What Genealogical Documentation do I need for MNO Citizenship?
From a genealogical perspective, in order to become a MNO citizen you need to demonstrate an ancestral connection to the Métis Nation. This is based on the MNO’s definition of Métis that was unanimously adopted by the 2004 MNO Annual General Assembly in 2004 and is presently in the MNO’s bylaws. This definition reads:
Citizenship in the MNO shall be limited to individuals interested in furthering the objects of the MNO and who are Métis within the definition adopted by the MNO in accordance with the Métis National Council, which is as follows:
Métis means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry, and is accepted by the Métis Nation.
This definition is consistent with the Métis National Council’s National Definition for Citizenship within the Métis Nation that was adopted in 2002. The National Definition is also in place in all of the Métis Nation’s other governments across the Métis Nation Homeland, including, the Manitoba Métis Federation, Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, Métis Nation of Alberta and Métis Nation British Columbia.
The adoption of these definitions was an exercise of the Métis Nation’s inherent right to self-determination as a distinct Aboriginal people. The MNO definition provides for the following four conditions to be met for Métis citizenship:
- self-identification as Métis,
- proof of historic Métis Nation ancestry,
- is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, and
- is accepted by the Métis Nation.
Notably, in 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada in its judgment in R. v. Powley recognized that “[a] Métis community can be defined as a group of Métis with a distinctive collective identity, living together in the same geographic area and sharing a common way of life. The court also added that section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, “…represents Canada’s commitment to recognize and value the distinctive Métis cultures, which grew up in areas not yet open to colonization.” In both of these conclusions, the court emphasized the distinctiveness of Métis culture and collective identity
Thus to enjoy Métis citizenship it is not enough for an individual to point simply to an Aboriginal ancestor (i.e., a First Nation ancestor). Métis identity and rights stem from a distinctive Métis history, culture and way of life that emerged in the Métis Nation Homeland. As the MNO’s Interim Registry Policy notes, a successful applicant must have a documented genealogical connection to a “Métis ancestor, not an Indian or Aboriginal ancestor.”
“Métis ancestors” are identified in the historic record in various ways. For example, by and large in Ontario, the term “Métis” is not seen. For the most part, the term “Halfbreed” is used and may be modified in various ways (i.e. French Breed, Other Breed, English Breed, Breed, etc.). As well, other terms in the historic record can be proof of a historic Métis ancestor too (i.e., chicot, bois-brule, Canadien, northmen, etc.). As well, in some cases the context of the timeframe, kinship connections, and location of where the Métis ancestor was living may also need to be factored into a determination.
As mentioned in the guide’s introduction, many applicants may not know where to look to find documents that identify Metis ancestors in Ontario, since they are not as well-published or known. It is for these reasons that the MNO has decided to develop this guide. This guide will provide an applicant with some basic knowledge about how to conduct genealogical research. It also provides a catalogue of sources to assist your research. Put together, the set out methodology and the various sources identified in this guide can likely provide the information necessary for an applicant to be able to trace themselves – generation by generation – back to an historic Metis ancestor in Ontario or throughout the Métis Nation. By demonstrating an ancestral connection to a historic Métis ancestor through documented proof, an individual will meets the MNO’s requirements for citizenship.