‘Where did you suffer?’ Conference kicks off in Winnipeg on Pretendians

A video highlighting infamous “pretendians” plays just as delegates enter the Indigenous Identity Fraud Summit in Winnipeg hosted by the Manitoba Métis Federation, or MMF and the Chiefs of Ontario.

“Because these people are after our rights, they’re after our resources and they’re after an opportunity to take from us what we have suffered and waited for so long to get to,” said MMF President David Chartrand.

The issue of people claiming to be Indigenous but having questionable ties to communities across the country has exploded in recent years. Names like author Joseph Boyden and lawyer Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond.

Mi’kmaq lawyer Pam Palmater spoke about how widespread the issue is.

“We have hundreds of cases in the Maritimes where they just – they’re like – have you ever watched Jurassic Park? And the raptors keep testing the fences to see where the weakness is? Yeah, one eventually gets out or a few of them – well that’s what pretendians are doing,” she said.

Palmater said individuals and groups claiming a First Nations ancestor from hundreds of years ago doesn’t make someone Indigenous today.

“Do you have a relationship with a grave from 400 years ago, or do you have a relationship with a community, a nation, an extended family, of kin? And I think that makes the difference,” she said.

According to Chartrand, it’s not just individual cases of politicians and celebrities looking for clout. He said organizations are claiming land, hunting rights and financial resources in the modern day.

“If you look in this country, there’s no nation – Indigenous nation in Canada that have not bled for their rights, have not suffered for their rights, and have not actually fought vigorously for their rights and have a culture and history to protect,” he said. “There’s no First Nation, no Red River Métis who hasn’t gone through that.

“So people should simply ask … where did you bleed, what did you wear to war, where did you die, where did you suffer, what did you go through to go what we’ve gone through to get where we are to protect ourselves.”

There was also a focus on Bill C-53 – a proposed federal law that would recognize some Métis organizations including the Métis Nation of Ontario. Something that First Nations in Ontario vehemently oppose.

The MNO was not invited to the conference.

“… This exclusion undermines the potential for a comprehensive and inclusive discussion on this critical issue affecting all Indigenous communities in Canada,” said a statement from the MNO on Tuesday.  

“As the recognized government of Métis people and communities in Ontario, MNO affirms its commitment to constructive dialogue and factual discourse regarding the rights and history of its communities.”

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