Canada’s Metis and non-status Indians are hoping their 16-year court case will finally be resolved at the Supreme Court of Canada, where they’re pushing for official recognition under the Constitution Act, along with access to all the government programs and services that entails.
Dwight Dorey, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, championed the cause of Metis and non-status Indians at the Supreme Court on Thursday, as he pushed for more “clarity” and “equality” under Section 91 (24) of the Constitution Act.
Dorey is hoping to obtain official status for the estimated 600,000 people he represents. He’s also pushing for clarity on whether Metis and non-status Indians fall under the jurisdiction of the federal or provincial governments.
“In the past, federal and provincial governments tend to toss that ball back and forth, so we’re looking for clarity through the Supreme Court case,” Dorey told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday. He added that the push for official status is “a matter of due respect, it’s a matter of recognition, and it’s a matter of not being forgotten anymore.”
Dorey is also pushing for more equality in how the federal government consults with Aboriginal groups. “All aboriginal designated groups and organizations have a right to be consulted and negotiated with,” he said.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act reaffirms the rights of Aboriginal people, but it does not define them. Dorey wants to address that, and have Metis and non-status Indians included in the definition.
Dorey says he and his fellow plaintiffs knew the case would take at least 10 years when they launched it, but that 10 years has stretched to 16. He blamed the federal government for the delay, and accused federal officials of trying to get the case thrown out through a series of “blocking attempts” and “legal wranglings.”
In 2011, a Federal Court ruled that Metis and non-status Indians fall under federal jurisdiction, but the federal government appealed the case. Three years later, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that Metis could stay under federal jurisdiction, but non-status Indians could not.