Supreme Court to rule today on Metis, off reserve aboriginal rights

By on April 14, 2016

(Photo from Wikipedia)
(Photo from Wikipedia)

OTTAWA—The Supreme Court of Canada will deliver a ruling today that will affect the relationship between the federal government and 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Indians across the country.

The court will rule on whether the federal government has the same responsibility to them as to status Indians and Inuit.

Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, says the ruling should finally settle whether Metis and non-status Indians should receive the same programs, services and rights as First Nations and Inuit.

Jason Madden, a lawyer with the Metis National Council, says a favourable ruling would mean federal policies would have to be updated.

But Dorey cautioned there would have to be negotiations on what happens next.

He says the ruling would also affect provinces and municipalities that currently provide services for Metis and Indians who live off reserves.

“Hopefully it is going to open doors for our people because we have been discriminated against for decades,” he said.

“The ball gets tossed back and forth between federal and provincial jurisdictions as to who holds the responsibility. This decision is hopefully going to clarify that.”

The congress—along with several individuals—went to court in 1999 to allege discrimination because they were not considered “Indians” under the Constitution.

The Federal Court recognized them as Indians in 2013, but refused to rule the Crown had fiduciary duties and a duty to consult and negotiate with Metis and non-status Indians.

And while the Federal Court of Appeal upheld part of the decision, ruling Metis should remain Indians under the Constitution, it said extending that recognition to non-status Indians should be done on a case-by-case basis.

Both the congress and the federal government appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.