(Vancouver, BC) –The BC Mètis Federation applauds a Federal Court ruling today that recognizes and reinforces Mètis and non status Indian rights in Canada under section 91(24) of the Canadian Constitution of 1867. The off reserve community is an estimated population of 600,000 and access for health care, education, and other Aboriginal rights have been largely ignored by governments despite Constitutional protection. For years Mètis communities and organizations have called the inequality of defining Aboriginal rights and access as discriminatory. This has led to fighting between a Federal and Provincial Governments disputing about who is legally responsible for the Mètis people of Canada and in British Columbia. Moreover this jurisdictional confusion has also created tension between Mètis and First Nations.
Deceased Mètis leader Harry Daniels led the original legal action in the 1999 when he had sought to have the court clarify whether Ottawa or the Provinces were responsible for the more than 600,000 Aboriginal peoples across Canada who are either Metis or live off-reserve. This case was advanced to address issues such as:
- Access to the same health-care, education and other benefits made available to status Indians;
- Being allowed to hunt, trap, fish and gather on public lands; and,
- The ability to negotiate and enter into treaties with the federal government.
The Daniels case also sought a ruling on the Crown’s “fiduciary duty” to Metis and non-status Indians and asked that the court agree that Metis and non-status Indians have the right to be consulted and negotiated with, in good faith, by the federal government on a collective basis through representatives of their choice, respecting all their rights, interests and needs as Aboriginal peoples.
BC Mètis Federation President Keith Henry stated, “This is a major victory today. Mètis people in British Columbia and Canada have been discriminated against for long enough. Historic Mètis communities in BC such as Kelly Lake have been ignored for years by either government. This ruling solidifies the fact that all Mètis people have rights and deserve equal access as all status Indians. The Federal Government has denied this legal view for years and will likely appeal this latest decision to the Supreme Court of Canada despite verbal assurances that they always want a new relationship. In fact earlier this year a Senate Committee met with organizations across Canada to better understand who is Mètis and one wonders how this work is related to this decision today.”
BC Mètis Federation President Henry further added, “The Federal Government is also obligated to respect who the Mètis community wants to choose as their representation which as significant meaning for Mètis in British Columbia. The Federal Government has ignored calls for Mètis governance reform in British Columbia for years and discriminated against the needs of our people. The Federal Government, through their Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), acts like judge and jury over who they will recognize. This is in backwards, it is up to the people who they decide to represent their needs and the current state of Mètis representation across the country has resulted in years of apathy and dysfunction. As Mètis people we best understand who we want to represent our interests and the interference is further evidence of discrimination.” BC Metis Federation President Henry concluded; “On behalf of our communities and members I want to thank the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and their team for advancing this very important case. I also want to acknowledge the late Harry Daniels who passed away fighting to address this discrimination across Canada. What is important now is assuring on reserve First Nation leaders that this decision cannot be a game in the future where the Federal Government plays off reserve interests against on reserve. This is typically what happens in a divide and conquer process and we as Aboriginal leaders must ensure that we are all working together to not allow the Federal Government to attempt such actions. Moreover this latest Federal Court ruling further stresses the need for Mètis across Canada to carefully consider who is representing your interests and how your voice is being heard. The ruling recognized that you have a choice, it is not up to government funded agencies alone. I believe the Federal Government will further appeal the case and we must be prepared to continue to let this Federal Government know that years of further delay s to address our needs are unacceptable. Today as Mètis and non status Indians we can support this through Idle No More and demand immediate action. ”
BC Mètis Federation will continue to review the situation and provide timely updates.
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BC Métis Federation
Vancouver, BC V5R 5W2
You can follow BC Métis Federation President Keith Henry on twitter @keithhenryMetis
BC Mètis Federation is a provincial nonprofit Mètis representative organization in British Columbia formed in 2011 to address the socio-economic and rights based needs of Mètis people. Today BC Mètis Federation represents the interests of approximately 6300 Mètis people throughout British Columbia. This includes agreements with Mètis community organizations in Kelly Lake, Surrey, Vancouver, North Saanich, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Williams Lake, Langley, and Prince George. Individual BC Mètis Federation membership reached throughout BC and a number of service delivery agreements have been signed with Mètis agencies who have agreed to serve the needs of BC Mètis Federation members.