First “Métis child” receives birth certificate at 74

Paul Totori (pictured centre) is the first of the so called “Métis children”, who has received a new birth certificate.  Paul is now 74 but belongs to the group of children born of Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian mothers and Belgian fathers working in the former Belgian Congo or in Ruanda-Urundi, the area administered by Belgium under a UN mandate after the Great War.  The children were taken away from their natural mothers.  Many were brought to Belgium where they faced discrimination.

Métis children were born in the 40s and 50s.  The Belgian state decided to take them away from their natural mothers out of fears the children with a Belgian father wouldn’t be brought up properly.  Children ended up at mission posts, orphanages or educational institutions.  At the end of the 50s hundreds were brought to Belgium.  Their birth certificates were forged, disappeared or were not accepted in Belgium.  This led to discrimination and administrative difficulties.

Belgian justice minister Van Quickenborne (pictured left) has worked out a new procedure to allow Métis children to apply for a new birth certificate.  The justice minister handed Paul Totori his new birth certificate at a ceremony in Wuustwezel (Antwerp Province) this morning.

“I exist! At last, officially too” said Totori.  “It’s rather crazy really.  I am witnessing my own birth”.

Officially, the plight of Métis children had been ignored for many years.  In 2017 the Bishop of Antwerp apologised on behalf of Belgian bishops.  In 2019 parliament approved a special resolution with the then PM, Charles Michel, apologising. The new procedure developed by Mr Van Quickenborne in co-operation with Métis organisations and Belgian public prosecutors to obtain a new birth certificate is a new milestone in the story of Métis children.

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