Written by Isabelle Hachey (@ihachey) for La Presse
It was while reading the newspaper last week that I discovered a secret.
You know, the Indigenous ancestor of Marie-Josée Parent, who was introduced to us as the first Indigenous councillor in the history of the City of Montréal when she was elected in 2017, is also ... mine.
This ancestor, Michel Haché dit Gallant (1663-1737), is indeed the patriarch of all Haché - and linked names such as Hachey, Hachez, Aché, etc. - from Acadia.
But there’s a rumour about his father Michel. It is said that his father, who came straight from France, married an "Indian". Although ... maybe not.
For a long time, this man’s origins have divided Acadian genealogists. "The issue of Michel Haché's Indigenous blood is still uncertain," we read in [the Moncton-based newspaper] L'Acadie Nouvelle in 2016.
But whatever! This potential Indigenous ancestor, who lived three centuries ago, was enough for [city] councillor Marie-Josée Parent to claim to be a member of the Mi'kmaw community.
Until last week, she was responsible for reconciliation between the City of Montreal and Indigenous peoples.
Before being elected, she was Co-Chair of the Montreal Indigenous Community’s Urban Strategy Network.
She was also the Executive Director of DestiNations, a subsidized organization that sought to establish an Indigenous Cultural Embassy in Montréal.
For years, Marie-Josée Parent pulled the wool over our eyes. The media, [some] Indigenous people, the government, her colleagues, the mayor, elected officials, her constituents.
Let's be clear: she’s no more Indigenous than me.
Let's be even clearer: she lied knowingly about her origins.
She pretended to be what she isn’t in order to create and run an "Indigenous" organization, then was elected and landed a senior position on the City's Executive Committee.
Once there, it’s not only cultural appropriation, it's identity theft. It's trickery.
And she gets away with a slap on the wrists.
According to the official version, Marie-Josée Parent herself decided to abandon her job involving reconciliation last week, when her Indigenous origins were questioned by two genealogists.
To avoid causing unnecessary distraction, we were told.
"It demonstrates her good faith and sensitivity around these issues of identity," said Mayor Valérie Plante.
Her good faith? Sorry, but I don’t subscribe to that.
Her sensitivity? Even less so!
In 2017, Marie-Josée Parent told La Presse that her mother was Acadian and that her father was Mi’kmaq. "I was raised in this culture, with these values and this vision of the world. "
Except that ... the councillor was raised in Gatineau. And that her father isn’t Mi’kmaq.
The genealogist Éric Pouliot-Thisdale traced her paternal lineage back to the early days of New France. The only Indigenous ancestor (or not) he discovered there was Michel Haché.
The genealogist posted the results of his research on his blog. The media seized on it.
Marie-Josée Parent immediately presented herself as a victim. On CBC, she complained about being the target of "genealogical violence."
As far as I know, Éric Pouliot-Thisdale only explained the truth. It can be humiliating, it can hurt, but the elected official should’ve thought of all that beforehand.
Far from apologizing, the councillor denied the evidence. She argued that Pouliot-Thisdale’s research was "only partially correct," but declined to say how it contained errors.
It's all too easy.
Marie-Josée Parent contented herself with a communiqué to "explain" - a very big word indeed - that her feelings of belonging to the Mi'kmaq nation "emerge from her family’s oral tradition."
So yes, you know, at Christmas parties, when your uncle told you that there was "Indian blood" in the family?
It seems that Marie-Josée Parent has taken this Québécois myth, tenacious but unfounded, a little too literally.
Mayor Valérie Plante didn’t verify Parent’s Indigenous origins when she offered her a position on the Executive Committee.
It’s hard to imagine the mayor asking elected officials for a copy of their family tree. As it’s difficult to imagine an employer requiring a DNA test of its employees. It’s a slippery slope that everybody wants to avoid.
However, reflection is necessary. Perhaps we should start demanding some form of proof from those who proclaim themselves to be “Métis” because it has become an epidemic. The phenomenon has exploded over the past ten years.
The number of "Métis" in Québec jumped by 149% between the 2006 and 2016 censuses. There’s no logic to it. No birth booms among the “Métis.” In fact, there isn’t even a recognized “Métis” community in the province!
The only explanation is that thousands of white individuals suddenly declared themselves to be Indigenous. Some people discovered a vague ancestor and bingo, they say they’re “Métis.” Others haven’t even made that much effort.
They simply ticked a box. Not much more complicated than that. It's enough to feel Indigenous... The phenomenon is so popular that it has even been given a name: race-shifting, in English.
One wears a fringed coat, a tight necklace around the neck and feathered earrings. We order a dream catcher made in China on Amazon.
We join a phony community that issues a phony "status card" that saves us taxes from uninformed merchants.
We claim “ancestral” hunting and fishing territories [and rights].
We even invent an "Indian" name - Bear, Blue Eagle, Seven Crows - and we travel to Europe with crystals and healing plants to boom-boom on an [Indigenous] drum.
We call ourselves "Elders" and we get lucrative contracts in federal penitentiaries to help Indigenous inmates reconnect with their spirituality.
We do all of this without any fear of ridicule. We claim rights and privileges ... without ever, in our lives, having faced racism, the trauma of residential schools or the human tragedies that still tear too many Indigenous communities apart in Québec.
This cynical sham has lasted long enough.
(Translated by Darryl Leroux (@DarrylLeroux), author of Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity)