for our Métis people while supporting our Chartered Communities as they work to preserve and perpetuate Métis culture, language, and heritage for future generations. 

MNBC agrees and welcomes the commitment from First Nations to work, “alongside Métis people on issues of shared concern, such as improvement of social, health, and economic outcomes, and elimination of racism and discrimination. These collaborations must be founded on the recognition of the different histories of First Nations and Métis people in what is now British Columbia and be grounded in appropriate data and evidence.” 

MNBC welcomes the opportunity to work with First Nations to better advance the cause of all Indigenous people in BC and is open to meet with First Nations leadership. In that regard, we have extended an invitation to meet with First Nations leadership. Indigenous peoples are stronger when we work together to address the common issues and challenges we face. 

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