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Nipissing First Nation chief calls on Nickel Belt MP to remove Indigenous claim from his resume

The chief of Nipissing First Nation says there’s a fine line between being proud of having an Indigenous ancestor and claiming to be Indigenous.

Chief Scott McLeod says he’d like to see the federal Liberal party tell Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré not to identify himself as an Indigenous politician, as he did prior to the 2021 election, and not list him as such.

McLeod took to social media in the wake of news that that the Liberal MP was being removed from the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) in a recent registry cleanup.

The AOO is tightening enrolment criteria, removing nearly 25 per cent of its electors as it presses to conclude a modern treaty with the Canadian and Ontario governments 

A man gesticulates while giving a speech.
Liberal member of Parliament for Ontario’s Nickel Belt Marc Serré rises during question period on Nov. 3, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Liberal MP told CBC Indigenous that  although he is no longer with the Mattawa/North Bay Algonquin First Nation, he will still identify as Indigenous and Métis, but not Algonquin.

McLeod says Marc Serré’s continued self-identification as Métis is emblematic of a wider issue.

McLeod is the spokesperson for the Chiefs of Ontario in its opposition to the Métis Nation of Ontario’s self-government agreement.

“It highlights the problems that we as First Nations are facing with non-Indigenous people occupying spaces that are meant for Indigenous people,” he said. 

“But also, you know, it goes further to watering down the rights of Indigenous people by governments giving recognition without doing any due diligence as to what qualifies a person to be able to claim Indigenous status.”

McLeod is referring to Bill C-53 which gives recognition to the Métis Nation of Ontario.

“There is a strong well-documented history of the Métis people which originated out of the Red River, Manitoba area.” said McLeod. ” And we’ve all heard of Louis Riel and we all know and accept that that’s part of Canadian history and they were a distinct culture that through time became their own nation, but that did not happen in Ontario.”

Serré has said he is Indigenous based on his ancestral connection to an Algonquin woman born in the 1630s.

A map of Algonquin territory along the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario.
A 2020 map showing the Algonquins of Ontario land claim area, with plots to be turned over to the Algonquins, subject to Crown jurisdiction, in red. (Algonquins of Ontario)

While McLeod says he’s known Serré since they were young boys playing in minor hockey, he hadn’t heard of his claims to be Indigenous until recently but has discussed the matter with him.

“Nintety-five per cent of French Canadians in this area have an Indigenous ancestor somewhere down their family line, but you cannot point to that one single ancestor and claim to be Indigenous or somehow magically turn into a Métis person,” said McLeod, but he added that Serré remains convinced.

Serré told CBC Indigenous reporter Brett Forester that he never benefited financially from his Algonquin membership, that he was never in a conflict of interest and never leveraged his identity to obtain titles or promotion.

What constitutes benefit is more subtle than simple personal advancement and financial gain, says McLeod.

He admits he doesn’t know whether Serré used his claim to advance his career or not but says it raises questions.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to put that on your resume, so to speak, as part of your electability in a position that he holds,” said McLeod. “That’s very, very misleading and very concerning.”

He is calling on the Canadian government to ask Serré to stop identifying himself as Métis and Indigenous in the interests of truth of reconciliation, and and for Canada to halt Bill C-53

“We didn’t give [the Canadian government] any authority to make new Indians in our territories because that’s exactly what the Canadian government thinks it has the power to do,” he said.

“And we’re getting very upset because, on one hand they’re trying to legislate actual Indigenous people out of existence through the Indian Act and on the other hand they’re handing out recognition to non-Indigenous people without doing any due diligence.”

McLeod says it makes no sense at all to him.

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