The Current

Canada's Métis population on the rise: why some Métis leaders find this 'very concerning'

Canada's Métis population is spiking - at least on paper. So what's behind the dramatic rise and why are some Métis leaders not happy about it?
David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, says there are far fewer Métis than reported by Statistics Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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New data released in October by Statistics Canada reveals a surprising spike in Canadians identifying as Métis.

The 2016 census shows exponential growth, especially in the eastern part of the country.

In Quebec, over the last decade the number of people identifying themselves as Métis is up 149 per cent. In Nova Scotia, it's up 124 per cent. 

But for some Métis leaders, this isn't necessarily a good news story.

"It was very concerning for us to see such a change in the identifying of where the Métis are and who they are," said Dave Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation. 
Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras suggests that more people are embracing ancestral ties to the Métis Nation might explain the census numbers. (CBC News)

Chartrand suggests the surging Métis census numbers have more to do with people's self-identifications, rather than birth rates. 

"These people that ... claimed to be Métis by Census Canada are definitely not the Métis nation. They're people who are probably claiming to be of some mixed blood and using the term Métis. And you can't blame those citizens in some ways... but it will cause great concern by Canada and all of us as taxpayers."

To speak to the dramatic rise in the number of Canadians self-identifying as Métis and find out why not all Métis leaders are happy about it, The Current spoke to:

  • Greg Burke, chief of the Bras d'Or Métis Nation. For years Bras d'Or Metis Nation in Nova Scotia has been fighting to have its members recognized as Indigenous people under the Constitution Act of 1982. 
  • Darryl Leroux, associate professor at Saint Mary's University. He's conducted more than 40 interviews with the leaders of some of eastern Canada's Métis groups.
  • Jesse Thistle, a Métis-Cree PhD student at York University, who says his path to learning about his own Métis identity was full of heartbreak and hard work.  

Listen to their conversation above.

This segment was produced by The Current's Mary-Catherine McIntosh, Pacinthe Mattar and Amra Pasic.