Significant dates in the development of the Métis Nation

The Métis people emerge from the Fur Trade 1600’s

Fur trade begins in earnest leading to the introduction of Europeans into what is now Canada.

Royal Charter by the King of England establishes the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).

The Coat of Arms of the Hudson’s Bay Company

Male employees and former employees without contract (freeman) of the fur trade companies begin to establish families with First Nations women. Ethnogenesis of distinct Métis communities along the waterway and around the Great Lakes region of present day Ontario. Métis in these areas are no longer seen as and do not see themselves as extensions of their maternal (First Nations) or paternal (European) relations, and begin to identify as a separate group.

Battle of the Plains of Abraham established control by the British Crown to what becomes Canada, thus ending France’s claim to its territory.

Royal Proclamation formally sets out Crown’s policy towards dealing with First Nations and approaches to land settlement.

The Coat of Arms of the Northwest Company 1812

War primarily fought in the Great Lakes region sets in place what becomes the Canada-United States border.

The Métis population formed the core foundation that established the site of present-day Winnipeg. The HBC land grant to Lord Selkirk raises concern among the Métis and they are forced from their lands.

The Battle of Seven Oaks areas around

Many Métis families move from Mackinac Island to Drummond Island and other places in Canada.

La Victoire de la Grenouillière, also known as the Battle of Seven Oaks, occurs near the Red River Settlement after the HBC attempts to prohibit Métis from trading pemmican in the Northwest. Cuthbert Grant leads the Métis and Northwest Company (NWC) opposition.

                                          Cuthbert Grant

The long rivalry between the NWC and the HBC ends with amalgamation under the HBC banner. Layoffs result and many former employees retire to Red River, Fort William, etc.

Many Métis families move from Drummond Island to areas around Lake Huron including present day Kincardine, Owen Sound, Penetanguishene, Parry Sound etc.

Métis families in Penetanguishene petition for land grants in the region.

Louis Riel is born.

Métis traders

The Sayer Trial at Red River is a turning point in ending the Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) monopoly of the fur trade in North America.

1849 – 1850
Métis and First Nations from present day Sault Ste. Marie and along the north shore of Lake Superior object to the Quebec Mining Company trespass on their traditional lands at Mica Bay because there was  no treaty with the Crown in the territory. The company’s agents surrender without resistance. This becomes known as the ‘Mica Bay incident’ and leads to the Robinson Treaties (Superior and Huron) between the Crown and First Nations. Treaty Commissioner Robinson states he has no mandate to deal with Métis. As such, “Métis” title, rights and interests in the territory remain un-extinguished.

1851 – 1875
HBC pays First Nations and “Halfbreeds” annuities under the treaties, as recorded in treaty annuity lists for the Lake Superior region.

The early Métis community in Sault Ste. Marie

The British North America Act is passed, creating the Dominion of Canada.

Louis Riel

1869 – 1870
The Dominion of Canada purchases Rupert’s Land from the HBC. First Nations and Métis living in the expansive territory are not consulted. In response to Canada’s attempts to survey its new purchase, the Métis at the Red River Settlement establish the Métis National Committee, effectively forming a provisional government. Canada is forced to enter into negotiations over terms for the creation of the province of Manitoba, which includes French language rights and specific promises for the provision of lands for the Métis. Thomas Scott (an Orangeman from Ontario) is tried and executed by Riel, leading to resentment and  anger from central Canada. The Manitoba Act is passed by the Parliament of Canada who also sends a military force from Ontario to advance westward expansion. The Ontario Government puts a $5000 bounty on Riel.

The Métis at Rainy Lake (present day Fort Frances) successfully negotiate a “Halfbreed” adhesion to Treaty 3, which was originally signed by First Nations in the Northwest Angle in 1873. This is the only time Métis are dealt with as a collective in one of the historic treaties. After signing, Canada fails to fulfill the adhesion terms with ongoing attempts to make Métis in the region identify as “Indians.”

Gabriel Dumont

Métis and First Nations around Lake Nipigon jointly petition Canada for education and land related issues.

1881 – 1885
In pursuit of the Canadian government’s nationalist vision, the Canadian Pacific Railway is constructed from Ontario to British Columbia, creating an influx of new settlers to western Canada and dramatically changing the economy and way of life of Métis on the Prairies.

The Battle of Batoche

1884 – 1885
Prairie Métis feel ever increasing encroachment on their lands by new settlers with no land-based protections. Métis in Saskatchewan call on Louis Riel to press their concerns to Canada. Led by Gabriel Dumont at Duck Lake, the Métis engage the Northwest Mounted Police leaving twelve dead. Canada sends troops from central Canada to quell what the federal government perceives as an uprising, leaving many Métis dead. These dramatic events become known as the Northwest Resistance. For their roles, Louis Riel and other Métis and First Nations leaders are arrested. Riel is tried and found guilty of treason, in an unfairly conducted trial. He is hung in Regina, as a message to the Métis and others who challenged Canada’s western expansion goals.

