Are Métis in BC tax exempt in view of the Daniel's case?

No, Métis citizens are not PST or GST tax exempt.

What is the Supreme Court of Canada Daniels decision about?

The plaintiffs originally requested the court issue three (3) declarations pertaining to Métis and non-status Indian people in Canada:

1)     Recognition and inclusion as “Indians” in s 91 (24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

2)     That the Queen (in right of Canada) owes a fiduciary duty to Métis and non-status Indians as Aboriginal people.

3)     The Métis and non-status Indian people of Canada have a right to be consulted and negotiated with, by the federal government on a collective basis through representatives of their own choice.

Key elements of the judgement by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the three (3) declarations issued on April 14, 2016:

Declaration #1

  • A declaration that Métis and Non-Status Indians are within the term “Indians” in Section 91(24) is issued. (para. 58)
  • The declaration has practical utility to end the “jurisdictional tug-of-war” (para. 15).  The Court acknowledged that the current situation has left Métis and non-status Indian communities in a “jurisdictional wasteland” so an answer to the question is necessary (para. 13).  An answer to the question will allow these groups to hold government “accountable for the inadequate status quo” and “guarantee both certainty and accountability” (para. 15)
  • Section 91(24) is about the federal governments relationship with all of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples—this includes the Métis and Non-Status Indians (para. 49). Section 91(24) and s. 35 should be read together in order to advance reconciliation.  
  • Constitutional changes, apologies for historic wrongs and appreciation of Aboriginal peoples as partners in Confederation all indicate that reconciliation with all of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is Parliaments goal (para 37).  
  • There is no doubt that the Métis are a distinct people (para. 42).  No need to delineate between which mixed ancestry communities are Métis and which are non status—they are both “Indians” within s. 91(24) (para. 46)  Whether a community is non-status Indian and Métis will be worked out on a case-by-case basis. (para. 47)
  • Section 91(24) has a different purpose that s. 35.  Section 91(24) is about the federal governments relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.  Section 35 deals with the recognition and affirmation or rights and claims.  (para. 49).
  • The Court goes out of its way to note that Métis and Non-Status Indian inclusion in s. 91(24) does not mean that all provincial legislation with respect to these groups are ultra vires (i.e., outside of the authority of provincial legislatures).  This means that the Alberta Métis Settlements legislation is not problematic or inconsistent with Métis inclusion in s. 91(24).

Declaration #2

  • The Crown is in a fiduciary relationship with all Aboriginal peoples, including, the Métis and Non-Status Indians.  Delgamuukw and MMF already recognize that this fiduciary relationship based on Indigenous pre-existence.  As such, granting the second declaration would be redundant. (paras. 43, 53) 

Declaration #3

There is already a Crown duty to negotiate with Métis and Non-Status Indian communities recognized in law. Haida, Tsilquotin and Powley already recognize a context specific duty to negotiate when Aboriginal rights are engaged. As such, granting the third declaration would be redundant. (para 56)

Does this decision mean Métis Citizens are entitled to the same benefits as Indians?

The Supreme Court of Canada ruling did not make any orders to begin providing benefits such as medical, dental, housing, tax exemptions etc. Such issues would possibly form the basis of future negotiations with government but it is too early to say when such issues would be on the table.

Did the Supreme Court define who the Métis people are?

No, in fact the Court states that it is only speaking of the Métis in s. 35 in general terms. The Court only set out three broad factors (self-identification, ancestral connection and community acceptance) to be used in identifying who can exercise a Métis community's s. 35 right to hunt. It remains the position of the Métis Nation that the right to determine who are members of the Métis Nation can only be exercised by the people themselves; however, in order to exercise a Métis community's s. 35 right to hunt, the Métis identification elements of the current legal test set out by the Supreme Court in Powley, must be met.

Is there anything I should know about the decision?

MNBC will be adding more questions and answers as they are received.

What does a “fiduciary duty” mean?

A “fiduciary duty” is a legal obligation of one party to act in the best interest of another.  The Daniels decision stated the following in the decision; “The Court is not prepared to make some general statement concerning fiduciary duty. Given the declaration of right in respect of s 91 (24), one would expect the federal government would act in accordance with whatever duty arises in respect of any specific matter touching on the non-clarified fiduciary relationship”.

What does the April 14, 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling mean for Métis Citizens in BC?

In a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest Court in the land has ruled that Canada has a constitutional and jurisdictional responsibility for Métis under s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. This decision in the Daniels case is a huge victory for all Métis people, including our Métis people here in British Columbia because the federal government must now step up to the plate and negotiate in good faith with the Métis Nation. MNBC will also be engaging with the Province of British Columbia on the implications of this decision.

Métis wanted to be included in s. 91(24) because uncertainty about jurisdiction for Métis has been used by Canada to avoid dealing with Métis rights, interests and needs. With the Supreme Court decision, that uncertainty no longer exists.

What other s. 35 rights do the Métis people have?

It is important to remember that the Powley case is only about the Métis right to hunt. However, the Court said that the general purpose of s. 35 for the Métis is to protect the "practices that were historically important features of these distinctive communities and that persist in the present day as integral elements of their Métis culture." Achieving certainty on other Métis rights protected in s. 35 will come through negotiations between the Métis and governments in Canada and/or litigation.