Promises Made, Promises Kept?

Promises Made, Promises Kept
Métis writer Joseph Boyden speaking at the MNO/Law
Society of Ontario Louis Riel Day event

As has happened for the last number of years, on Louis Riel Day this year, the Law Society of Upper Canada partnered with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) to provide public education events related to legal issues surrounding Métis rights.  This year’s program included a panel of three prominent Métis rights lawyers as well as a reading from prominent Métis writer Joseph Boyden.

It was standing room only in the Law Society’s Convocation Hall for the reading from Boyden. A reception preceded the reading, which also included greetings from MNO President Gary Lipinski, Law Society Treasurer Laurie Pawlitza and Ontario Superior Court Justice Todd Ducharme.  Boyden then read from Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont.  Published in 2010, as part of Penguin Book’s Exceptional Canadians services, Boyden’s treatment of Riel and Dumont provided a fresh and sometimes controversial insight into these two seminal figures and how they shaped Canada.

The legal panel discussion took place in the Barristers’ Lounge and also attracted a standing room only crowd.  Entitled “Canada and Riel’s People: Promises Made, Promises Kept?” the panel featured Jean Teillet, who is descended from Louis Riel’s brother and who defended Métis rights in the historic R. v. Powley Supreme Court of Canada case; Jason Madden, Chief Legal Counsel for the MNO and who has been involved in numerous Métis rights cases across the homeland; and Jim Aldridge, who is going before the Supreme Court of Canada on December 13 for Manitoba Métis Federation Inc., et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. (Manitoba)

All three speakers provided excellent historical background on the Métis in Canada as issues of Métis rights are tightly woven into the fabric of Canadian history. Current legal cases involving the Métis inevitably require lawyers to establish that long-held Métis rights have been denied and need to be restored. Madden cut a wide swath through history discussing the implications to Métis rights of scrip, The Dominion Lands Act, The Constitution Act, 1982, Powley and reconciliation processes with First Nations as well as R. v. Hirsekorn, an Alberta Harvesting Case that he is currently litigating on behalf of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Referring to a wealth of historical documentation, Teillet demonstrated how Ontario Métis had actively pursued their rights with various colonial governments and officials and explained the relevance of this history to current Métis rights cases. Her presentation clearly demonstrated the need to learn more about Métis history in Ontario.

Aldridge provided an exhaustive review of the upcoming Manitoba Métis Federation case, which has been ongoing since 1981. He explained how the Provisional Métis Government had successfully negotiated Manitoba’s entry into Confederation and won various concessions from the federal government. He went on to explain how the majority of 1.4 million acres of land that was to go to the Métis was never properly awarded, which is the basis of the MMF case to the Supreme Court.

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