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George Canyon criticized for claiming Indigenous heritage

George Canyon says he wants to be the voice of Central Nova in Ottawa.
George Canyon, shown in this file photo, has recently been criticized for claiming he is Indigenous. - Adam MacInnis

Central Nova Conservative candidate George Canyon is stepping back from his earlier association with the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation.

The group was founded in 1973, and currently has 30,000 members. In a Facebook post dated Aug. 23, 2018, the organization’s former chief Mary Lou Parker announced that Canyon had “joined our Métis family.”

Critics of the Yarmouth-based organization have pointed to its lax verification of its members’ claims to Indigenous identity, and in June 2018 a probe was launched by Indigenous Services Canada after allegations were made that the group encouraged members to use their Métis cards to receive HST breaks. 

“No level of government, no court and no actual First Nation people or the Métis people themselves have recognized these claims as legitimate,” said Darryl Leroux, a professor in the department of social justice and communities at Saint Mary’s University. “All you have to do is self-identify as Indigenous and you’re in.”

Last week Canyon said he doesn't identify as Métis. “These issues have been brought to me, but I continue to be proud of my Mi’kmaq heritage." 

Recently Leroux chastised Canyon, along with candidates from the Liberal and Green parties, for appropriating Indigenous identity, be it Métis or Mi'kmaq.

“It gives your party political capital,” he said. “It probably looks a bit different for each party in terms of how their base will react to that, but for the most part there’s probably a sense that it would be good for parties to have as many Indigenous candidates as possible.”

Canyon traces his Mi’kmaq heritage to his great-great-grandmother. He said that knowing this helps him understand his roots. 

“It helps me to know where my family came from, and it helps me to be confident in the man that I am to know my heritage.”

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