Solving the confusion around community representation was part of the agenda at the recent BC Metis Federation (BCMF) gathering held at the Pinnacle Hotel April 25. It was a chance for Vancouver members to address their issues and concerns, as well as to propose new initiatives and celebrate Metis culture. A larger project is The Louis Riel Symposium being planned to exonerate Louis Riel, the Metis leader who was hanged for treason in 1885.
“We have a number of members from different areas, so we wanted to check in with the community. People want to see community groups reformed,” says Keith Henry, president of the BCMF.
Community representation and Van City initiative
Henry says the problem with lack of community representation is rooted in the fact the Metis are not legally a First Nations group. They get less funding from the government, which makes it more difficult for non-profit community organizations to function properly through governance.
A functioning representative organization is the main goal of the BCMF, says Henry. It will give the Metis community a place to meet and talk about issues and about the direction of the organization itself.
Henry hopes one initiative proposed at the meeting, the Van City Metis Federation, will solve the confusion and problems around community representation.
“We want the organization to be interacting with municipal governments on issues affecting Metis, and we want it to work with school districts to make sure that Metis culture and education is in all Vancouver school districts,” says Henry.
Most of all, Henry hopes the Van City Metis Federation will keep Metis children and families in the Vancouver area connected with local Metis communities.
The Louis Riel symposium
The other major initiative reviewed at the meeting was the exoneration of Louis Riel. Riel’s execution, the Metis argue, was legally wrong and therefore should be overturned by the Canadian government.
The group plans a major symposium to draw attention to the issue.
“We hope that – with Metis representation – that a clear plan of action of where we go, as a community and as an organization with Metis people across the province and Canada, to get his name exonerated which will lead to the reconciliation between Metis and the government that this country needs,” says Henry.
Cultural celebration and activities
Metis members who attended the meeting also voiced their desire for more cultural activities in the Vancouver area. Henry says the BCMF is working on planning more events in the future, such as a community BBQ to be held this summer.
In addition to addressing issues and concerns and proposing initiatives, there was also a celebration of Metis culture with fiddling by JJ Lavallee, and jig dancing by Rowan and Quinn Pickering.
“JJ Lavallee is one of the best Metis musicians in Canada,” says Henry.
It was these performances that set the positive atmosphere for the meeting. Henry notes members in attendance were supportive of the discussions and wanted to reconnect with their fellow Metis.
“People hadn’t had a chance to connect for a while, so everybody was very friendly. People were putting a priority on being a functional community organization in the Vancouver area for the Vancouver members. It’s not just about the politics, but also about kinship and a celebration of culture,” says Henry.
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