British Columbia’s Métis Federation (BCMF) is filing a human rights complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal in response to a resolution from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) denouncing “Métis colonialism” and questioning the Métis’ Charter rights.

The BCMF slammed the UBCIC’s Resolution no. 2023-39 in a statement – a motion that the Métis Federation says “accuses Métis People in British Columbia of acting as colonialists and attempts to malign an entire community.”

On June 13th, the UBCIC Chiefs Council unanimously passed a resolution denouncing Métis colonialism in British Columbia, rejecting the idea that the Métis people are entitled to any lands in BC and Section 35 rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The UBCIC resolution accused the BC Métis of employing the doctrine of terra nullius – a Latin expression meaning nobody’s land – in their occupation of “First Nations lands” and the development of natural resources on said Métis land.

“Métis representative organizations in BC, including the Métis Nation British Columbia and the BC Métis Federation, regularly engage in a form of Métis colonialism by employing tactics reminiscent of the dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius in order to benefit from the exploitation of First Nations territories,” reads a UBCIC press release. 

“The UBCIC Chiefs Council forcibly re-affirms that the Métis hold no land, water, or air-based inherent and constitutionally protected rights or related jurisdiction within BC, and rejects and denounces any and all forms of Métis colonialism in BC and those who facilitate it,” reads the UBCIC resolution.

Section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, defining aboriginal as the “Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.”

The UBCIC has also expressed outrage at the Métis Federation’s development of natural resources on disputed land, lamenting major projects including the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

The UBCIC calls for governments to “cease accommodating the Métis and funding Métis involvement in any such consultative processes, matters, projects, or initiatives as rights holders, including any processes, matters, projects, or initiatives in BC that constitute supposed “accommodation” for major projects such as the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”

The BCMF has worked with a number of corporations in the industry on resource development projects including TC Energy, Enbridge, FortisBC, and Trans Mountain.

The UBCIC resolution also refers to the Métis people by the derogatory term “halfbreed.” 

The resolution stated that the BCMF made a “false, unfounded, and deeply offensive claim that self-determining and self-governing Métis or “halfbreed” communities existed and continue to exist in BC.”

On June 20th, BCMF President Keith Henry sent a letter to the UBCIC Chiefs Council demanding an apology within 14 days, calling their resolution “defamatory” and amounting to hate speech.

“Rather than taking us up on the offer to meet and work for mutual reconciliation, UBCIC has instead made spurious claims and acts with overt intolerance and threats clearly expressed in the approved UBCIC resolution,” reads the letter.

“Sadly, how quickly those who were once oppressed become themselves oppressors.”

The UBCIC did not respond to President Henry’s letter, prompting the BCMF to pursue a human rights complaint with the BC human rights tribunal.

“BCMF has no choice but to file a Human Rights Complaint for discrimination and hate speech pursuant to Section 7(1)(b) of the British Columbia Human Rights Code, which prohibits the publication of statements that would likely expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt.”

True North spoke to UBCIC’s Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and asked him about the human rights complaint filed by the BCMF.

“The reaction of the Métis organizations is something that will take its course and the Métis issue will continue until a point where we reach a resolution,” said Grand Chief Phillip.

When asked what an appropriate resolution would look like in his eyes, Grand Chief Phillip said that “positions are firmly declared on both sides.”

The UBCIC’s resolution made it clear that they do not believe the Métis people have any historical claim to any land in BC, and thus the federal and provincial governments are facilitating colonization by granting the Métis constitutional rights to land in BC.

Responding to the BCMF’s accusation of hate speech, Grand Chief Phillip called the claims “an overaction” and “a little strident.”

In an interview with True North, BCMF Partner Malcolm Macpherson said that the UBCIC’s resolution was “shocking to read.”

“When I read their [UBCIC] resolution, the thought that came to me was that the proverbial parents weren’t in the room when that was drafted,” said Macpherson.

“The main problem with that resolution is the fact that it was so over the top. The main message was to say that the Métis people of BC do not exist.”

Macpherson defended the right of Métis peoples to enjoy section 35 Charter rights in spite of the claims made by the UBCIC.

“The reality in Canada is that there is a tapestry of different rights. The Métis have section 35 protected rights just as the First Nations people and the Inuit people of Canada. The fact remains that the Métis were in BC long before the assertion of sovereignty by the British crown.”