MNBC Responds to Report from Minister’s Special Representative

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Ministerial Special Representative Lays Out Roadmap for Reconciliation with Métis

(Surrey – July 21, 2016) - President Dumont has responded to today’s 47 page report from Ministerial Special Representative Tom Isaac stating, “The Ministerial Special Representative has done a thorough job in identifying the shortcomings and challenges that Métis people face in being treated equitably and fairly as Section 35 rights-bearing people. The report by Tom Isaac was way overdue, and now governments, especially the federal government, have a roadmap to reconciliation with Métis people”

President Dumont said, “Mr. Isaac zeroes right in on the key issues and makes 17 good and sensible recommendations to the federal government as to how to address the shortcomings for Métis people, including the Crown’s duty to consult Métis people. As he points out, it is the law of the land, and I would note that the Government of British Columbia needs to follow this law.”

We were very pleased with how engaging Mr. Isaac was when he met with MNBC’s Working Group on Métis rights last year, and he has captured all of our issues in his report”, said President Dumont, and he added “Given the positive working relationship already established between the Métis National Council and MNBC and the other Governing Members with the new federal government, I am optimistic that the federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs will move quickly to give serious consideration to the recommendations that Mr. Isaac has made.”  

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Six Key Points in Tom Isaac’s Report –

1.“Reconciliation is more than platitudes and recognition” - “There is a need for reconciliation between the Crown, federal and provincial, and Métis peoples. This need represents not a challenge but an appreciable opportunity for Canada, and provincial and territorial governments, to reconcile with Métis peoples and to re-calibrate their relationships with Métis, recognize and celebrate Métis rights and culture within the context of Canada’s larger history, and resolve outstanding Métis claims.

Reconciliation is more than platitudes and recognition. Reconciliation flows from the constitutionally protected rights of Métis protected by Section 35 and is inextricably tied to the honour of the Crown, and must be grounded in practical actions.”

2. On the lack of knowledge about Métis rights - “During the course of the engagement process numerous instances of a gap in knowledge about the existing status of Métis and their rights under Canadian law were observed, within the federal system generally and among some of the provinces with whom I met.

For example, a few individuals noted the misconception that treaty rights “trump” Métis rights, even though there is no law that supports, and existing law contradicts, this proposition…Also heard was a suggestion that there is some hierarchy of rights within Section 35, e.g. the rights of First Nations supercede the rights of Métis, even though there is no law supporting this proposition.”

3. “Powley must be the starting point for any Section 35 Métis rights framework.” “What this means practically is that while the process of engagement that Canada follows to establish a Section 35 Métis rights framework should be broad and flexible, it should not be confused with the actual application of any Section 35 Métis rights framework, which should be focused on, as the phrase suggests, Métis that come within the meaning of Section 35, and the test set out by the SCC [Supreme Court of Canada] in Powley.”

4. The Duty to Consult Métis – “…there is no doubt that, at law, the Crown’s duty to consult Aboriginal peoples applies to Métis. This conclusion is consistent with the SCC’s purposive approach to interpreting Section 35 generally. The SCC in Powley confirmed that Métis rights and interests are recognized and affirmed based on a purposive interpretation of Section 35 and the SCC confirmed in Haida that the Crown’s duty to consult applies to Aboriginal peoples, which includes Métis.”

5. Provincial Governments and the Powley Test – “A number of provincial governments expressed their dissatisfaction with the Powley test and that they are of the view that there remains significant ambiguity as to who is “Métis” for the purposes of Section 35. While determining who is Métis for the purposes of Section 35 is not as straight forward as making an inquiry to the Indian Registrar, the SCC has set out the test for determining who is “Métis” for the purposes of Section 35 and governments are bound to apply this law. Simply because a task is difficult or challenging or may have some ambiguities around its edges, cannot be a reasonable reason for not addressing what is a constitutional imperative and an important matter of public policy.

6. The Need to Designate programs and services as Métis-specific – “It is in the best interests of Canada that it designate programs and services or parts thereof, as may be appropriate, as Métis-specific so as to be able to track success on the road to reconciliation with Métis peoples and treat Métis as distinct Section 35 rights-bearing peoples…given that Métis make up approximately one-third of all Aboriginal peoples in Canada, any serious attempt at reconciliation with Métis by Canada must include a comprehensive review and re-calibration of federal programs and services to ensure that Métis are being materially and equitably considered and recognized.”

RELATED LINKS

Background Information and Report

View Background to Report Here: Ministerial Special Representative on Section 35 Métis Rights and the Manitoba Métis Federation Land Claim Case

View the Report Here: A Matter of National and Constitutional Import: Report of the Minister's Special Representative on Reconciliation with Métis: Section 35 Métis Rights and the Manitoba Metis Federation Decision

Click HERE for Minister's News Release: Minister Bennett Welcomes Thomas Isaac Report on Reconciliation with Métis

MNBC Media contact:

Tracey Thornhill
Executive Assistant and Communications Officer
604-317-9585