Local Métis given rights update

Article originally posted by Fort Francis Times and can be viewed at: http://fftimes.com/node/258980

The time is coming for the federal government to find reconciliation with local Métis.

That was the message delivered to the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Sunset Country Métis community Sunday during a meeting to update the implications of recent court decisions regarding Métis rights.

In an interview Monday, Métis rights lawyer Jason Madden said the Manitoba Metis Federation land claim case that came down from the Supreme Court of Canada in March, along with Daniels v. Canada back in January, recognize that Métis are under federal jurisdiction the same way that First Nations are.

“When you put these cases together, those same types of promises made to the Métis in Manitoba were made to the Métis in this community,” Madden noted.

“So specifically, there’s the Half-Breed Adhesion to Treaty #3, which was to provide lands, as well as annuities [and] as well as the benefits of Treaty #3, to the Métis,” he explained.

“That promise hasn’t been fulfilled.

“What we were talking to the community about [Sunday] is now we have this court case from the Supreme Court of Canada saying, ‘When the Crown has not fulfilled its promises to Métis, negotiations are required,’” he noted.

“But if the Crown refuses to negotiate, you can resort to the courts in order to ensure those promises, no matter how late they were [fulfilled].”

Madden said the Manitoba Metis Federation land claim stems back to 1870 while locally, the Half-Breed Adhesion was signed in 1875.

“We’re talking to the community about what they want to do with those issues because what the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized is that there is unfinished business with the Manitoba Metis, but there’s also unfinished business with Métis here in Fort Frances,” he remarked.

“We had a good discussion, and we’re going to be talking about how we can use these court cases to assist or also to advance Métis rights in Fort Frances.”

Madden said the Daniels case is set to be appealed by the federal government before the Federal Court of Appeal, with a hearing scheduled in October.

With the Daniels case, the federal court made a declaration that Métis are included in Section 91 (24) of the Constitution, which sets out what the federal government has responsibilities for.

Historically, Métis have been a “political football,” said Madden, noting the federal government says they don’t have responsibility for them, the province says the same, and the Métis have fallen behind and not had their rights dealt with in a respectful way.

“What is at issue in the appeal is upholding that declaration,” he stressed.

“I think everyone is of the mind that we’ll ultimately be at the Supreme Court of Canada, but what we wanted the community to know is we’re on a certain trajectory here and the time is coming for reconciliation to happen with the Métis,” he explained.

“This community, with such a strong history, is well-positioned and needs to push forward on advancing that agenda.”

The MNO is seeking party status in the appeal to ensure Ontario Métis are well-represented. But more importantly, that in the Daniels case, this community specifically receives high recognition as a distinct Métis community within the Métis nation.

“There’s a lot of exciting developments going on,” noted Madden.

“Métis rights litigation is running about 20 years behind where First Nation rights litigation is, and now you’re really starting to see successive victories for the Métis.”

Starting with the Powley case in 2003, and now more recently with the Supreme Court of Canada-MMF case, Madden said these rulings show that reconciliation can’t just happen with Inuit and First Nations’ people; it has to happen with Métis, as well.

“We hope we’ll see some progress with those issues in the future,” he added.

Madden spoke Sunday at the Métis Hall here along with MNO president Gary Lipinski.

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