Julie Druker | Feb 04, 2015
The High Land Water Métis Council held an information and nomination meeting on January 31 at the Northbrook Lions hall, which was attended by close to 30 people. The meeting’s dual purpose was to attract new members and to nominate representatives for positions on the council.
The High Land Waters Métis Council, which has been in existence for just seven years, is one of Ontario’s 29 Métis community councils. Its members represent part of region six, one section of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) that stretches east to Perth, west to Peterborough, south to Kingston and north to Bancroft. The 29 councils together make up the Métis Nation of Ontario, which is the organization officially recognized by the provincial and federal governments, and which through the Provisional Council of Métis of Ontario (PCMO) works with the Ontario government to discuss current issues and to implement their objectives.
Representatives on the council strive to bring Métis awareness to their communities and to let members know what services are available to them. Currently there are 500 card-holding members of the MNO in region 6.
Present at the meeting were Amanda Cox and Tracey Dale, both staff from the MNO's Bancroft office, and respectively, from its employment and health branches. Each spoke about the various services that are offered to members of the MNO but that are also made available to anyone in need. These services cover a wide range of health, employment and training programs through the MNO.
Also present at the meeting was Hank Rowlinson, manager of Community Relations with the MNO, who gave an overview of current issues facing the MNO at the provincial and national levels. Rowlinson also stressed the importance of community involvement. “This community has been working hard for the last seven years to create their own charter and what we are trying to do now is help them to sustain that charter. The best way to do that is to get more people involved,” he said. “Having a community here that is visible and practicing their culture is the best way to spread community pride.”
Rowlinson said that one of the major issues currently facing the Métis involves an upcoming 2015 hearing at the Supreme Court of Canda concerning the Daniels vs Canada case. The MNO will be seeking intervener status during the hearings in that case in the hopes of upholding a decision made previously by the Federal Court of Canada, which asserted that the Métis are the responsibility of the federal government and should be defined as “Indians” under the Canadian Constitution, thereby receiving the same rights and benefits.
Deirdre Thompson, current president of the High Land Waters Council, who lives in Northbrook, said that she hopes to see membership numbers increase as a direct result of the recent meeting in Northbrook. She said that for a long time Métis people struggled with an identity that considered them “too white to be native and too native to be white.” “We are trying to let people know that we exist and that we have rights as Aboriginal people.”
Thompson said that the long-term goal of council is to spread awareness that the Métis are a distinct Aboriginal group. “We want to have the same recognition as other native peoples.”
Included on the Métis Nation of Ontario’s website is an in depth history of the Métis in Canada, outlining their origins, which began in the late 17th and early 18th century with the establishment of the fur trade in this country. This unique group of people formed when male European settlers and Aboriginal women began forming relationships and having children. Soon after, these populations and communities began to self-identify as their own distinct communities.
The MNO website highlights the struggles the Métis went through and which continue as they try to protect their lands. It explains how they began to formally mobilize and in 1869 how the Métis National Committee was formed. Louis Riel, best known for leading the Northwest Rebellion in the mid-1880s, for which he was tried and hung, is a celebrated hero for the Métis people and his history is well documented on the site. Also highlighted are the current accomplishments and victories that the Métis people have made, many in the courts and many in the last 30 years and that include their inclusion in the charter as one of the three distinct Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
The formal nominations for the new council for 2015 wrapped up Saturday’s meeting in Northbrook. Secretary/treasurer Candace Lloyd, and youth representative Gwendalyn Lloyd were acclaimed. The councilors nominated and elected by acclamation were Terry Conners, Gertrude Conners and Thomas W. Thompson. Nominated for president were Scott Lloyd and Catherine Thompson and nominated for the position of chair were Marlon Lloyd and Benjamin Saulnier. The position for women’s representative is still open. The elections will take place at the Northbrook Lions hall on Sunday, March 8 from 9am-5pm. Voters must have their Métis Nation of Ontario citizenship card in order to cast a ballot.