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About the Ontario Metis Family Records Centre

Part II of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982

35. (1) Recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights

The existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

35. (2) Definition of the aboriginal peoples of Canada

In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada.

35. (3) Land Claims agreements

For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

35. (4) Aboriginal and treaty rights are guaranteed equally to both sexes

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

Who Are the Metis

The question of who is a Metis within the meaning of this section of the Constitution Act is unfortunately not defined. The term Metis has had different meanings at various points in time. Today there are various definitions of the Metis, but there is no single definition acceptable to everyone.

There are at least two distinct cultural backgrounds for the peoples known as Metis. First there are the descendants of English and Scottish marriages to Indian spouses. These were the children of Hudson Bay Company employees. Second were the French Metis from Quebec, who were mostly the children of North West Company employees.

The government of Canada as far back as 1870 referred to all mixed blood descendants of white and native people in English documents as half-breeds. Official documents in French referred to them as Metis.

Some organizations define Metis as a person with at least one aboriginal grandparent. This definition ignores the fact that an individual with several aboriginal ancestors’ further back in their family tree could have even more Indian blood, but would not be considered Metis. In my opinion, this is a self-serving definition.

The Ontario aboriginal community, as well as the rest of Canada, is large and complex, but that doesn’t mean that the definition of Metis has to be. Our definition of Metis is simple – any person with an aboriginal ancestor.

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