What does reconciliation mean?
By Anne Jardine
A leadership team was on hand to meet local Metis people and have one-to-one and group conversations on a number of important themes. The team has been on tour in the Kootenays, and will be heading to Golden, and then after Thanksgiving, on to the Okanagan to listen to the concerns and issues that most affect the Metis population.
Local host, Columbia Valley Metis Association President Debra Fisher welcomed people at the door, offered coffee and snacks, and introduced the visitors to the engagement team members, setting a warm, friendly tone for the event. Hospitality is an important Metis tradition.
Dale Drown, BC Metis Nation Chief Executive Officer explained the project: “By the end of this tour, the team will have visited 38 communities across B.C. Currently there are 17,000 registered Metis citizens, and about 90,000 B.C. residents have identified as having Metis heritage. Mainly in this tour, the leadership team members have come to listen. We also bring information about the services and programs that are available to help people.
“In April of 2017, the Government of Canada met with us and signed a Nation-to-Nation Accord. This was a groundbreaking achievement. It has opened up a whole new relationship,” Drown continued. “In accordance with Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and three relatively recent Supreme Court of Canada rulings, it would seem that the Government of Canada is more serious than ever about its responsibility to begin a real process of reconciliation.
“As we launch into this, we view reconciliation as a way to address some of the wrongs of the past. In these past two years of negotiations with the government, we think we’ve turned a corner as the discussions are now backed up with a real financial commitment. The 2018 Federal Budget has delineated $500 million over the next ten years. Our share in B.C. for this year is $6 million. How will we use these funds? We decide.
“We want to know what reconciliation means to Metis people. What should it look like?” he asked. “We are seeking responses and opinions from the communities on: Section 35 rights, citizenship registry and community acceptance, housing, early learning, education, children and family services, health benefits, harvesting and resources, employment and training, veterans’ services, and any other areas people wish to bring into the discussions.
“We’re using a World Café format to hold small group and face-to-face conversations, as well as collect written statements,” Drown said. “All this will lead to a series of interim reports on what we have heard, and eventually it may lead to proposals for policy or legislation.”
Clara Morin Dal Col, president of the Metis Nation of BC added, “Some of this conversation is about the MNBC budget legislation. We need to use our resources wisely. How can we help the most people? Everything we do, we want to make a positive difference in the lives of the Metis People.”
Eldon Clairmont, a traditional cultural arts educator and Canadian Forces veteran from Salmon Arm, has come on this tour to help connect Metis veterans with the benefit programs and support services they may need. “It’s been a real pleasure meeting all the people. I’m here to listen to their stories and bring them information that may be helpful. In other words, I’m here to help.”
The event was well-attended, with a steady stream of traffic all day, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
“We’re pleased with how this has been going so far. It’s been a good day,” Fisher concluded.
Those who missed the consultation, or who are interested in the Metis Nation of BC can visit the Metis Nation BC website www.mnbc.ca.
If anyone in the valley is Metis and would like to get their membership, please contact or phone 250-688-5096.
Lead image: Columbia Valley Metis Association President Debra Fisher, right, with Travis Brown. Photos by Anne Jardine