Metis Nation looks to join forces with other minorities on human rights issues

Metis Nation looks to join forces with other minorities on human rights issues

OTTAWA — As the temperature rises in debates about separatist sentiment in the West and legally enforced secularism in Quebec, minorities and Indigenous communities alike in Canada could be left more vulnerable, says the vice-president of the Metis National Council.

Speaking at a national conference this week in Ottawa, David Chartrand said Metis communities are looking to find opportunities for growth and prosperity, but the gathering stormclouds give him concern for his own people and for minorities and refugees.

“The country of Canada is changing and it’s getting scary, a little bit. What is going to happen to all of us as this country changes?” he asked, pointing to Quebec’s law banning some civil servants from wearing religious symbols and the ”Wexit” movement in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

That’s why the Metis National Council wants to spark a new conversation — one that encourages Metis communities and visible-minority groups and individuals from across Canada to join forces to champion human rights and push for greater educational and economic opportunities.

Chartrand kicked off the two-day conference saying Canada needs immigrants more than ever to support economic development. But a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States has him concerned about how this could seep into the Canadian discourse and what it could mean for minorities and racialized communities in Canada.

“You’re going to say to yourself, what do I do for the black community, or the Indo-Canadians or the Chinese? What do you do for the Metis, the First Nations? These are all minorities, what do you do for them in this country of Canada? Do you stand alone and fight alone?” he said.

“We need to figure out how do we collaborate, ourselves as minorities,” Chartrand said.

Barriers that continue to exist for Indigenous people and racialized groups is one area in dire need of redress, notably in the way laws are made and enforced in Canada, said Jean Teillet, a Metis Indigenous-rights lawyer who is also a great-grandniece of Louis Riel.

Indigenous nations are “sometimes” consulted when laws are created in Ottawa, she said, but she believes First Nations should have more authority over laws that govern themselves, their lands and their resources.

She pointed to the case in which farmer Gerald Stanley was acquitted by an all-white jury in Saskatchewan of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man.

She also highlighted the Cindy Gladue trial, where the Cree woman’s preserved pelvic tissue was presented as evidence in court in the case against Ontario truck driver Bradley Barton. Barton was acquitted in her death, which followed a severe injury during sexual activity, but the Supreme Court ordered last spring that he be retried for manslaughter. The case also raised questions about how the courts talk about Indigenous women, especially sex workers.

“There are some horrific, horrific stories going in this country about injustice to Indigenous peoples right now,” Teillet said.

“Justice is not working for us … Justice needs significant work in this country.”

That’s why Teillet is calling for the Law Reform Commission of Canada to be restored. This independent federal agency, whose mandate was to advise Parliament regularly on how to modernize and improve Canada’s laws, was de-funded by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2006. But legislation remains in place for it to be revived.

“It just needs to be funded and set back up again, and we need to do that,” Teillet said. ”We are in desperate need of law reform in this country.”

Anthony Morgan, a Toronto-based human rights lawyer and racial-justice advocate, said important discussions are also needed in bridging the gap between black communities and people of African descent and the wider Canadian population.

He noted the often shared experiences of black and Indigenous people — both are over-represented in prisons, in the justice system and in the child-welfare system.

One way to address these imbalances could be to create a federal ministry for people of African descent, Morgan suggested.

“There is this two-century-long history that black communities have suffered and continue to suffer and experiencing the legacies of that has not been properly accounted for,” he said.

“The only way for us to really come to terms with it, for us to really think about how we fix it across this country, one of the many ways, is through having this ministry.”

But a move like this will never happen without the support of other minority communities, including First Nations, Morgan said.

These kinds of innovative ideas are a good first step, Chartrand said, but the Metis National Council hopes more can be explored and debated.

“If we get anything from this, it’s the development of bringing relations together, opening the ability for us to start to talk … minority to minority, culture to culture. If we can get that happening amongst ourselves (we can) start the trend towards a second conference and embrace more people to us and say to them we want to work with everyone in this country.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer
Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past banners for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the Summer Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

Most Read