Métis Rights Highlighted at Research Rendezvous at Lakehead University

Includes information featured in The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal
Click here to view the original article: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/content/news/local/2012/04/18/forgotten-people

Métis Rights Highlighted at Research Rendezvous at Lakehead UniversityMNO President Gary Lipinski with Dr. Rui Wang, Vice-President of Research,
Economic Development and Innovation with Lakehead University

Métis Rights at Lakehead Video | Part 1

Métis Rights at Lakehead Video | Part 2

As part of its ongoing efforts to build partnerships with postsecondary institutions, on April 17, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) partnered with Lakehead University’s Office of Aboriginal Initiatives to hold a Research Rendezvous at Lakehead’s Thunder Bay Campus. The Research Rendezvous featured presentations from three MNO staff heavily involved in research in key areas of Education, Healing and Wellness and Métis Way of Life as well as a Métis Rights panel that included leading Métis lawyers and academics. "The relationship started in September between Lakehead University and the MNO with signing the Memorandum of Understanding,” stated MNO President Gary Lipinski,  “Today's  research rendezvous and the panel on Métis rights are a step forward. Métis are beginning to take our rightful place in Canada."

The Métis Rights panel provided an overview of the current state of Métis law in Canada. On April 17, 1982 the Métis of Canada were officially recognized as a distinct group of Aboriginal peoples with the inclusion of Section 35 in the Constitution of Canada. Thirty years later, the Métis remain “forgotten people,’’ says President Lipinski.

“One of the challenges Métis people have always had, going back to the days of Riel before Canada was Canada, is to have our rightful and proper place within Canada,” President Lipinski said Tuesday during an interview with The Chronicle-Journal. “It’s been a struggle for more than a century,” he said.

The Métis Rights panel included legal experts Jean Teillet and Jason Madden, as well as chair of Métis research at the University of Ottawa, Brenda Macdougall.

“The reason we wanted to get this out into the public and university community is to educate and have people more aware of our relationship with the Métis community,” said Beverly Sabourin, vice-provost with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives. “They are a distinct group and culture recognized in the Constitution and it is important to understand that,” said Sabourin.

President Lipinski said Métis people make up one-third of the Aboriginal population in Ontario. In recent Canadian history, there have been a couple of key moments for the Métis people, including repatriation of the Constitution of Canada in 1982 and the addition of Section 35 to identify the distinct groups of Aboriginal people in Canada as being Indian, Métis and Inuit.

“Our thoughts at the time were we would get on with the province and the country, and negotiate proper recognition of Métis rights,” Lipinski said. “That wasn’t the case and we were forced to go to court to have our rights properly recognized and we are still being forced there in some jurisdictions.”

One court case was the groundbreaking Powley case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The case set the groundwork for other cases that followed dealing with the rights of Métis people, which are still being argued in Canadian courts today

“It confirmed what the Métis people have always said, that we are a distinct people,” President Lipinski said.

During the panel presentations, Madden provided a brief history of the Métis people in Canada. Madden said it can be difficult identifying Métis genealogy because historical records were often incomplete.

Macdougall spoke on methodologies being developed to reconstruct genealogies of Métis communities in Canada. “There are a lot of misconceptions that the Métis are simply a mixed-raced people, but really what we are looking at is definable communities of people,” she explained.

“We are not just looking at contemporary communities, but ones that have long histories that stretch back in this province, as well as Manitoba, Alberta and parts of the United States,” said Macdougall.

While the Métis people of Canada may still be misunderstood or even forgotten, President Lipinski said presentations like the one held Tuesday can help spark interest among the academic community and general public about past and current issues facing Métis people.

“Much of the Métis story remains untold,” he said. “That is the challenge we are putting out there, the work we are trying to undertake, to begin to tell our story both historically and contemporarily.”

Macdougall said the addition of Section 35 to the Constitution of Canada was a significant moment for the Métis people, and she said things are continuing to change and the forgotten people are being recognized more often.

“It behooves us as Métis people to put our story out there and not simply be allowed to be forgotten,” she said. “We have voices and we are standing up and talking.”

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