Spike in Métis an­ces­try claims has lead­ers skep­ti­cal

Winnipeg Free Press - - TOP NEWS -

BE­YOND news about ris­ing young pop­u­la­tions, last week’s Cana­dian cen­sus data caused con­ster­na­tion for two of Man­i­toba’s ma­jor In­dige­nous lead­ers over a sus­pi­cious spike in peo­ple claim­ing Métis an­ces­try and a largely ig­nored rise in In­dige­nous se­niors.

The data show Métis peo­ple com­pris­ing more than 51 per cent of In­dige­nous peo­ple across Canada, a jump to 1,673,785 in 2016 from 1,172,790 in 2006.

The cen­sus sug­gests one-fifth of Métis now live in On­tario.

But David Char­trand, pres­i­dent of the Man­i­toba Metis Fed­er­a­tion, said “there’s no way” there are 120,585 On­tar­i­ans who are de­scen­dants of the Métis Na­tion.

“The cen­sus just doesn’t have an open right to ask a ques­tion without clar­ity,” said Char­trand, who es­ti­mates mil­lions of Cana­di­ans will soon claim to be Métis be­cause they have mixed blood. “I think Canada needs to put the brakes on.”

In 2011, the MMF and its af­fil­i­ates in four other prov­inces started a fresh count of Métis mem­bers who can tie their ge­neal­ogy to the Red River Colony and the 1870 cen­sus.

That ini­tia­tive is to re­vise a count of 55,000 taken more than a decade ago. About 25,000 peo­ple are cap­tured in the new tally so far, in­clud­ing peo­ple counted in the pre­vi­ous one. They ex­pect al­most all to come from the Prairies and small parts of On­tario, the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, Bri­tish Columbia and the United States.

Char­trand notes the 2016 cen­sus was col­lected a month be­fore the Supreme Court ruled Métis peo­ple fell un­der the same fed­eral ju­ris­dic­tion as Inuit and sta­tus In­di­ans.

He feels that rul­ing, as well as Ottawa’s com­mit­ment to “na­tion-to-na­tion” re­la­tion­ships, means non-Métis peo­ple are jump­ing on the band­wagon, de­spite not be­ing af­fected by forced dis­lo­ca­tion or ques­tion­able child-wel­fare in­ter­cep­tions. He wor­ries oth­ers will try get­ting com­pen­sa­tion as­so­ci­ated with those events.

“It can cost this coun­try a hell of a lot of money,” he said.

Char­trand says it hurts to hear of groups as far as the At­lantic prov­inces claim­ing to be Métis, de­spite no links to the Métis Na­tion. “There are so many dif­fer­ent groups that are com­ing out of the wood­work now,” he said. “It’s not a club of some sort.”

Mean­while, Grand Chief Arlen Du­mas, head of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­i­toba Chiefs, said he’s con­cerned that the high First Na­tions birth rate ig­nores the ris­ing pro­por­tion of In­dige­nous se­niors.

While the prov­ince ex­pe­ri­enced a rise of 14.8 per cent more se­niors from 2006 to 2016, the rate is 29 per cent for In­dige­nous Man­i­to­bans. De­spite their im­prov­ing life ex­pectan­cies, In­dige­nous peo­ple are over­rep­re­sented in sta­tis­tics for ill­nesses such as di­a­betes, and re­searchers say they need spe­cial care.

“That’s a very im­por­tant is­sue,” Du­mas said. He said many reach 65 years of age and find Old Age Se­cu­rity pay­ments in­suf­fi­cient for the cost of liv­ing in Win­nipeg or on-re­serve. Some aren’t el­i­gi­ble for pro­vin­cial pro­grams, and may fall back on rel­a­tives — which could hin­der those rel­a­tives from job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“We all need to start hav­ing more con­ver­sa­tions as to how we ad­just, to bet­ter serve ev­ery­body,” Du­mas said.

JOHN WOODS / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor Philippe Cyrenne says trends re­vealed in the cen­sus data have been ap­par­ent for years.

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