Evidence of meeting #34 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was métis.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jane Badets  Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada
Dan Beavon  Director, Research and Analysis Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Eric Guimond  Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Cathy Connors  Manager, Aboriginal Surveys, Statistics Canada

5 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

Yes, it's shown in my presentation in those three bubbles.

Looking at the data, less than 5% of the growth in the urban aboriginal population is driven by migration. The rest is due to fertility--which we know is not 10 children per woman--and changes in self-identification.

In the western provinces, Winnipeg in particular, we've seen huge increases in self-identification. We're going to do a much more detailed analysis of the migration patterns for a city like Winnipeg and show, in a nutshell, that all of a sudden a population appears in Winnipeg, but they were already residents of Winnipeg. That goes along the same direction of what the chair was saying earlier about pride in self-identification. Those individuals who all of a sudden have this pride are those from mixed parentage, with a first nation mother and a non-first nation father. They were raised in both cultures. All of a sudden it's okay to say they're first nation, so they self-declare. It's the same thing for a person who belongs to the Inuit community or a person who is Métis. It's self-identification.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

You're already maxed out at five minutes, Mr. Storseth.

Mr. Eyking gets the floor again for five minutes.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you again.

The research and statistics show that there is some improvement in aboriginal life in the communities, but I think we all agree there's a long way to go and we'd like it to go faster.

Mr. Beavon, I'm very interested in your work on the human index. You must know a little about the rest of the world on the human index if you're doing research on that.

According to the numbers, there are a million aboriginals in this country. If they had their own country, how would it compare to other countries in the world on the human index? Would it be something like Egypt, Kenya, Laos, or Haiti? Where would they be in the scheme of things if you took their standard of living, how they live, and compared it to another country?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Research and Analysis Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Dan Beavon

I think they are in the middle developed range; they're not third world conditions. When I first published the work in 1998, the countries I compared them with were countries such as the United Arab Emirates or Brazil, not that anyone here necessarily knows what the living conditions for the average person are like in those two countries. For the off-reserve population, they would be in the top tier, better than some European countries. For the on-reserve and for the Inuit populations, it's much lower.

Eric and I have a new article, and actually we have a chapter in the book, but there's also an article we had published with BioMed Central in BMC International Journal of Health and Human Rights in which we compare the indigenous populations in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand to the general populations in each country. Unfortunately, I found that the tribes in the U.S. are a little bit better off in comparison with our conditions here in Canada, but the indigenous populations in Canada and in the United States were substantially better off than those in, say, Australia or New Zealand. New Zealand really lagged in terms of health; their life expectancy was much worse, and the Maori really lagged in education.

Currently I'm talking with other countries, Russia and a few other countries, about trying to replicate this work for their indigenous populations as well.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

There are other countries watching what we're doing, even though we have a long way to go, but are they seeing that we might be a little more progressive than some other countries?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Research and Analysis Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Dan Beavon

What they've seen is that we have a tool that allows for comparisons of different regions or sub-regions or subgroups within the countries. This is something that the United Nations have been doing ever since they developed that indicator back in 1990. If you're interested, we can always come in and do a specific presentation on the Human Development Index in detail, or we could ship you a copy of our book.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Okay.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

I want to follow up on something that Mr. Storseth brought out.

We know there were many children who were taken away from reserves and who probably never did identify themselves. Would you know what percentage of those self-identified, who maybe as adults found out they were of aboriginal ancestry? Do you ever keep stats on the adopted children who come from our aboriginal communities? I know it's not that big a number, but would it be enough to make some changes in the self-identity section?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jane Badets

I'm not aware of that. I don't know whether we could look at it in that sense at all.

Do you know of anything in the surveys?

5:05 p.m.

Cathy Connors Manager, Aboriginal Surveys, Statistics Canada

The Aboriginal Peoples Survey and the Aboriginal Children's Survey collect information on residential school attendance, either by the individual or by members of the individual's family. There could potentially be some analysis done, using that survey, when the data are released this fall.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

Thank you.

We'll give Mr. Lemay a chance, if he has questions, and then we'll go back to Mr. Storseth.

June 16th, 2008 / 5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I am sorry to be late. I wanted to be here for the beginning of the meeting, but a Conservative member of Parliament decided to cause some problems in the House, by tabling motions against his own government on Bill C-34. I find that unacceptable, but it is not important.

Having said that, Statistics Canada's definitions of aboriginal populations seem clear to me: aboriginal descent, aboriginal identity, registered or Treaty Indian, member of an Indian band or a first nation. I find it is both easy and clear. However, I think there is a real problem when we are talking about the Métis. No one here is going to make me believe that there are 27,000 Métis in Quebec.

How does Statistics Canada define the Métis? Is it as specific as it is for first nations? If so, I would like to know what the definition is, because if not, anyone could tomorrow morning—for example myself, Marc Lemay, member of Parliament—declare himself to be Métis. Is that correct?

5:10 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jane Badets

We collected four different concepts. One is on ancestry, so someone could report that they feel they have Métis ancestry. They could report it in the census questionnaire. On the identity question there are three answer boxes: North American Indian, Métis, and Inuit. So someone could declare it there. Those are the two ways in which someone on the census questionnaire could say that he or she is Métis.

We do not give a definition, because there is not a universally accepted definition of Métis. It is self-enumeration and self-declaration.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

If I understood you correctly—as someone who is very famous in Quebec, René Lévesque, would say, —in the next census, someone could self-identify as a Métis and tell the government that he has declared that he is a Métis to Statistics Canada, and it would be recognized. That is right. If that is the case, I can understand why there are problems.

I would like to ask you a question. Why ask such a question? Why did you add the Métis category? Who asked you to do that? Was it the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada?

5:10 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

The departmental officials may answer as well.

5:10 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

The Constitution recognizes three groups of aboriginals: the first nations, the Métis and the Inuit.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I will stop you there, as we are not talking about rights here. We know that the Métis are mainly found out west, that is to say in Saskatchewan, in Alberta, in Manitoba, and some are in northwestern Ontario. I do not understand. On what basis are they Métis in Quebec?

5:10 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

The report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognized that there were different groups of Métis in this country, and not only in the regions that you listed. There are some on the west coast, in the Atlantic region and in Labrador. There are some people who have mixed ancestry, Inuit and non-aboriginal who have chosen to self-identify as Métis.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

However, there is no definition of a Métis at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. That is currently subject to debate.

5:10 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

That is right, there is no single definition, as my colleague was saying. There is actually a debate as to what the definition of a Métis should be even within the Métis organizations. As long as there is no consensus on the definition, there will be this fluidity that we have seen in the statistics. That will continue to be the case.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

If someone has declared that they are Métis to Statistics Canada, will the department recognize them as such?

5:10 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

As far as access to programs is concerned, I couldn't say. However, I know that the Powley decision also makes reference to community recognition of this Métis identity. It is not just an issue of self-identification, but also of recognition by a community that this person truly is Métis. There are therefore those two aspects, but I am not an expert. You would have to ask a lawyer to get more clarification.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I am a lawyer, thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

Mr. Storseth.