A Saskatchewan-based Métis leader was recorded using derogatory words to describe who he referred to as “eastern Métis” people.
Métis Nation–Saskatchewan Eastern Region 2A director Derek Langan, who serves the Yorkton area, broached this polarizing topic multiple times during a speech at the Crescent Lake Métis Gathering hosted from July 31 to Aug. 2.
“We have to defend our very nationhood. It is at risk,” Langan said.
“We are giving away our rights, our citizenship, I don’t even know, mixed-bloods, they’re Heinz 57’s according to me, no more than that.”
Laughter can be heard from members of the crowd as Langan made the comments.
The increase in people from Eastern Canada self-reporting as Métis is a divisive debate.
Statistics Canada census data show the number of people who identify as Métis rose nearly 150 per cent in Quebec and 125 per cent in Nova Scotia from 2006 to 2016. New Métis organizations appeared over the same timeframe.
There are critics who oppose the idea that there is a distinct Métis identity in the Maritimes and Quebec.
They say people of mixed blood in the region either integrated into Indigenous communities or assimilated with European newcomers, unlike the distinct Métis People of Louis Riel in Western Canada.
People who identify as eastern Métis argue they are descendants of mixed-heritage people in the region with a shared history and culture; they’re not just people with Indigenous ancestry.
They say they were first compelled to identify themselves as white, fearing discrimination. The rejection of their identity, they say, is exclusionary and mean-spirited.
In his speech, Langan added he was worried about people coming from eastern Ontario, Halifax, Nova Scotia to take “our education, our training, our housing dollars,” because their “population is larger than ours and they’ll have more needs than us.”
Content warning: Graphic language
He argued a proposed funding model didn’t make sense to him and argued the money should be used for “true Métis” people, not “false Métis” people.
“Not these mongrels,” he said to more laughter.
“I don’t mean to be harsh. I call it the way I see it. If I see a monkey to me it’s not a humanoid, you know what I’m saying? So I won’t sugar-coat it.”
Words ‘overshadowed’ message, gathering
In an interview with CBC News, Langan apologized for what he categorized as a poor choice of words on his part.
He said as a Christian man, he felt bad for the words he used and the way he spoke about his fellow people.
“I chose poor words and kind of did a little name calling, I guess, immature, grade-school name calling,” Langan said.
“I’ll admit that part was wrong, but that stance I take and believe in, you know, I’ll never apologize for.”
Langan said he hoped to use the speech as a platform to express his displeasure with some recent Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN-S) actions in a dispute with the Métis National Council and to express concerns about the rise in the number of people self-identifying as Métis, particularly in eastern Canada.
Langan said his comments also overshadowed another aspect of the day.
The gathering at Crescent Lake from July 31 to Aug. 2 was supposed to be a celebration.
Langan said Métis people founded a settlement in the area in the 1930s. Over the years, the area became Crown land.
Watch the full speech here:
At the regional level, work was done to reclaim title to the lands around Crescent Lake for Métis people to use. Langan said the celebrations were to mark the near-completion of the process.
“That eastern Métis stuff was a very small, small portion of the speech, the overtone of it was us getting our historic Crescent Lake Métis lands back and us, kind of standing alone and being the forefront of all the regions in the province,” Langan said.
“It got overshadowed by one or two bad choices of words, referring to mixed-bloods in the east I guess.”
Comments ‘ugly,’ ‘unacceptable,’: MN-S president
The president of the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan didn’t specifically identify Langan’s speech, but released a statement that distanced himself and the organization he represents from comments made online and publicly.
CBC News confirmed Langan’s video was the subject of Glen McCallum’s statement, published on Aug. 11.
McCallum said the MN-S was contacted by numerous people who expressed shock and disappointment about the unidentified comments and he too shared their concerns.
“This has been a topic of community conversation over the last several days following some ugly and unacceptable statements that have been made online and in public,” McCallum wrote.
McCallum’s statement later added that using racist, derogatory or dehumanizing terms, no matter the topic or issue at state, is unacceptable and has no place in MN-S private or public forums.
In an emailed statement, the MN-S said it expected its representatives to adhere to strict standards of conduct. Protocols for code of conduct are laid out in its executive handbook, which the organization said was updated by the Provincial Métis Council in 2019.
“Violations to this code are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly,” the MN-S statement said.
“Our legal team is looking into this matter and the comments and actions of Derek Langan.”
When asked about possible repercussions for his words from MN-S or McCallum, Langan stated he was an independent elected official who didn’t run under McCallum’s platform.
“I have the right to state my own mind and challenge whatever decisions he makes or whatever other councillor member makes.”
‘We know who we are’
McCallum’s statement said the definition of who is a Métis person was decided at the national level in 2002.
The identity of a Métis person is based on historical knowledge, traditional laws of kinship and principles of solidarity, the president’s statement said.
The statement added that a Métis person is one who self-identifies as Métis, as distinct from other Indigenous peoples, who has historic Métis ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.
“We all know that there are others across Canada who seek to call themselves ‘Métis.’ We are also collectively clear and unified that these people are not us,” McCallum’s statement said.
“We know who we are. It is important that we resist attempts to usurp our history, our culture and our identity.”
Read McCallum’s full letter here: