I read with interest, and some amusement, the comments of Greg Burke in your September 7 edition in which he is quoted as saying that “…the Supreme Court justice clearly stated that the Acadian Métis do exist here in Nova Scotia.”
Actually, the Supreme Court made no such recognition. In demonstrating the lack of consensus as to where and when the Métis indigenous people originated, the court quoted from a book published (conveniently) by the New Brunswick Association of Métis and non-status Indians in 1984 wherein it was stated that “… as early as 1650 a distinct Métis community developed in LeHave (LaHave) Nova Scotia, separate from Acadians and Micmac Indians.”
The authors of this book did not offer any concrete evidence to support this claim. LaHave was an original settlement of the French in the new world and included some of the settlers who married Native women. After the year 1632, when the French repossessed Port Royal from the British, most of the settlers left LaHave to live there. Most of the ones who remained were Mi’kmaw or people with a significant amount of aboriginal lineage. Many historical texts and government documents refer to LaHave during this period of time as an “Indian” settlement.
By around the year 1749, when Governor Cornwallis founded Halifax, most of the LaHave residents left and settled in the Little Bras d’Or area of Cape Breton. Their descendants remain there to this day and actually are petitioning the Federal Government for aboriginal recognition, but as First Nations and not Métis. I have spoken to some of these descendants and they indicated they are aware of these Nova Scotia “Métis” claimants but they want no association with them.
If Mr. Burke and the members of his group are descendants of those LaHave aboriginals then maybe he should seek to join in with the people of Little Bras d’Or. LaHave is certainly not what would be defined as a continuous “Métis” community as there does not appear to be any indication of any significant aboriginal presence there in the past two-and-a-half centuries.
If Mr. Burke believes that this quote used in the Supreme Court’s Daniels decision grants his group some legally valid recognition, then how does he explain that five paragraphs later the court showed a different viewpoint when it quoted from another book saying that “…the Métis people, who originated in the west from intermarriage between French Canadian men and Indian women during the fur trade period…” The Court was not recognizing any particular group as being Métis and stated that “…determining whether particular individuals or communities… are Métis is a fact-driven question to be decided on a case-by-case basis in the future…”
The amusing part of the article is when Mr. Burke threatens to take the provincial government to court for refusing to recognize their human rights. In the Maritime provinces in the past dozen years, there have been nine provincial court cases and three Supreme Court decisions in which people were claiming Métis hunting or fishing rights, and on all 12 occasions, the courts ruled that there were no historic or contemporary Métis communities established.
In order to acquire a valid claim to such rights, these groups should go to court and get a decision acknowledging they meet the criteria as set out in the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Powley case and I am sure Michel Samson and the provincial government would then negotiate with them on this issue. Failing such a court decision, our provincial government would be doing a disservice to the citizens – especially First Nations – of Nova Scotia in even discussing granting special rights and privileges to these claimants. I would not place a bet on such a court case succeeding.
The last point I want to make is that since the Daniels decision (which Mr. Burke appears to be so proud of) clearly states that any policy decisions or official recognition pertaining to Métis are the sole responsibility and jurisdiction of the federal government, then he and his group should no longer bother Mr. Samson and other provincial government representatives. As a result of the Daniels decision, the provincial government has no right or responsibility to make policy in recognition of any Métis claims and there is no reason for them to even enter into discussions pertaining to such demands.