The leader of the Manitoba Métis Federation says he can't understand why his people weren't invited to the closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Leaders from the Assembly of First Nations, Native Women's Association of Canada and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami all participated in the final national event, which took place in Ottawa. But Métis leaders were absent.
Manitoba Métis president David Chartrand said he was often physically abused while he was a student at a church-run school.
"They used to whip us on the wrists every time we spoke the Saulteaux language," Chartrand said.
Other times, he said the nuns would force Métis children to stand on their toes for long periods of time.
"As soon as you got tired, they would whip you in the back of your calves."
Despite the abuse he and many other Métis people suffered, they weren't included in the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the subsequent government apology, nor did they receive financial compensation.
Chartrand thinks it's because most Métis attended "day schools" that weren't recognized by the federal government during the settlement process. He thinks Métis people probably make up less than five per cent of people who attended schools that are in the settlement agreement.
Still, the Métis National Council (MNC) — which represents the Métis nation across Canada and internationally — issued a press release calling exclusion from the final ceremony "inexcusable and demoralizing."
For 10 years, MNC president Clement Chartier attended the Ile a la Crosse Métis boarding school in northern Saskatchewan run by the Roman Catholic church. Chartier said many of his fellow students were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse from staff.
Chartrand said work is underway to launch a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Métis students of residential and day schools. Because of the high costs of such a suit, he isn't sure how soon it could happen.
"We talk about turning the page, that's the slogan people are using, well the Métis have not yet even opened the book," Chartrand said.
No one from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was available to comment on why Métis people weren't included in the closing ceremony, which wraps up Wednesday in Ottawa.