“I’ve Never Heard of the Métis People”: The Politics of Naming, Racialization, and the Disregard for Aboriginal Canadians

“I’ve Never Heard of the Métis People”: The Politics of Naming, Racialization, and the Disregard for Aboriginal Canadians


Crystal Fraser
University of Alberta

Mike Commito
McMaster University

The controversial selection of a hamburger name by a Toronto restaurant had customers and critics raising their eyebrows this past August. Holy Chuck Burgers, located on Yonge Street, specializes in gourmet hamburgers, some of which sport clever titles like “Go Chuck Yourself” and “You Fat Pig.” Recently, the restaurant has come under criticism, not for its indulgent offerings, but because of the names of two of its items: “The Half Breed” and “The Dirty Drunken Half Breed.” It was not long before Twitterverse exploded, slamming Holy Chuck Burgers for its use of racially-charged, insensitive discourse that has had a longstanding history against Canada’s Indigenous peoples. While the criticism was well deserved, the apparent disconnect to Aboriginal issues is unfortunately part of a much larger and longer colonial mentality of indifference.

Like many racial designations in Canada, the term ‘half-breed’ is both complex and problematic. Historically, the designation was used to describe people of ‘mixed’ descent whose lineage originated from intimate relationships between non-Aboriginal newcomers and Aboriginal people. The racial designation of ‘half-breed’ was applied not only to Métis people, but also to other Aboriginals as a way to essentialize and deauthenticate all forms of indigenity. Today, by way of colonial discourse, the Métis are sometimes linked to the historic understanding of ‘half-breed.’ This was demonstrated when Holy Chuck Burgers’ racist food names were viewed as a direct attack on Métis people. But the equation of ‘half breed’ to Métis is intrinsically problematic, since many Indigenous peoples are of ‘mixed’ ancestry but not labelled as such. Nevertheless, Holy Chuck Burgers’ owner explained that the poor selection in burger names originated from the fact that the burger patties consist of a mixture of ground pork and beef. In “The Dirty Drunken Half Breed,” “dirty” refers to the chili that was poured all over the burger and “drunken” denotes the wine that was used in the cooking preparation. When considering Holy Chuck Burgers’ choice of language, it is difficult not to think about racial stereotypes about Aboriginal people that have been historically imposed and, to some extent, continue to be used…

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