Historic ruling favours the Métis
MNO President Lipinski pleased with decision
Click here to read a summary of the MMF v. Canada case by Métis lawyers Jean Teillet and Jason Madden.
Click here to view the CBC story interviewing Métis lawyer Jason Madden for a clear and concise explanation of this ruling.
The Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision in the Manitoba Métis Federation case today. The case concerned obligations to the Métis people that were enshrined in the Manitoba Act, which is a constitutional document.
Canada entered into negotiations with representatives of the Riel’s provisional government. The result was the entry of Manitoba into Confederation in exchange for which Canada made promises to provide 1.4 million acres of land to the Métis. Canada got what it wanted but because of its ongoing delay, the promise to the Métis was “ineffectual and inequitable”. As a result the Métis became a landless aboriginal people.
The court held that the federal government did not act honorably in implementing the constitutional obligation in s. 31 of the Manitoba Act. The court also affirmed that the Manitoba Métis Federation could advance Métis collective claims.
The court said that this left “unfinished business of reconciliation of the Métis people with Canadian sovereignty” and that this is an “ongoing rift in the national fabric” that remains unremedied.
Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) President Gary Lipinski stated that, “this is an important day for the Métis. The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged that there is unfinished business with the Métis and that this includes our land issues. Hopefully the federal government will begin to negotiate with the Métis.”
The entire decision can be viewed at the following link: http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/12888/index.do
The decision has already generated massive media attention across Canada. Below is a CBC article summarizing the case and some links to other articles and videos.
Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/supreme-court-backs-mtis-in-historic-manitoba-land-claim/article9505274/
CTV News (with video): http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/supreme-court-sides-with-metis-in-historic-manitoba-land-claim-dispute-1.1187212
Winnipeg Free Press: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Supreme-Court-rules-in-favour-of-Metis-in-land-claim-case-196303521.html
Métis win historic land dispute ruling in Supreme Court
Manitoba Métis Federation sought declaration of government's failure to implement 1870 land deal
Story originally from CBC news (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/03/08/pol-metis-supreme-court-land-dispute.html)
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the federal government failed in its obligations to the Métis people.
A legal challenge by the Manitoba Métis Federation sought recognition for the treatment of its people after the 1870 government land deal that ended the Red River Rebellion.
The 6-2 ruling in Canada's highest court declared that "the Federal Crown failed to implement the land grant provision set out in s.31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870 in accordance with the honour of the Crown."
The federal government "acted with persistent inattention and failed to act diligently," the ruling explains, adding that it "could and should have done better."
"This was not a matter of occasional negligence, but of repeated mistakes and inaction that persisted for more than a decade," it says.
Writing the reasons for the majority decision, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Andromache Karakatsanis outlined lasting effects of the federal government's failure to honour obligations dating back 140 years.
"So long as the issue remains outstanding, the goal of reconciliation and constitutional harmony, recognized in s. 35 of the Charter and underlying s. 31 of the Manitoba Act, remains unachieved. The ongoing rift in the national fabric that s. 31 was adopted to cure remains unremedied," they wrote.
"The unfinished business of reconciliation of the Métis people with Canadian sovereignty is a matter of national and constitutional import," the ruling says.
Justices Marshall Rothstein and Michael Moldaver dissented from the majority view.
Negotiations now likely
The ruling ends three decades of legal challenges brought by the Métis against the federal government.
Friday's decision has not ordered any particular remedies, but it could open the door to land claim negotiations or talks toward other forms of compensation from the federal government.
The Métis argued that Ottawa reneged on its promises under the Manitoba Act, which created the province and brought it into Confederation.
The Manitoba Act, made in 1870, promised to set aside 5,565 square kilometres of land for 7,000 children of the Red River Métis. That land includes what is now the city of Winnipeg.
The land transfer to the Métis outlined in the Act was to be a "concrete measure" to reconcile with the Métis community, the ruling agrees, calling its "prompt and equitable implementation... fundamental."
The land grants were meant to give the Métis a head start in the race for land in the new province, and that meant the grants had to be made while a head start was still possible, the justices wrote. "Everyone concerned understood that a wave of settlement from Europe and Canada to the east would soon sweep over the province."
The land deal was made in order to settle the Red River Rebellion, which was fought by Métis rebels struggling to hold onto their land amid growing white settlements.
However, it took 15 years for the lands to be completely distributed, while the Métis rebels faced hostility from large numbers of incoming settlers.
Lower courts found in federal government's favour
The federal government ultimately distributed the land through a random lottery, destroying the dream of a Métis homeland.
"Section 31 conferred land rights on yet-to-be-identified individuals – the Métis children," the ruling says. "Yet the record leaves no doubt that it was a promise made to the Métis people collectively, in recognition of their distinct community. The honour of the Crown is thus engaged here."
In 2010, the Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that found the federal government did not violate its duty to the Métis.
The case then went to the Supreme Court of Canada, where lawyers for both sides presented their arguments in December 2011.
The Métis federation requested a declaration that the constitutional agreement was not upheld.
Federal lawyers argued that the case should be thrown out because it is more than a century old. They also said Ottawa didn't actually violate its side of the agreement.
Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand said the ruling provides the vindication the MMF has been fighting for for years. He said he had been fielding emotional phone calls all morning.
“Such pride at home right now, and tears are being shed. They’re crying and they’re phoning,” Chartrand said.
“They can’t even talk on the phone properly because there’s so much joy at home right now.”
Chartrand said it is now time for the group to sit down and negotiate with the government of Canada. He said they have no interest in land but believes they should be compensated for what they have lost.
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