The Métis Nation evolved in the historic north-west in the 18th and 19th centuries. Born of a mixture of French and Scottish fur traders and Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine women, the Métis in the north-west developed as a people, distinct from either Indian or European.
Following the annexation of the north-west by Canada in 1869, the political economy of the Métis was destroyed. Both the Manitoba Act (1870) and the Dominion Lands Act (1879) recognized Métis claims to Aboriginal title, but the federal government moved to unilaterally extinguish these claims through individual land and grants scrip. Denied the recognition of their collective rights, the Métis became Canada’s “forgotten people”. Denied the recognition of their collective rights, the Métis became Canada’s “forgotten people”.
Onlyin Alberta was any action taken to alleviate Métis distress through the establishment of Métis settlements by the provincial government in 1938. The Métis were officially recognized as one of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples in the Canadian Constitution of 1982.
The estimated number of Métis in Canada varies widely, from 300,000 to 800,000. A proposed federal enumeration could provide a more accurate count of Canada’s Métis population. Métis account for more than 20% of the Aboriginal population.
Most Métis live in western Canada, both in remote and urban communities and in Métis-only and mixed communities. There are over 300 Métis communities; most are English-speaking with some northern communities using Cree or Michif. The Métis are distinguished by their unique Michif languages.
The Métis have never received the benefits governments grant to Status Indians and Inuit. In its final report the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated “it is unjust and unreasonable to withhold from Métis people the services and opportunities available to other Aboriginal peoples”.
Reprinted with permission from The Métis Nation of Ontario