A professor from the University of Saskatchewan says a lot of questions need to be answered before a working definition of who and who isn’t Metis gets resolved.

Marilyn Poitras gave testimony yesterday at a Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples hearing in Saskatoon.

For 15 years, Poitras has worked on Metis election and constitutional issues.

She says one question worth asking is what happens to a person who is considered a “6(1)” or “6(2)” under the Indian Act — if they happen to lose their status:

“Will you move back into the Metis family?  What will happen with that?  Because there’s a hierarchy.  I think we would be in denial if we didn’t deal with the fact that there are a lot of Metis people, that are termed “Metis”, that are trying to get on a First Nation’s registry because they’ve been denied that historically — and they see that that’s a much more solid way to prove your identity.  So, I just say all of this in terms of how complex this is.”

Poitras says she hopes the decision of who and who isn’t Metis comes from the grassroots.

Meanwhile, a professor from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine is raising a cautionary tale about shady applications by people who may be posing as Metis students.

Valerie Arnault-Pelletier is the Aboriginal coordinator at the college.

Arnault-Pelletier says 10 “equity seats” at her school have been set aside for Aboriginal students.

But she says the lack of a specific definition for Metis identity can cloud the decision-making process:

“The applicants to our college provided cards that were issued by organizations that could also issue membership or affiliate cards.  And these cards could be purchased for a cost for anyone who wished to belong to their organization.  So, you wouldn’t have to be an Aboriginal person to get one of these cards.”

She says, in the past, the college has accepted cards from Metis locals — as well as letters and genealogical charts — to determine who qualifies.

Arnault-Pelletier says one of the red flags that went up was when they looked at the Internet card and it referred to Metis groups as “tribes”.