The monument in Queen’s Park in Toronto dedicated to the Canadian soldiers who fought the Métis in 1885. It is an example of the backlash faced by Métis in Ontario.(Archives of Ontario)

In response to the public backlash from the events of Red River and Northwest Resistances, many Métis in Ontario are disinclined to publicly self-identify. Métis families covertly continue to practice their culture and way of life throughout the province.

Métis at Moose Factory petition to have their hunting rights recognized and be provided land grants.

Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 recognized and affirmed the Aboriginal rights of Métis, First Nations and Inuit people

Alberta Métis secure a land base, which ultimately become known as the Alberta Métis Settlements.

1950’s – 1970’s
Métis work with “non-status Indians” and other Aboriginal peoples, joining pan-Aboriginal lobby associations, to draw attention to deplorable living conditions in their communities and to advance Aboriginal rights and advance Métis interests within a broader Aboriginal agenda in Ontario and across Canada.

Manitoba Metis Federation files claim against Canada and Manitoba for breach of fiduciary duty and failing to fulfill land related promises to the Métis following events of 1869/70. Supreme Court rules in favour of the Métis.

With his son Roddy, Steve Powley challenged Ontario’s hunting laws by asserting his Métis right to harvest

As a result of the efforts of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, their existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights are recognized and affirmed in s. 35 of the Constitution Act. Métis are recognized as one of Canada’s three Aboriginal peoples.

Métis begin to create Métis-specific governance structures to solely represent their rights and interests. At the national level, the Métis National Council (MNC) is established to represent the Métis Nation from Ontario westward.

At the Supreme Court, the Powley case affirmed that Métis are a distinct Aboriginal people with harvesting rights protected within Canada’s Constitution

Implementation of the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Agreement in Northwest Territories. This represents the first time Métis are included in a modern day land claim agreement.

The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) is established as a Métis-specific governance structure for Ontario Métis communities. MNO establishes the first centralized registry of Métis citizens in the province, and joins the MNC.

With the support of the MNO, Steve and Roddy Powley challenge Ontario’s hunting laws. The court recognizes that the Powleys, as members of the Métis community in the Sault Ste. Marie region have a Métis right to hunt for food that is protected within s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and Ontario’s hunting laws are inapplicable to them as Métis.

In its first decision on Métis harvesting rights, the Supreme Court of Canada uphold the lower court decisions in the Powley case and affirms that Métis are a distinct Aboriginal people with harvesting rights protected within Canada’s Constitution. The Powley case is a landmark ruling for Métis everywhere.

L-R: Former MNO President Gary Lipinski, former Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Brad Duguid, past MNO Chair France Picotte. The MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement outlines the basis for future colloboration between the MNO and the Government of Ontario.

MNO and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources reach an agreement to implement the Powley case in Ontario. The agreement recognizes the MNO Harvester’s Card System, which entitles Métis harvesters to harvest within their traditional territories, similar to First Nations.

MNO and the Government of Ontario sign a Framework Agreement recognizing the unique history and way of life of Métis communities in the province. The agreement sets the course for a new collaborative relationship in Ontario.

The 125th anniversary of the Battle of Batoche is celebrated throughout the Métis Nation. Parliament as well as the legislature in Ontario and Saskatchewan recognize 2010 as the “Year of the Métis”.

2010 – 2020
Métis National Council (MNC) declares the decade of the Métis.

In Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada issues the following declaration:
“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 Ontario Legislature passes the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act.  The recognition of the MNO and its representative role on behalf of Ontario Métis is now the law in Ontario.

In Daniels v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that Métis and non-status Indians are “Indians” for the purpose of s 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Mr. Tom Isaac, the Ministerial Special Representative on Reconciliation with Métis, releases a report entitled, “A Matter of National and Constitutional Import.” Within this report, he assesses the current state of affairs and provides independent advice and recommendations on a “way forward” on Métis Section 35 Rights.

MNO-Canada-Ontario Framework Agreement on Advancing Reconciliation sets out a negotiations process for a core self-government agreement.

After an extensive and rigorous review of historical reports the MNO and Ontario announce six Historic Métis communities in Ontario, in addition to the SSM one recognized by the Supreme Court in Powley.

MNO and Ontario conduct an independent review of the MNO Harvester’s Card system, which concludes that MNO has a credible system for identifying Métis rights-holders; and MNO and Ontario sign Framework Agreement on Métis Harvesting, which relies on the MNO’s Harvesters’ Cards system.

MNO and Canada sign the Self-Government Agreement.