The chief of a national organization representing off-reserve Indigenous peoples that receives millions of dollars annually from Ottawa couldn’t pinpoint the roots of his Indigenous ancestry during an interview with APTN News Wednesday.
The Indigenous ancestry of Congress of Aboriginal of Peoples (CAP) National Chief Robert Bertrand was a question on the minds and lips of some delegates who attended the organization’s annual general assembly in Ottawa this past weekend, according to Sen. Patrick Brazeau and former CAP national chief Kevin Daniels.
In an interview at CAP’s Ottawa headquarters the national chief was initially vague on his Indigenous ancestry and then said he couldn’t “remember” when pressed on the issue.
“I am, in my opinion, I am Metis from the Quebec side,” said Bertrand, a former Liberal MP. “I have Indian blood. My ancestors were from Algonquin descent. I don’t see the relevance of it.”
Bertrand said he couldn’t remember from which part of Quebec his Indigenous roots stemmed or how many generations back his Indigenous roots began.
“I can’t remember off-hand,” he said. “I am sure I am Indigenous. If you are asking me if it’s the third generation, I can’t remember.”
He eventually said the Algonquin ancestry of his ancestors came from somewhere in the Oka, Que., area.
Bertrand said he met the criteria set out by the Native Alliance of Quebec and eventually became its leader.
However, he couldn’t describe the criteria or explain how he met it.
“I met the criteria at (the Native Alliance of Quebec) and you know, I don’t understand what the big problem is,” he said.
The Native Alliance of Quebec membership form accepts a family tree, certified by a genealogist, as proof of Indigenous ancestry.
Bertrand was president of the alliance from 2011 to 2016. He was elected national chief of CAP in September 2016.
Bertrand was a Liberal MP from 1993 to 2004 for the Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle riding in Quebec. He was also a member of the Aboriginal Affairs committee from 1996 to 1997 and he served as Parliamentary Secretary for National Defence from 1998 to 2000.
Brazeau, a former national chief for CAP, said in an interview Monday that several delegates he spoke with during CAP’s annual general assembly wondered about Bertrand’s Indigenous ancestry.
Daniels also publicly questioned Bertrand’s ancestry during a Saturday morning meeting at the Marriott Hotel. Daniels grabbed the organization’s Eagle Staff creating a row that left him in a back room until Ottawa police arrived. He was then taken and held by overnight by Gatineau, Que., police on an outstanding warrant.
Daniels returned to CAP’s Ottawa office on Wednesday with a letter giving the organization until Friday at 1 p.m. to hand over the Eagle Staff. If the organization failed to meet the deadline Daniels said he would be holding a press conference to “expose more CAP secrets.”
Daniels was the one who brought the Eagle Staff to CAP.
“More confrontations are now in the works,” said Daniels, in the letter. “You have been warned.”
CAP received about $4.5 million from several federal departments during the 2016-1017 fiscal year, according to its own records.