Refusing to take no for an answer

The Métis flag. Wikimedia Commons.

A former president of the Métis-Nation Saskatchewan has filed a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint against the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Robert Doucette, who served as president from 2007 until 2016, filed the complaint in October, alleging that the department, along with Minister Carolyn Bennett, has discriminated against Métis Sixties Scoop survivors.

Doucette wants the federal government to apologize for how it has treated Métis survivors, and give them the same compensation that was offered to First Nations and Inuit Sixties Scoop survivors.

“They’ve compensated so many different people on so many different issues, and yet they see fit to tell Métis people just to wait,” Doucette said during an interview on Tuesday. “I’m not from the Just-you-wait Tribe. I’m not. This is a different generation. We’re educated, we’re motivated and we’re not going to take just wait as an answer.”

Doucette himself is a Sixties Scoop survivor. In 1962 he was taken from his family and placed in a foster home for the next 18 years. Initially, he hadn’t planned on filing a complaint until he listened to Bennett’s apology to the Sixties Scoop survivors on Oct. 6.

The apology included up to $750 million in compensation for a policy that Bennett called “misguided.” Métis people were not included in the apology or the offer of compensation.

Doucette said this is a clear-cut case of discriminatory action under both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“I was very optimistic at the time that she would do the right thing for all Aboriginal people in Canada, and boy was I mistaken,” he said. “I think that was the last straw for me.”

Doucette maintains that the Daniels decision, a 2016 Supreme Court ruling, means Métis and non-status Indigenous people are now a federal responsibility. As such, they should have been included in the Sixties Scoop apology.

He raised his concerns in letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all of Canada’s parliamentarians, but the only action he saw came from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River MP Georgina Jolibois, who raised the issue briefly in the House of Commons. Other than that, he’s heard nothing.

Calls to Minister Bennett’s office were not returned by press time.

According to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Daily Herald, a federal government spokesperson said there could not be any negotiations without the provincial government getting involved. The spokesperson added that the meeting would happen during the second phase of negotiations. The complaint also quotes an unnamed government official as saying Métis people could not be included in the agreement due to provincial involvement in the apprehension of Métis children.

Doucette said he’s committed to the long haul, even if it means taking the government to court. He’s already assembled a legal team, should his current claim fail, and urged other members of Saskatchewan’s Métis community to sign on to his complaint.

The goal is to get the government back to the negotiating table, no matter how long it takes. He remains optimistic that one way or another, that meeting—and apology—will happen.

“The federal government is going to come to the table, and I don’t care if they come scratching, clawing or kicking,” he said. “They’re going to be brought to answer for all of this stuff.”

@kerr_jas •