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A CONFEDERACY CONCEPT BY MARTIN DUNN AND CLAUDE AUBIN ... ncept.html ... onfed.html ... ation.html

In response to requests from participants in a conference call, April 27, 1993, of those individuals and representatives of organizations who expressed interest in associating themselves with the Confederacy of Métis Peoples in Canada, this outline of the concept of the Confederacy is being developed.

It is intended as the first draft of a discussion paper to encourage an exchange of ideas about the concept, structure and function of the Confederacy. It is not intended to serve as a constitution or even a definitive description of what the Confederacy is and what is might do in the future. Those who have expressed an interest in being part of the development of a Métis Confederacy in Canada are free to both agree and/or disagree with the contents of this paper.

It is hoped that, over the next several weeks and months, discussion and reaction to this outline will serve to build a working consensus among and between Confederacy participants that will result in a more formal or definitive description of the Métis Confederacy in Canada.

Genesis of Métis Confederacy

From the very first time in the (unrecorded) history of Canada when two persons met who were the off-spring of the initial matings between Aboriginal people of Canada and immigrants from other lands, there has been a unique association which, today, we are describing as the Métis Confederacy.

The very fact of being halfbreed, or mixed blood, often set those individuals apart from their Aboriginal community, on the one hand, and from their immigrant or colonial community on the other hand. This distinction, with all of its positive and negative implications and effects, inevitably created a kind of bond, a sense of mutual recognition and, eventually, a community of interest, among and between those who bore both the distinction and stigma of being of mixed blood.

In spiritual terms, it can be said that the Métis are at the centre of a medicine wheel of the four principal races of man. This medicine wheel incorporates the four colours of the red, black, yellow and white races. The Métis are the spiritual link or bridge between the spirituality of all the races and that of the Aboriginal people.

Although Métis in Canada have been historically recognized as the "middlemen" of the colonial fur trade, it would be more accurate to describe Métis as "living treaties" between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal races. Over the decades, many Métis communities developed unique cultures, philosophies, and life styles.

As Métis, we --like other nations of people-- have a spiritual responsibility to ourselves, to each other and to other peoples. In that sense we have a sacred responsibility to safeguard our knowledge and the objects and symbols of that awareness. Like other races of people, we too have our destiny and our prophecies.

In the scheme of creation, we Métis do not have one specific colour assigned to us. We are the people of all colours - the sons and daughters of spirit of the rainbow. We are, today, what all of the people on planet earth will eventually become. We are a mirror into the future for of the peoples in the creation stories of the world. We are the living spirit and reality of the prophecy of the seven fires.

At its very source, it is from this root that the Métis Confederacy in Canada is growing. This paper is not the place to describe the (at least) 500-year history of those relationships. It is enough, for the purposes of this paper, to recognize the source, and then to move into the current context in which the Confederacy is developing.

At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Native Council of Canada (NCC) in Nova Scotia in November, 1992 a workshop of the Métis delegates to the AGM was held. Among the many issues and concerns addressed at that meeting an idea was presented that had been generated a few months earlier in a lunch-hour discussion between the Presidents of three NCC affiliates, and two former Métis Commissioners of the NCCís Constitutional Review Commission. The Presidents involved were Ginette Racette of the Native Alliance of Quebec, Kirby Lethbridge of the Labrador Métis Association, and Frank Palmater of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoplesí Council. The two former Métis Commissioners were Claude Aubin, and Martin Dunn.

The idea was to form a network of Métis individuals, organizations, and communities who could share information and, when necessary, take joint action to serve their common interests as Métis peoples. It was generally agreed that this ìnewî association should model itself more on the lines of original Aboriginal modes of association, rather than on the neo-colonial models of incorporated institutions. It should be a loose and voluntary association of individuals, organizations, and communities, rather than a structured legal entity with a formal membership. In short, it should be a voluntary alliance or confederacy similar to the Confederacies that existed in North America at the time of European contact, rather than an imitation of colonial governance.

