Spike in Métis ancestry claims has leaders skeptical
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.
University of Winnipeg economics professor Philippe Cyrenne says trends revealed in the census data have been apparent for years.