Recent court victories around Métis rights are believed to have influenced a rise in self-identifying Indigenous peoples. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs and the Métis National Council say they are concerned by the growing number of people "misrepresenting" themselves as Métis.
In a new memorandum of understanding, the groups have agreed to work together on the issue and educate the public about what they call "legitimate Métis Nation and Mi’kmaq issues."
Census data shows the number of people who call themselves Métis soared nearly 125 per cent in Nova Scotia from 2006 to 2016, with dozens of new Métis groups cropping up over the same period.
Chief Terrance Paul, assembly co-chair, said the only Aboriginal rights holders in Nova Scotia are the Mi’kmaq.
"We are the original peoples of these lands, and we have spent decades establishing our treaty and Aboriginal rights and then working on the implementation of these rights," he said in a statement Wednesday.
"While the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia continue to share our lands with others, both the Mi’kmaq and the Métis Nation have territorial homelands and their rights are recognized within the confines of their respective territories."
The proliferation of self-reported Métis has emerged as a divisive debate. Chief Terrance Paul, co-chairman of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, say the Mi’kmaq are the only Indigenous rights holders in Nova Scotia . (CBC) Efforts by the new Métis to claim Indigenous rights and use identity cards that appear similar to Indian status cards have fuelled a perception that the Aboriginal newcomers are so-called rights grabbers.
Yet people who call themselves eastern Métis argue that a distinct mixed-heritage people existed in the region with a shared history and culture. They say these mixed-race people were compelled to identify as white for fear of discrimination.
Karole Dumont, chief of the Council of the First Métis People of Canada, has previously said that hiding one’s Indigenous heritage was a matter of survival.
Still, the Mi’kmaq assembly and the Métis National Council say they are "concerned about individuals claiming Métis identity and declaring the presence of Métis Nations in the province of Nova Scotia," according to the memorandum of understanding.
They say they plan to create a working group to collaboratively address the issue of individuals claiming Métis ancestry in Nova Scotia. Clement Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, says his people have a right to "self-determination and self-government in our historical homeland." (David Vincent/The Associated Press) "The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia will define for themselves who is Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia," the agreement signed on Sept. 27 says.
"The [Métis National Council] and its governing members have defined for themselves who is Métis and the process of citizenship."
The memorandum of understanding says only these two groups have the right to recognize and define citizenship within their respective nations.
The groups also aim to establish cultural awareness initiatives to educate the public.
"The right to determine our own identity and citizenship is at the heart of our self-determination and self-government in our historical homeland," Métis National Council president Clement Chartier said in a statement.
"It took decades of struggle for this right to be recognized by the federal government and Supreme Court of Canada and we defend it vigilantly."
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