Supreme Court Rules That Metis, Non-Status Indians Are Federal Responsibility


Bruce Dumont, president of the BC Metis Nation, left, Audrey Poitras, president of the Alberta Metis Nation, front, and Gerald Morin, vice president of the Saskatchewan Metis Nation, right, celebrate after a decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Thursday, April 14, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Press, April 14, 2016

OTTAWA — Canada’s 600,000 Metis and non-status Indians are indeed “Indians” under the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Canada declared Thursday in a long-awaited landmark decision more than 15 years in the making.

“It is the federal government to whom they can turn,” the unanimous 9-0 ruling said.

The high court was also asked to rule on whether the federal government has the same responsibility to them as to status Indians and Inuit, and whether they have a right to be consulted by the government on their rights and needs.

No need, the court said.

“It was already well established in Canadian law that the federal government was in a fiduciary relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples and that the federal government had a duty to consult and negotiate with them when their rights were engaged,” said Justice Rosalie Abella, writing for the court.

“Restating this in declarations would be of no practical utility.”

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples joined with several individuals, including Metis leader Harry Daniels, in taking the federal government to court in 1999 to allege discrimination because they were not considered “Indians” under the Constitution.

Some 17 years later, the ruling is sure to have an impact on the relationship between the federal government and 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Indians across the country.

Daniels died in 2004, and his son Gabriel was added as a plaintiff the following year.

“I’m overwhelmed, I have a heavy heart right now,” an elated Gabriel Daniels said after the decision was handed down.

“I am just thinking about my dad. I’m not going to start crying… He would be climbing the walls ΓǪ he would be happy but he’d be focused on things to come.”

In the moments following the decision, the building’s foyer filled with Metis and aboriginal stakeholders, all of them barely able to contain their delight. As they spoke, whoops of joy and hollers of celebration echoed through the building.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the decision a landmark ruling with broad consequences and said his government will work in partnership with indigenous peoples.

“We, of course, respect the Supreme Court decision and we’ll be engaging, not just on our own but with indigenous leadership to figure out what the path is forward,” he said at a news conference in London, Ont.

“I can guarantee you one thing, the path forward will be together.”

One Metis leader said the ruling would have implications for future negotiations with the government over lucrative natural resources.

Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Metis Community in Alberta, said his community is “completely surrounded” by oilsands development.

“The oilsands and government have always walked over top of us and it’s been hard for us to get any kind of consultation or any type of mediation for that matter with the oil companies,” he said in an interview.

“This is going to allow us to have an actual voice where industry and government have no choice but to work with our people.”

Abella said Thursday’s ruling was another chapter “in the pursuit of reconciliation and redress” in the long history between Canada and its Indigenous People.

“The constitutional changes, the apologies for historic wrongs, a growing appreciation that aboriginal and non-aboriginal people are partners in Confederation . . . all indicate that reconciliation with all of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples is Parliament’s goal,” Abella wrote.

Abella cited the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

The government considered Metis to be Indians as far back as 1818 and the notion was upheld after Confederation, Abella wrote in a ruling that offered a sweeping review of government inquiries and studies of aboriginal relations dating back decades.

“Both federal and provincial governments have, alternately, denied having legislative authority over non-status Indians and Metis,” the ruling said.

“This results in these indigenous communities being in a jurisdictional wasteland with significant and obvious disadvantaging consequences,” it added, which included depriving them of programs, services and other government benefits.

Jason Madden, lawyer for Metis National Council, an intervener, said the ruling was a “game changer” and a “slam dunk” because it upheld the notion that the government has a duty to negotiate with Metis.

“There is no way that the federal government can avoid or hide from this issue any longer,” he said in an interview. “It’s got to be positive negotiations with Metis just as much as there is with First Nations.”


4 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules That Metis, Non-Status Indians Are Federal Responsibility

  1. MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians of South Alabama

    The Original Choctaw Nation of Red People.

    Same story.

    Today the timber companies are stripping our rich forests so thoroughly you can now cut the new grass with a lawn mower.

    It was what The Secretarty of War wrote to Silas Dimsmore as the Theory and the Practice.

    In theory the United States has an obligation to Native Americans as a Guardian to a Ward.

    In practice the War Department now called the Bureau of Indian Affairs is determined to annihilate the Native American Indian Race through well known genocidal technique.

    They use the blood quantum to dilute the Nation.

    They use the divide and conquer technique which has been deadly effective for over 200 plus years now.

    They move towns, cities, rivers, and landmarks by renaming them and references and then create new places to match the names of the old.

    Examples include:

    Washington (City)


    New York







    We are fighting for our Sovereignty in Court today.

    The Federal Courts in the United States already ruled that Non-Federally Recognized Tribes are Sovereign in Taylor v Alabama Intertribal Council which finally
    was a victory in 2001 and the Supreme Court reviewed and saw no reason to try and completed its decision in 2002.

    The United States Federal Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General also reviewed the case which involved discrimination a black female who was overlooked when an under-qualified Native American Male was given the job instead. The determination was that the Alabama Inter-Tribal Council which consisted of entirely non-Federally Recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Chiefs of State of Alabama Recognized Tribes possessed the same Inherent Sovereignty as the Chiefs of the non-Federally Recognized Tribes who are only State Recognized. They are Inherently Soveriegn as Indians because they are Indians. Period.

    It’s genocide on paper and in practice.

    We are fighting today as the Choctaw Nation.

    Darby Weaver
    Tribal Leader


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