Frequently Asked: Post Powley Questions

How do we define a Métis community?

This is a difficult question that does not have a straight forward answer. The word "community" can be used in many different ways. It can be used to refer to a collective of individuals in one town or a larger regional collective identity or even the Métis Nation as a whole.

In Powley, the Court said that a "Métis community can be defined as a group of Métis with a distinctive collective identity living together in the same geographic area and sharing a common way of life." The Court found that there is a Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie, but it did not deny the possibility that this community may be a part of larger regional community or a distinct Aboriginal people. As well, in Blais, the Court said that Mr. Blais is "a member of the Manitoba Métis community". Issues with respect to identifying the extent of the local and regional communities that make up the Métis Nation will need to be determined through research, consultations with Métis citizens, and discussions with governments.

What are the Metis National Council doing following the release of the Powley decision?

Prior to the release of the Supreme Court's decision in Powley, the Metis National Council, on behalf of its Governing Members, had written to Canada requesting that a multilateral meeting involving the Metis Nation, Canada and provincial governments from Ontario westward be convened to discuss Metis harvesting and access to resources related issues. Further, the Metis National Council has made a request to the Federal Interlocutor for Metis to provide immediate resources in order to engage in a series of post-Powley transition initiatives (i.e. consultations with the Metis community, identification of Metis, development of Metis regulatory regimes, etc.). To date, the Federal Interlocutor has not formally responded on behalf of Canada. However, please check the Metis National Council's website regularly at for updates. As well, please contact your respective Governing Member for additional information specific to your province. Finally, each Governing Member is at various stages of discussions and/or negotiations with their respective provincial government on Metis harvesting and access to resource issues. Inquiries on the status of these initiatives should be directed to your respective Governing Member.

Does this case apply only to Sault Ste. Marie?

No. The Supreme Court set out a test for how a Métis community establishes a s. 35 right to hunt, as well as, who can exercise that right to hunt. This test will be applied to communities throughout the Métis Nation Homeland.

Is the Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie a "Métis people" by themselves?

No. The Court only decided that the Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie has an existing right to hunt protected by s. 35. In fact, the Court explicitly said that it did not decide "whether this community [Sault Ste. Marie] is also a Métis "people", or whether it forms part of a larger people that extends over a wider area...".

The Métis Nation maintains its position that it is a distinct Aboriginal people in Canada recognized in s. 35. Sault Ste. Marie and other Métis communities throughout the historic Métis Nation Homeland are a part of the larger Métis Nation. These communities share a common history, language, way of life, culture and kinship connections to form a distinct "people" based on international law standards.

We didn't win Blais - does this mean Métis in the Prairie Provinces do not have harvesting rights?

No, Blais does not mean that. The loss in Blais just means that Manitoba Métis and likely Métis in Saskatchewan and Alberta cannot claim the additional constitutional protection for harvesting provided to "Indians" by virtue of the Natural Resources Transfer Agreements. However, based on the Powley test Métis communities in the Prairie Provinces can have harvesting rights protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It is also important to note that the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench (R. v. Morin & Daigneault) has already held that scrip (regardless of its possible effect on Métis land title) did not extinguish Métis harvesting rights.

Does this case only have an effect on provincial governments? Does the federal government have to do anything?

The federal government must respond to the Powley decision as well. Regardless of jurisdictional issues, the federal government cannot continue to deny or ignore the existence of Metis rights. All governments in Canada have a constitutional obligation to accommodate Aboriginal rights by ensuring their actions do not unjustifiably infringe on those rights.

Specifically, Metis communities throughout the Metis Nation Homeland may have existing harvesting rights on federal lands (National Parks, Department of National Defence Air Ranges) or on lands and resources shared between federal, provincial and territorial governments. These Metis harvesting rights must be accommodated. As well, existing federal policies, legislation and positions will need to be re-evaluated in light of the Powley decision. With these new realities, the Court's direction on the urgent need to identify Metis right holders engages the federal government as well.

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