Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 16, 2016
Landmark legal decision for Canada’s Metis, but…
The Metis in Canada are generally considered to be a group descended from a mix of aboriginal prarie First Nation peoples and the Scottish, French, and other Caucasian fur traders of centuries past.
In 1867 when Canada was formed and the new federal jurisdictions first laid out in the British North America Act, the Canadian federal government assumed responsibility for “Indians”, including a financial responsibility while the Metis were simply not considered.
Since then, and with the creation of the “Indian Act” in 1876 which consolidated many federal regulations concerned with Canada’s aboriginal populations, the Metis were again left out as they were still considered “non-Indian” and as such not federal responsibility.
In 1999 prominent Metis leader Harry Daniels first began a legal challenge to have the Metis included as an aboriginal or “Indian” group in the eyes of the law.
Today’s unanimous 9-0 rulling by the SCC says that the Metis and off-reserve Indians are included in the 1867 definition of the word “Indian” and as such are clearly and constitutionally, a federal responsibility.
This ruling will affect more than 600,000 Metis and other aboriginals who live “off-reserve”.
Both Chris Andersen (professor and interim Dean of the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta), and professor Larry Chartrand (LLM) of the University of Ottawa agree that the ruling does not automatically mean that the government will be financially responsible for what could amount to billions of dollars in support for Metis.
They say what it actually means is that many other legal actions may now be begun between the two parties, (Metis/federal government) to determine such things as rights, benefits, land claims, and even who qualifies as “metis”. Professor Andersen notes that other groups of mixed blood, not necessarily the traditional and politically active Metis of the western prairies are also included in the SCC decision
What it also means however is that it now sets our a clearer first step for what likely will be the beginning of a long process of further legal actions, both individually and collectively for Metis and non-status “Indians” (First Nations) in this country. (Source: Radio Canada)