Special Representative Report Released on Section 35 Métis Rights
(Vancouver, BC) BC Metis Federation is pleased that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has released the report by Thomas Isaac, Ministerial Special Representative on Reconciliation with Métis: Section 35 Métis Rights and the Manitoba Métis Federation Decision entitled “A Matter of National and Constructional Import.” This is the latest document that continues to reinforce the responsibility by Governments to recognize Métis people, our rights, governance, and honour of the crown to clarify the process now and into the future. It is important to note that INAC has not committed to implementing this report at this time.
The BC Metis Federation engaged in meetings with Thomas Isaac, Ministerial Special representative on Reconciliation with Métis and spent time with Mr. Isaac July 22nd, 2015 in Vancouver. On a biographical note, Mr. Isaac has represented industry and government clients before the Supreme Court of Canada, Federal Court of Canada, Ontario Court of Appeal, Ontario Divisional Court, British Columbia Court of Appeal, British Columbia Supreme Court, Northwest Territories Supreme Court, Yukon Supreme Court, National Energy Board, Ontario Energy Board and British Columbia Environmental Appeal Board. He is a former Chief Treaty Negotiator for the Government of British Columbia and former Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for establishing Nunavut for the Government of the Northwest Territories. He also served in a senior capacity with the Government of Saskatchewan dealing with Aboriginal issues.
The Isaac report provides seventeen (17) recommendations and a summary of engagement with Métis organizations, provincial and territorial governments and other interested parties to help build a process for dialogue on Section 35 Métis rights. The goal was to explore how to best move forward with partners toward the development of a Section 35 Metis rights framework. Views of Métis organizations and provincial and territorial governments were the primary focus of the engagement.
Within the report 17 important key recommendations provide direction to the Government of Canada to engage our Métis communities, although noted in Mr. Isaac’s report, “I met with the Government of British Columbia who expressed a desire to continue to work with MNBC and other Métis in British Columbia, but also stated clearly that they do not believe that there are Métis rights-bearing communities that would meet the criteria set out in Powley. Because of this position, British Columbia does not consult with Métis regarding assertions of Section 35 Métis rights. “
The BC Métis Federation continues to assert the importance of accurate historical research of Métis in British Columbia. An important key recommendation that will assist future negotiations is noted in the report. According to Mr. Isaac, “It is further recommended that Canada should continue to contribute to historical research data collection relating to Métis history to facilitate the identification of Métis within the meaning of Section 35.”
BC Métis Federation President Keith Henry stated, “to start out, Canada’s decision to appoint a Ministerial Special Representative on the subject of Métis section 35 rights is appreciated. I think Tom Isaac’s exhaustive research is very appreciated. Given the extensive report I agree with the majority of the recommendations contained in the report. However, while I agree that Canada should assist by providing funding for identification of Métis rights holders INAC must ensure all Métis organizations are properly supported.
• I would reject recommendation #7 as there is no clear reason that the MNC and its governing members should be given priority in terms of section 35 rights.
• Recommendation #16 is disappointing for similar reasons as #7. Métis section 35 rights are not political. There is no reason that the Métis National Council (MNC) and its associated organizations should be given priority in any future negotiations.
• On the MMF v Canada decision, it should be emphasized that the Crown’s honour can only be restored if all potential claimants are considered. That is to say, descendants of the historical Métis community in Manitoba must be part of the negotiations process regardless of their current residence and membership status within the MMF. Some of these descendants are members of the BC Métis Federation.”
BC Métis Federation President Henry concluded, “There is much work to be done in cooperation and partnership to advance this important dialogue on Métis rights and interests with INAC and all levels of government. The report continues to recognize the role of the BC Métis Federation and our assertion of Métis rights and we will be seeking clarification on next steps with INAC shortly. This report along with recent court decisions such as the Daniels Case continue to recognize the legal and programming rights for all Métis in Canada. BC Métis Federation looks forward to continued positive dialogue and engagement with INAC and the Provincial Government.
To read the report “A Matter of National and Constructional Import” view the BC Métis Federation website www.bcmetis.com.
Keith Henry, President
BC Métis Federation
Vancouver, BC V5R 5W2
Office 1-604-638-7220 Cell 1-778-388-5013
You can now follow BC Métis Federation President Keith Henry on twitter @keithhenryMetis
You can follow BC Métis Federation on twitter @BCMétis