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Trailer: Introducing The True Canadians

For over two centuries, the Métis have fought for recognition as an Indigenous people and as a Nation. It’s a story worth telling, but until recently, it hasn’t been heard enough.

The title of this podcast and the book refers to the fact that the Métis truly are people born of this land — well before Canada became a country of its own.

Your host is David Wylynko, a media consultant, writer, former journalist, and co-author of The True Canadians. His co-author, Patricia Russell, is a Métis writer and a former CBC journalist. While they were touring the country to promote their book, they discovered that readers wanted to know more about the people, places, events, and milestones they’ve featured in the pages of The True Canadians. A podcast seemed to be the best way to share what they’ve learned.

“Some day is now”

Episode 1 features David’s talk with Andrea Sandmaier, President of the Otipemisiwak Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta, and Audrey Poitras, who recently retired as president. The two discuss the Métis journey toward legal recognition of their right to self-government, including the landmark legislation now before Parliament, Bill C-53.

Among the stories told is one involving Angie Crerar, an elder from Grande Prairie, Alberta who addressed the federal Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs in Ottawa. She recalled how her own father hoped that, some day, this acknowledgment would come. “Some day is now,” says Sandmaier.

⁠Bill C-53: An Act respecting the recognition of certain Métis governments⁠

Setting up youth for success

From her small home community of Lac La Biche, Alberta, to the academic halls of the University of Calgary, to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Rebecca Lavallee has taken huge leaps forward in a very short timespan. In the second episode of The True Canadians, host David Wylynko talks with Rebecca about the importance of family and community in fostering Métis youth with confidence and pride. These attributes help cure young people of the crippling effects of “imposter syndrome,” and can steer them away from the negative impacts of burying one’s heritage.

This support helped Rebecca make the move to a big-city university, where she often found herself to be the lone Indigenous student of her classes. It also gave her the strength of character that led to her new position as the Provincial Youth Representative in the recently created Otipemisiwak Métis Government. In that capacity, Rebecca travelled to Ottawa and attended hearings held by the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee on Bill C-53, which recognizes Métis rights of self-government. For young Métis citizens like Rebecca, it’s just the beginning.


“Lucy and the Legal Lacuna”

In the third episode of The True Canadians, host David Wylynko talks with Métis lawyer Jason Madden, who practices Aboriginal law with a focus on Indigenous rights litigation and negotiations, including the negotiation and implementation of self-government agreements, modern day treaties, and reconciliation-based agreements. A graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and called to the bar in Ontario, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, Jason is a partner at the law firm Aird & Berlis LLP and Co-Leader of the firm’s Indigenous Practice Group.

Jason was born and raised in northern Ontario and his large Métis family—the Calders—are a part of the Northwest Ontario Métis community, which collectively adhered to Treaty No 3 in 1875 as the ‘Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River.’ Over the last 20 years, Jason has been legal counsel to Métis communities and governments in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, including acting as counsel in Métis harvesting rights case and appearing in all the cases dealing with Métis rights before the Supreme Court of Canada.

In this episode, Jason undertakes a wide-ranging discussion about inherent Métis rights and self-government, which have become particularly topical in the mainstream media in recent weeks due to major developments in federal legislation currently before Parliament about Métis self-government known as Bill C-53 and a major Supreme Court decision over an existing federal law about Indigenous child and family services, both of great importance to the Métis. Jason talks about how these pieces of legislation will help extract the Métis from the “legal lacuna” (legal gap) they have experienced for generations, and how they will lead to ending the pattern of governments making promises and overtures to the Métis only to pull away the proverbial football as Lucy so famously always did to Charlies Brown in the cartoon “Peanuts.”


“A Way into Canada”

In the fall of 2003, in what would become known as a “watershed” moment for the Métis, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that when Steve Powley and his son Roddy shot a bull moose 10 years earlier near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, they were exercising their Métis right to hunt, as protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. In the fourth episode of The True Canadians – the Podcast, Métis lawyer Jason Madden characterizes the decision of the top court in the land as a “sea change” that would set the Métis on a journey to many other legal successes.

The episode is the second of a special two-part segment that host David Wylynko recorded with Madden, who in part one examines Métis progress in negotiating self-government agreements with Canada in recent years. In part two, Jason traces Métis political history and the struggle for what he calls “a way into Canada” that culminated in Métis recognition in the Constitution Act of 1982. Madden explores the significance of the first ministers’ conferences convened in the 1980s by then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the Supreme Court Powley decision of 2003, and of other milestones in the ongoing Métis journey toward a true nation-to-nation relationship with Canada.


“Why can’t you just remember?”

The True Canadians, both the podcast and book, relies on Métis people to tell their own stories. But educating Canadians and advancing recognition and reconciliation won’t be complete until those stories are shared much more widely. Which is where Historica Canada can plays a big role. To find out how this national charitable organization, which uses rigorous research to explain “what it means to be Canadian,” approaches its responsibility to tell the story of the Métis, who better to ask than Anthony Wilson-Smith?

A former journalist whose column appeared for years in Maclean’s magazine, Wilson-Smith is the CEO and president of Historica Canada. In this episode, Wilson-Smith talks with host David Wylynko about how successive prime ministers interacted with the Métis, First Nations, and Inuit, and how Canada’s attitude has evolved from dismissive, to paternalistic, to an acceptance of the need for the real changes represented by Bill C-53, which recognizes Métis self-government. He describes the impact of the organization’s vast and growing library that is The Canadian Encyclopedia, and touches on the highly lauded Heritage Minutes that appear on television. Wilson-Smith stresses the importance of changing the request often made of Indigenous peoples to just forget about the past to one in which everyone else is asked to just remember it.


Bringing the fight to Ottawa

Having devoted a lifetime to Métis rights and activism, elder Tony Belcourt has seen it all. Raised in the historic Métis community at Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, Belcourt quickly learned what Louis Riel realized 100 years earlier, that progress in Métis recognition meant going to one place: Ottawa. As the founding president of the Native Council of Canada, Belcourt took centre stage when the Métis banded together with non-Status Indians to plot a pathway to constitutional recognition in the early 1970s. A decade later, he supported efforts in Ottawa’s “hallowed halls” to convince then–Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to include the Métis by name in the Constitution Act of 1982. And in 1991 he was there to watch then–Prime Minister Brian Mulroney call for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which drew public attention to the demands of the Métis, First Nations, and Inuit.

Despite having earned his retirement after more than 50 years of political wins and setbacks, Belcourt has scarcely slowed down. After 14 years as the first president of the Métis Nation of Ontario, he took his cause abroad, representing the Métis National Council at the United Nations, where he participated in the negotiations that resulted in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Today, with legislation recognizing the Métis right to self-government nearing passage in Parliament (Bill C-53), Belcourt is once again urging Ottawa to do the right thing. In this episode, host David Wylynko talks with Belcourt about his memories and concerns, which include seeing Harry Daniels proclaim “I will mobilize my people” as he walked out on the 1982 Constitutional negotiations with then–Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chrétien, his disappointment in the Pope’s visit to his hometown in 2022, and his wish to see the Métis become once again amicable with their age-old Indigenous cousins.

Métis National Council at crossroads as it marks 40-year anniversary (CBC News)