Luc Michaud admits he was surprised when he discovered a Métis ancestor through a DNA test provided by Toronto company Accu-Metrics. “My grandmother had Native blood but I couldn’t find any information on my family tree,” said Michaud. “People were a little scared to talk about Native blood back then.”
Since the discovery, Michaud has been actively involved in establishing a Métis Society in Chibougamu. “We were approached by the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada’s Grand Chief Guillaume Carle to start a community,” Michaud told the Nation. “So I said okay, let’s see what’s going on.”
In July 2016, Michaud’s society held its first meeting. According to him, about 30 people attended and “that’s when I was first elected as the chief.” Since then, the group has grown to over 350 members and held its grand assembly December 1.
The Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples is the same political group associated with the Mikinaks, a group of non-status people who offer membership and issue cards to individulas who can say they have at least one Indigenous ancestor and pay an $80 fee.
For their $80 they receive a card that reads: “This card attests that the bearer is an Aboriginal within the meaning of the article 35 of the Constitution Act of Canada (1982) and can exercise applicable Aboriginal rights.” Not recognized by the Canadian government, the card goes on to list these rights that include fishing, hunting and trapping.
The Mikinaks have had their intentions questioned by Indigenous leaders who believe their motives aren’t grounded in recognition and re-discovery of their roots but rather in certain benefits and privileges attached to being a Status Indian.
Michaud’s group has been working with Accu-Metrics directly to help people who think they may have Métis ancestry. “A lot were surprised, and a lot were proud when they got their results back,” said Michaud. “The majority of the people in Chibougamau are finding out they come from Lac St-Jean. I think Lac St-Jean is one of the places that has the most Métis people around.”
Michaud believes the Daniels Decision, a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that classifies non-status and Métis as Indians, has a lot to do with the uptick in membership. “We do see an advantage for us,” said Michaud. And while the ruling is promising for Métis, attaining Indigenous rights will still need to be negotiated and, in many cases, fought for.
“Our first priority is to be recognized as a community by the government but there’s nothing that will come about without negotiations,” said Michaud. “I want 100% collaboration with the Cree. I think it will bring us closer and build bridges. I don’t want to take anything away. I think we can work together and get a lot more.”
In the near future, Michaud plans to meet with federal and provincial governments as well as Indigenous leadership. “We’re going to try and meet with our representative Romeo Saganash on the federal side and I’ve made informal contact with some of the Cree,” said Michaud. “I think it’s going to be a big challenge but you have to start somewhere.”
Michaud also commented on the importance of expanding fishing and hunting rights for his community. “We wouldn’t be in Chibougamau if we didn’t like fishing and hunting,” said Michaud. “I live on a lake and I have trouble fishing in the lake with the new laws. In the last 50 years the government has been coming in and closing us up.
“But even before the fishing and hunting, it’s jobs. People who live here want to work here,” Michaud exclaimed. “The mining companies have fly-in-fly-out workers. They come here, take the jobs away from us, and don’t even have to pay parking. Jobs will be a very important part of my negotiations once we’re recognized.”