The Métis can trace their origins back to Manitoba and the fur trade, when French and other European settlers met Cree and other Indigenous nations. But over the decades many Métis were displaced and resettled far from Manitoba, pushing west all the way to British Columbia. Métis have been documented in BC as early as 1793, when Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s expedition traversed the Rockies.
“We have over 22,000 Métis registered in British Columbia,” says Louis De Jaeger, Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) Acting Vice-President, Director for Region 2 (Lower Mainland) and the Minister of Economic Development and Natural Resources. “On the most recent census over 90,000 people in BC self-declared as Métis. So we’ve invested money and time to establish an accurate representation of our presence in BC.”
Funding for First Nations, Inuit and Metis in Canada typically comes from the Federal and Provincial Government. Right now, most of MNBC’s funding comes from the Federal Government, but with official registration numbers increasing in BC and a more co-operative relationship with the current NDP Government, they’re hoping to secure more support.
“We’re not looking to take a piece of the pie from First Nations’ funding, we want our own pie,” De Jaeger says. “We’re committed to working together with First Nations to ensure Indigenous people across the province are supported.”
BC marks Louis Riel Day Nov. 16
68 MLAs attended a ceremony on Nov. 16 to honour Louis Riel’s contributions to Métis rights and Canada’s confederation. Just a week prior on Nov. 4, the MNBC and the provincial government signed a new letter of intent, renewing their shared commitment to reconciliation.
“We recognize the importance of co-developing a strong relationship with Métis Nation British Columbia that respects the distinct culture, heritage and history of their over 20,000 registered citizens,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This new agreement envisages a more collaborative approach to initiatives and opportunities across government that we intend to set out in a new reconciliation agreement.”
“This letter of intent to pursue a new reconciliation agreement formalizes a shared commitment to embark on a new relationship,” said Lissa Dawn Smith, acting president, Métis Nation British Columbia.
De Jaeger acknowledges that relationships are foundational to all Indigenous communities.
“The Métis are a family, and like most families we have disagreements, but our hearts are in the right place and we all want betterment for all Indigenous people,” he says. “What’s most important is to tell our story and keep building relationships. It’s the unknown that creates unnecessary issues.”
To learn more about Métis history in BC or apply for citizenship, visit mnbc.ca.