A Manitoba cabinet minister who has described himself as Métis said Monday he is on a personal journey of discovering his background, as new questions were raised about his status.
Kevin Klein, the minister of environment and climate, made the comments after CBC News reported there is no evidence of Métis or Indigenous ancestors on his mother’s side, going back five generations.
“This is about my life, this is about our family’s history, this is about a personal process that I want to go through and I will go through alone. And it will not be public,” Klein told reporters.
Klein, a former city councillor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year and was later elected to the legislature, has previously said he is Métis on his social media and web page profiles. The Manitoba government’s listing of cabinet ministers describes him as Métis.
He said he learned years ago of a Métis connection from an uncle on his mother’s side who had been granted status by the Painted Feather Woodland Métis in eastern Ontario.
“They gave my uncle a card and others, so I had applied through that and they claimed they did the genealogical work and I had no reason to doubt that,” Klein said Monday.
Klein’s mother was killed in 1991. His uncle has since died as well.
The Painted Feather Woodland Métis accepts online submissions for status. Its website says the group considers anyone with an aboriginal ancestor as Métis.
The group is not recognized by the Manitoba Métis Federation, which has a much stricter definition of who is Métis. A woman who answered the Painted Feather Woodland Metis’s phone number did not want her name used and declined an interview request.
“There are many today _ especially in Ontario and further east _ who are trying to steal a People, a Nation and an identity. The Painted Feather Woodland group are no different,” David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, said in a written statement.
“Our message to Kevin Klein is this: Please take your personal journey in private. If not, we will hold you accountable for the theft of our Nation.”
Klein has, in recent months, removed references to being Métis from his online biographies. But the Manitoba government cabinet web page still listed him Monday as “a proud Metis Canadian.”
Premier Heather Stefanson said she would discuss the issue with Klein but defended him.
“In our party, we don’t police people’s identity,” she said.
“Minister Klein does an incredible job in his ministerial portfolio. He also does a great job representing his constituents. Those are the things we care about.”
Klein said he will continue to delve into his family’s history, but has removed references to being Métis from his online biographies “because I didn’t want to offend anybody.”
“I will continue to do my personal journey at the pace that I am allowed.”