It was that idea which was presented in resolution form to the floor of the AGM and adopted without a dissenting vote, although the delegates of the Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories abstained from voting.

It was subsequently agreed by the Executive Council of the NCC that a letter of invitation should be sent to all known Métis organizations and other associations who were known to represent or serve Métis people to join in the development of the Confederacy. A letter was sent to 250 organizations in February 1993, and a conference call of those who responded to the letter or indicated an interest in the Confederacy was held in April 1993.

What is a Confederacy?

In its simplest form, a confederacy is an alliance of persons or organizations, or even states and nations, for a common purpose. Those who involve themselves in an alliance usually do so voluntarily and, quite often, to achieve a specific goal.

In pre-colonial days, Aboriginal peoples used such alliances to establish peaceful relations with one or more neighboring groups, tribes, and nations and to combine the strengths of participants against common enemies. (The Six Nations Confederacy is probably the best known example, today.) Unlike written treaties or formal constitutions of nation-states where some form of submission to a central authority is implied, a confederacy is a form of association which permits each of its participants to maintain their autonomy and internal priorities. It also creates a forum in which participants voluntarily pursue common goals and share the resources necessary to achieve those goals.

By its very nature a confederacy is, in its simplest form, a voluntary consensus building process. In a confederacy no single participant can force its will on other participants in that confederacy. The actions of a confederacy rely on diplomacy and persuasion, and not on dominance by a numerical majority, or a politically adept elite.

It is possible, when participants agree, to develop more formal mechanisms within a Confederacy for specific purposes. Formal treaties can be arranged between two or more elements of a confederacy. The terms of that treaty can be binding on the parties who agree, but cannot bind those who are not treaty participants. It is also possible to develop specific arrangements, called protocols, to achieve specific short-term goals. Signatories to a protocol agree to bind themselves to a specific course of action, usually in relation to a specific event or activity.

Advantages and Disadvantages

As a form of interaction among people with a common interest, a confederacy has many advantages. Because it is voluntary and consentual, it is extremely flexible and adaptable. As a forum for centralized joint action, it is the least intrusive in terms of local or regional autonomy. When goals are clear, and the means to achieve them are obvious, it is an effective and cost-efficient way to establish and exercise a mandate.

It does, however, have some disadvantages as well. Consensus building can be very time consuming and, as a result, confederations can be slow and cumbersome in situations where many competing opinions are expressed. In situations in which quick decisions about fast-changing events are necessary, confederacies can have crippling limitations.

Confederacies are rarely ìlegalî institutions in the sense of non-profit organizations, or representative associations. As a result, funding agencies are reluctant to accommodate unregistered or unincorporated bodies.

There are ways to minimize these limitations. Confederacies as a whole, or participants within a confederacy can mandate or authorize short-term decision-making on the basis of protocols or specific resolutions. Incorporated or non-profit organizations and associations can become members of confederacies and can serve as a ìbankî or ìsecretariatî which receives funding in trust for the confederacy.

The mechanism of confederacy is preferred when local, community, or regional autonomy of the participants is an essential element of the co-operative relationship. In circumstances in which the formal membership criteria of a given incorporated organization or association prevents more than one member per province or region, it is the only viable alternative to dismembering the existing incorporated organization.

Finally, the concept of confederacy has the advantage and appeal of being a traditional Aboriginal process to establish relationships among and between groups. It is designed to accommodate the Aboriginal preference for consensus decision-making, and the existence of any number of diverse local, community, and regional groupings.

Food for Thought

These pages are intended to stimulate discussion and interaction among and between the individuals, groups, organizations, and communities who are considering participation in the Confederacy of Métis in Canada. We hope you will think about what you have read and contact us with your reactions, suggestions and ideas. Please forward your responses to:

Martin F. Dunn - or Claude Aubin -
Claude Aubin
Métis et administrateur de ce site.
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