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Federal Court rules Métis and non-status Indians are "Indians"

Federal Court decision
Métis Nation of Saskatchewan reaction
Author: 
Windspeaker Staff
Volume: 
30
Issue: 
11
Year: 
2013

Online exclusive

Métis leader Harry Daniels, the plaintiff in the case, had sought to have the court clarify whether Ottawa or the provinces were responsible for the more than 600,000 Aboriginal peoples ( 400,000 Métis and 200,000 non-status) across Canada who live off-reserve.

This decision will redefine Aboriginal policy.

Daniels wanted all Natives, regardless of whether they were Métis or lived on a reserve, to be declared “Indians” according to the legal definition. That request was granted Tuesday.

The Daniels case sought a ruling on the Crown’s "fiduciary duty" to Métis and non-status Indians. And the case also asked that the court agree that Métis and non-status Indians "have the right to be consulted and negotiated with, in good faith, by the federal government on a collective basis through representatives of their choice, respecting all their rights, interests and needs as Aboriginal peoples."

Those two requests were dismissed by the court. The ruling stated, however, that fiduciary responsibilities will flow automatically now that the status of the groups in question has been clarified.

The federal government issued the following statement:

"We are reviewing the court's decision to determine the next steps. As the Federal Court stated, this decision is not about 'the interpretation or application of particular rights either under the Constitution or under specific agreements, nor is it about aboriginal rights,'" said a statement from Jan O'Driscoll, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

"Our Government continues to work in partnership with all aboriginals across Canada to address shared priorities such as education, economic development and jobs."

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and several Métis and non-status Indians took the federal government to court in 1999 alleging discrimination because they were not considered "Indians" under a section of the Constitution Act.

They argued they are entitled to some or all of the same rights and benefits as First Nations peoples living on reserves, including access to the same health, education and other benefits Ottawa gives status Indians, such as being able to hunt, trap, fish and gather on public land.

Sadly, Harry Daniels did not live to witness this historic ruling in the case in which he is named, as he passed away in 2004.
Read more on Harry Daniels:

Remembering Harry "Qimmiq" Daniels http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/remembering-harry-qimmiq-daniels

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