JANUARY 10, 2013
DEREK BEDRY~Alaska Highway News
Following an Ontario judge’s ruling that Métis and non-reservation-dwelling Aboriginal people should be extended the same rights as those who qualify under the Indian Act, members of Fort St. John’s Métis Society are celebrating – with some hesitancy. “The recognition of Métis and non-status Indian as Indians under section 91(24) should accord a further level of respect and reconciliation by removing the constitutional uncertainty surrounding these groups,” ruled Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan yesterday. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, along with Métis and non-status Aboriginals, launched a case in 1999 against the federal government alleging discrimination. They argued they are entitled to the rights to use public land, health services, education and other benefits enjoyed by Aboriginal peoples affiliated with reservations.
Paulette Flamond, a member of the Fort St. John Métis Society, said she did a Métis jig when she heard the news Tuesday night. “I see it as a huge victory,” Flamond said. “We’re not asking for free things – we’re just asking for recognition that we are part of this whole aboriginal framework, the mosaic that makes up aboriginal people in this country.”
Flamond said her great-grandfather enfranchised – gave up Indian Act rights – so he could enlist in the country’s military, which is why she herself does not have Indian status. “I have all the beliefs, I have dedicated my life to working with Indian people. However I was raised in the Métis tradition so I don’t want to give up my heritage. I want the rights because we’ve always been discriminated against. I was never Indian enough and I was never white enough. So I grew up very discriminated, my entire family did.”
Métis Society president Arlene Lylyk agreed.
“We won’t be called half-breeds anymore,” Lylyk said. “It’s such an insulting word. I’d say I was Indian and people would say, ‘Well prove it.’ And I’d take out my Métis card, ‘Well you’re a half breed.’ I’ve always said I was Indian. My first cousins are full status and here I am running around saying I’m Indian, ‘Well no you’re not. You’re half breed.’ It’s insulting.” Flamond said the decision goes a long way to reconciliation from the government with Métis people, but is wary of the government’s right to appeal.
“Adding another 600,000 people to healthcare, education, hunting and fishing? The government must just be reeling today,” she said.
Flamond sees the decision as part of changing awareness about not only the rights of Aboriginal peoples, but all Canadians, particularly in the context of the Idle No More movement.
“I think this Idle No More movement is a really big, significant advantage to our causes,” she said. “I love that it’s being done as a peaceful protest and it’s being recognized around the word. It’s opening eyes to the conditions in our country for aboriginals, and other countries are stepping in, and that we have been treated so badly that enough is enough. I really believe that 2013 is going to be the best year ever.” She said that because Idle No More is focused on opposing Bill C-45 in its entirety, “the government is going to have to stop making decisions for all Canadians without consultation.” But Lylyk reflected soberly on the place of Tuesday’s good news among such recent developments. “It’s just the waiting game now, to see if it’s going to be appealed and see where it’s going to go from there,” she said.
As an Aboriginal person with Indian status, Yvonne Tupper, a Chetwynd liaison for the Northern Health Aboriginal Patient program, said she felt more was merrier. “To me that’s great, that’s more people to help our cause. For me it means the government no longer saying you’re not native enough to have status. It’s been a long hard fight for the Métis to obtain status. I’m happy for them.”
Link to Alaska Highway News Article ~ January 10th 2013