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 the Métis have “full status as distinctive rights-bearing peoples,” a characteristic they share with First Nations and Inuit peoples of Canada.
Powley Day recognizes this groundbreaking 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 Supreme Court decision in the Daniels case, which has finally dealt with the issue of federal jurisdiction with regard to the Métis; the commitments made by the Trudeau government to engage with the Métis Nation on a nation-to-nation basis; and the recent report issued by Special Ministerial Representative Tom Isaac, A Matter of National and Constitutional Import, which sets out a road map for establishing a reconciliation framework for s.35 Métis rights.
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 Aboriginal 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 MNO Act, the renewed MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement, numerous other agreements with government and industry, and the Isaac Report which acknowledged these achievements in its recognition of the MNO as a Métis government.
The pursuit for full recognition of Métis rights continues, and there is still much work to be done. The recently announced MNO Commission on Métis Rights and Self-Government will play a vital role in ensuring that all of our citizens have a voice on these critical issues as we chart a way forward for the future of our nation. 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.
M. Margaret Froh
Métis Nation of Ontario
Updated: April 15, 2021