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On September 19, 2003, after ten years of litigation, the Supreme Court of Canada, in an unanimous judgement, declared that Steve and Roddy Powley members of the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community had the Métis right to harvest and that this right is protected under section 35 of The Constitution Act, 1982. Because the Powleys had the courage of their convictions, Métis rights were recognized and affirmed by the Supreme Court for the first time.
Every year on September 19, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) holds Powley Day, to recognize that the ground breaking Powley decision ushered in a whole new era of Métis rights in Ontario and across the Métis Homeland. Especially important at this time of the year, are the Métis harvesting rights, which are now recognized by the Province of Ontario through our harvesting agreement. MNO citizens take time on Powley Day to reflect on the pride that each of us feels when we look at what has been accomplished.
To recognize that 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the landmark Powley decision, the MNO is holding special commemorations in conjunction with this year’s Louis Riel Day ceremonies in Toronto on November 15. Part of this recognition will include a seminar where I will be joined by a panel of distinguished lawyers and scholars who will discuss the significance of the Powley case; past, present and future. It will feature a screening of the final version of The Métis Nation of Ontario: 1993-2013 , the documentary film about the history of the MNO that also highlights the Powley case. In addition there will be a celebratory feast where those who played important roles in the Powley case are recognized. More information about these events will be posted on the MNO website in the coming days.
This fall, as you participate in the harvest or in MNO community council events celebrating the harvest season, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how the Powley decision has raised the profile of the Métis, and contributed to the recognition of our rights as a distinct Aboriginal people within Canada. The affirmation of the right to harvest is a component critical to the already rich fabric that defines Métis culture.
It is fair to say that in spite of a tremendous amount of hard work and sacrifice of many Métis, our pursuit for full recognition of Métis rights continues. There is still much work to be done with the province and especially with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in ensuring the acceptance of those rights when they are asserted. We will continue to push forward on the priority issues that you have raised with your Captains of the Hunt, your Provisional Council of the MNO (PCMNO) representative or myself. We will continue to report progress and movement as it occurs, however each of us must do all we can to ensure that the collective rights of Métis to harvest is preserved through responsible management of the Métis harvest in Ontario. The work ahead of us is great and the journey will be long and hard fought. But on September 19, please take a moment to celebrate your Métis culture and heritage and to remember Steve, Rodney and the Powley family for their personal sacrifice and commitment to the ongoing struggle for Métis rights.
Métis Nation of Ontario