Métis in Canada Demand Harper Meeting as Court Upholds Status Ruling
In the wake of a Métis rights case 15 years in the making being vindicated by Canada's highest appeals court, the president of the Métis National Council has called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately enter “government to government talks” with descendants of mixed indigenous and European ancestry.
On Wednesday April 16, the federal court of appeals rejected an appeal by the Conservative government seeking to overturn last year's landmark decision in the 1999 “Daniels case,” which sought to allow Métis people and those who are not enrolled as members of specific First Nations to be given status under the Indian Act. Just over a year ago, the original court declared that, under the country's 1867 constitution, Ottawa must take responsibility for the Métis and thus has an obligation to extend the same social services and legal status as it does for Inuit people and First Nations.
The appeal decision was immediately applauded by the Métis National Council, whose president announced he would write Harper to request top-level meetings to formally negotiate the relationship between his people and Ottawa. First Nations chiefs as well as Inuit leaders have had similar meetings with federal officials.
“Ottawa’s non-recognition of Métis for jurisdiction purposes never made sense,” said Clément Chartier, in an April 17 statement. “Logic dictates that it should be Canada’s national government that has a special relationship with the Métis, one of the three Aboriginal peoples in the Constitution and one of Canada’s founding nations.”
He added that the Métis had “always believed” Ottawa bore ultimate responsibility on their issues and concerns, but had failed to “show leadership.” Last year's decision—and the most recent appeal rejection—“buttresses this belief,” Chartier said, adding, “The federal government can no longer shrug its shoulders and assume that Métis matters will be dealt with by others."
There are at least 450,000 Métis across Canada, and according to the ruling by Justice Eleanor Dawson, they were always meant to be “included as 'Indians' ” under the section of the Constitution laying out federal versus provincial authority. Fellow Supreme Court judges Johanne Trudel and Marc Noel agreed.
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