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Métis to Government: We’ll Determine Our Own Identity, Thank You

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Métis leaders are outraged that the Canadian government has outsourced the task of compiling criteria under which descendants of fur traders settlers and First Nations peoples can be legally defined as belonging to the aboriginal group.

But John Duncan, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, insisted on Wednesday that this does not mean the government's firm, the Canadian Standards Association, would be deciding who is Métis.

The only goal of the contract with the company, he said, is to "give the government a way to ensure the registration systems in place in the five Métis provinces are satisfactory," the Winnipeg Free Pressreported on February 8.

"We're not asking them to determine who's a Métis," Duncan said, according to the Free Press.

However, that is belied by the fact that the contract was never discussed with Métis leaders, said David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation. And it doesn't sit well given that the Canadian Standards Association also sets standards for consumer products such as smoke detectors and bike helmets, the Free Press reported on February 7.

"Who are they, the Canadian Standards Association, that doesn't have a clue about us, to determine what we are?" Chartrand said in the Free Press. "Who is the government of Canada to determine what we are?"

The backstory, the Free Press recounted, is that in 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision, the Powley decision, outlining Métis constitutional rights, which includes hunting rights. The decision also mentioned the need for criteria. The government has helped fund attempts the by Métis National Council and its five member organizations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to develop systems for registration, the paper said.

At least 70,000 Manitobans declared they were Métis in Canada's 2006 census, the paper said.