For the last four years, a man from Prince Albert has been working on a national stage to lobby on behalf of Métis people across Canada; recently he was in the Gateway to the North to promote the Métis Federation of Canada among Métis people here.
Robert Pilon has been the interim president of the Métis Federation of Canada for four years. He said he eventually hopes to unify Metis people across the country.
Along the way, Pilon has faced numerous road blocks. He said Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) refused to recognize the Métis Federation of Canada as a true lobbying organization despite obtaining intervener status two years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada – one of three Métis organizations with such a title.
As an organization with intervener status, the Métis Federation is able to enter law suits which affect the rights of Metis people and provide perspective to a court decision.
“The bureaucrats gotta stop preventing us [moving forward], they should be there to help us,” Pilon said.
He learned quickly how slow the bureaucratic process can be once he got involved in the world of politics. He said he learned about court cases INAC is fighting which could advance the rights of Métis people, such as last year’s landmark Daniels ruling, which took 17 years of legal battles to resolve.
Pilon has met with INAC Minister Carolyn Bennett once; it was an informal meeting between the pair during an event while he worked with the Métis Nation of Ontario.
“We ask to be invited [to discussions] all the time,” Pilon said. “It’s become a political thing… We believe its Métis fighting against other Métis, preventing us from being there because [other Métis groups] say things like ‘We’re not going to be there if the Métis Federation is there.’ We hear that.”
He said the Métis National Council (MNC), another Métis lobbying body, isn’t a true national organization because it lacks representation in Quebec and the Maritimes. Groups like the Métis Nation of Quebec have tried to join into the National Council, but have so far been unsuccessful in doing so.
The Federation lobbies on behalf of Métis people from coast-to-coast, where the MNC has representation between British Columbia and Ontario.
“The reason I got involved [with the Federation] was [the MNC] was saying there’s no Métis in Quebec, and for a long time they said there was no Métis in Ontario, but we know that’s not true,” Pilon said.
In the 2011 Statistics Canada Household Survey, over 40,000 people in Quebec and over 22,000 people in Atlantic Canada self-identified as Métis.
Pilon said he will continue to work and grow the Métis Federation of Canada, which currently has at least 800 individual members, and over 20,000 members through Treaty agreements which have been made with Indigenous and Métis organizations around Canada.
After attending Back to Batoche to educate people about the Métis Federation of Canada, he stopped briefly in Prince Albert before making his way to Cumberland House, the oldest Métis settlement in Canada to grow his support. He then has stops planned in Turtle Lake, and Saskatoon, which will conclude the interim president's tour of Saskatchewan.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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