Important Victory for the Métis!
Posted by MNBC on
(NEWS ARCHIVES) April 14, 2016 - 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. The decision in the Daniels case which was released today 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.
Justice Abella speaking for a unanimous Court stated (in part) “…Both federal and provincial governments have, alternately, denied having legislative authority over non-status Indians and Métis. This results in these Indigenous communities being in a jurisdictional wasteland with significant and obvious disadvantaging consequences. While finding Métis and non-status Indians to be “Indians” under s. 91(24) does not create a duty to legislate, it has the undeniably salutary benefit of ending a jurisdictional tug-of-war.”
In reacting to the 27 page decision, MNBC President Bruce Dumont said, “As President of Métis Nation British Columbia, I am so proud and thankful to be Métis and to represent Métis people in our province. All Métis should feel great pride today given this decision because the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed what the federal government has disputed for the last nearly 150 years – that the federal government has an obligation to recognize and accept it has unfulfilled obligations to the Métis people in this country. It is now time to get on with that task.
President Dumont also said, “We helped build this country, and our ancestors beginning in the 1700’s played pivotal roles in helping to make British Columbia part of Confederation. Métis have always worked hard and contributed to this great country – now it is time for our federal government and our provincial government to accept this important legal ruling and to begin the task of reconciliation.
CBC Radio is quoting the Prime Minister on the decision. “This is a landmark ruling that will have broad consequences and impacts," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding that the government will need to study what those impacts might be. And he added, “But I can guarantee you one thing, the path forward will be together as we move forward."
MNBC will be reviewing all 27 pages of the decision over the next few days, and will be working closely with the other members of the MNC Board of Governors to continue on the path of reconciliation with Canada, while at the same time MNBC will be moving very quickly to engage with the Government of British Columbia to begin addressing the implications of this important decision on Métis in this province.
The full decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Daniels case can be found at: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/15858/1/document.do
Key elements of the judgement by the SCC:
- 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).
- 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)
- 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)
For questions on how the Decision will affect Métis people in BC - CLICK HERE
The MNBC represents nearly 14,000 registered Métis Citizens and the majority of nearly 70,000 self-identified Métis people in British Columbia. The Métis National Council, and, the Provincial Government of British Columbia as well as the Federal Government of Canada recognizes the MNBC as the official governing organization for Métis in BC.
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Executive Assistant & Communications Officer
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(MNBC) Published: April 14, 2016