Aboriginal Self-Government from the Metis Perspective

Gabriel Dumont

I recently attended a presentation by representatives of the Gabriel Dumont Institute and was reminded of the rich resources that this organization has made available with regards to Metis history, knowledge and culture. In this instance, presenters focused on the educational initiatives undertaken by the Institute. As I explored educational policy and Aboriginal self-government in Canada for a current project, it occurred to me that there had not been much discussion about the perspective of the Metis.

While many First Nations people in Canada have lived for at least part of their lives on reserves set aside by the treaty process, that has not been the case for many of the Metis. In the earlier part of the twentieth century, the Alberta government set aside land for Metis settlement communities, but they were the only province in Canada to do so. The result is that, with the coming of new settlers, many Metis across Canada have not lived in traditional Metis communities. While many Metis people have lived in First Nation communities, it remains that in many ways the Metis history, knowledge and culture is quite distinct from that of First Nation people.

As First Nations communities assume control of education, the question arises about Metis people. How are they to assume control of their education? The policy statements of the National Indian Brotherhood in 1972 and of the Assembly of First Nations in 2010 addressed issues of Aboriginal control of education for First Nations people. However, the Constitution Act of 1982 (Section 35) explicitly included Metis in the category of Aboriginal people.

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada decreed that Canada's 600,000 non-status Indians and Metis were "Indian" under the Constitution. Therefore, the courts have decided that Metis people are entitled to the same educational rights as First Nations people. I do not have the answer as to how this will affect education policies across the country, but it certainly suggests that the question of Metis control of education has to assume the same priority as that of First Nation control of education.

Read about the recent Supreme Court ruling here: http://www.metisnation.ca/index.php/news