There's a heated debate happening in Indigenous communities surrounding the issue of whether or not people who identify as Acadian-Métis are in fact Indigenous. That debate has made its way to the East Coast Music Awards, as the governing body behind the event has pulled a nomination from Cape Breton guitarist Maxim Cormier over questions about his heritage.
As the Canadian Press reports, chair of the East Coast Music Association's board of directors Dean Stairs called the entire situation regrettable. However, he stood by the organization's decision.
"Though we do not question how someone identifies their own ancestry and personal identity, we also have to... be respectful of the Indigenous peoples of Atlantic Canada," he said in a press release. "We must ensure that all nominees for the Indigenous Artist of the Year award have met the true intent of the criteria."
According to the ECMA board, neither Cormier nor the community he belongs to, the Highlands Métis Nation Association, is recognized as members of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples under constitutional law, according to the board.
Karole Dumont, chief of the Council of the First Métis People of Canada, challenged the ECMA's decision, claiming that it is wrong about Canada's constitution and Cormier's lineage. She plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of Cormier.
"[Aboriginal people] are the only, only group of people in Canada who constantly have to prove who we are," Dumont said. "We're not going to take it laying down. This has been going on for quite a while, and it's part of a much bigger dispute ... at the national level."
For more information about the debate over Acadian-Métis and other eastern Métis communities, Darryl R.J. Leroux and Adam Gaudry have written an in-depth research piece called "Becoming Indigenous: The Rise of Eastern Métis in Canada." The piece argues that many communities in the U.S. and Canada are adopting a method they call "self-indigenization," wherein they ascribe an Indigenous identity to themselves based on questionable connections to distant ancestors.
Despite the debate, the ECMAs will be handed out on May 3 at a ceremony at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. The festival in total will run from May 2 to 6. You can see all the nominees over here.