`Insulting' BCIT email prompts an apology
But Métis Nation B.C. wants further action, including a full probe, awareness training
The CEO and Deputy Minister of the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) has called an email ostensibly sent by the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) head of Indigenous initiatives “insulting” and “disturbing.”
BCIT staff, in a joint statement they released alongside the MNBC Sunday, apologized for the content.
But Daniel Fontaine said the MNBC wants more to be done and said it has put under review an annual funding program that helps Métis students attend the school.
In their March 2021 email, the author opines that having an Indigenous ancestor or relative does not make one Indigenous and states that only First Nations have a right to self-government in B.C., among other things.
The email appears to have been written in reply to an earlier email regarding false claims of Indigenous heritage in the educational setting, and was sent “on behalf of Kory Wilson” with a signature block that matched that name.
Wilson, BCIT's executive director of Indigenous initiatives and partnerships, did not respond to requests by phone and email for comment Sunday.
BCIT did not state in its joint apology that it was Wilson who had sent the email, and it did not respond to a request for confirmation or comment.
“The statements caused deep hurt to Métis Nation and the 90,000 Métis people in B.C.,” read the joint statement by BCIT and MNBC.
“BCIT recognizes and unreservedly apologizes for the deep harm such words have on Métis staff, faculty, students and citizens across the province. BCIT takes this complaint very seriously and has investigated and addressed this issue internally, consistent with internal policies and legally mandated employee privacy and confidentiality considerations.”
Fontaine said MNBC and BCIT had agreed to the joint statement to get the basic facts of what happened out, but they did not reach agreement on next steps. Discussions will continue next week, he said.
BCIT issued a statement late Sunday afternoon expressing disappointment with the MNBC decision to press beyond their previously agreed joint statement and apology.
Fontaine found fault with several parts of the brief email, but one stuck out as particularly offensive.
“I can see jockeying for position, money and voice for Indigenous people in B.C. Of course many groups have moved to B.C. and currently live in B.C. but only First Nations have a right to self-government in B.C. if you exclude the Treaty 8 area,” the email stated.
The comment appeared to have been made in reference to an op-ed in The Vancouver Sun regarding a vote earlier this year by Métis people in B.C. to declare self-government.
It is challenging to be a government without a land base that is trying “to keep our culture and language and so many other components of who we are as a people,” Fontaine said.
“To be told by that individual that we don't have a right to self-government is very, very hurtful and very concerning, quite frankly.”
The MNBC received a hard copy of the email from an anonymous sender. It is unclear who had originally received it or whether any recipients expressed concern over its content.
The MNBC is now calling for an independent investigation into the matter, Fontaine said. It also wants to see BCIT staff receive Métis awareness training, among other things.