The term Métis refers to the descendants of people born of relations between First Nations women and European men.
Formed in 1993, the Métis Nation of Ontario is the leading representative body for the Métis in Ontario. It maintains the only recognized Métis registry in Ontario.
Ontario has one of the largest provincial Métis populations in Canada with 86,015 people, second only to Alberta. This represents almost one-fifth of all Métis living in Canada.
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Métis people in Ontario have higher exposure to tobacco smoke than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, although their rate of smoking has declined over time.
- A greater proportion of adults smoke: 40% of Ontario Métis adult males and 34% of Métis adult females smoke cigarettes daily or occasionally, compared with 26% of non-Aboriginal men and 18% of non-Aboriginal women.
- More exposure to second-hand smoke: Non-smoking Métis — adults and teens — are more likely than their non-Aboriginal peers to be exposed regularly to second-hand smoke in the home, car or public places.
- More teens and young adults smoke: 17% of Métis teens (ages 12 to 19 years) compared with 8% of non-Aboriginal teens smoke cigarettes daily or occasionally. Nearly half (47%) of Métis ages 20 to 29 years smoke, compared with 27% of non-Aboriginal Ontarians of the same age.
Tobacco use among Métis has been historically influenced by 2 strong cultural traditions: a First Nations tradition in which tobacco is regarded as a medicinal plant with both ceremonial and social uses (such as smudging and in the giving or exchanging of tobacco as a sign of respect), and the more specific role and use of tobacco in Métis traditions.
Many Métis who lived around the Great Lakes were voyageurs. They typically worked 14 hours a day for many weeks at a time, paddling large canoes laden with goods for many thousands of kilometres. During these long and arduous journeys a stop was made for a few minutes each hour to allow the men to rest and have a pipe. This event was so important among the early voyageurs that distances came to be measured in pipes: 3 pipes might equal 20 kilometres of travel or a 30 kilometre lake might be described as a 4-pipe journey. The historical role that tobacco has played in the Métis way of life over many hundreds of years is an important consideration in designing smoking cessation interventions for Métis people.