Every year on September 19th, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and Métis communities across the province mark Powley Day to remember the decade long fight led by the MNO with Steve and Roddy Powley for recognition of Métis harvesting rights in the R. v. Powley case. In its landmark, unanimous decision issued on September 19, 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that Steve and Roddy Powley, as 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.
This was the first decision from Canada’s highest court that recognized and affirmed Métis Section 35 rights and it is this ground-breaking decision that ushered in a whole new era of Métis rights in Ontario and across the Métis Homeland. This year’s celebration of Powley Day is special in that it comes on the heels of the recent joint announcement between Ontario and the MNO identifying six additional historic communities located throughout Ontario. Now Rainy River/Lake of the Woods; Northern Lake Superior; Abitibi Inland; Mattawa/Ottawa River; Killarney and the Georgian Bay Historic Métis Communities join the historic Sault Ste. Marie as being recognized for their own distinctive collective identities, customs, practices and traditions. Click here for more information about Ontario Métis historic communities.
Especially important at this time of the year are Métis harvesting rights, which are accommodated by the Province of Ontario through our Harvesting Agreement. This fall, as our citizens 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 Indigenous peoples within Canada. The affirmation of the Métis right to harvest is a component critical to the rich fabric that defines Métis culture. Our commitment to conservation and our responsibilities as stewards of the lands and waters is another key component of our Métis culture and exercise of those rights.
Powley Day also provides MNO citizens with the opportunity to reflect with pride on the many momentous and historic achievements we have made — working together — through the MNO. The Powley decision was a crucial victory for Métis rights, and since then we have seen many other successes such as those noted above including the Harvesting Agreement, the Daniels decision, the Isaac Report, the MNO Secretariat Act, the renewed MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement and most recently the MNO-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Advancing Reconciliation as well as numerous other agreements with government and industry,.
We will continue to report progress and movement as it occurs; however, each of us must continue to work together to advance reconciliation and the MNO’s Métis rights agenda. 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 remember Steve, Roddy and the Powley family for their personal sacrifice and commitment to the ongoing fight for Métis rights.
Métis Nation of Ontario
Posted: September 14, 2017