Standing strong for Métis Rights

Steve Powley illustration

Now known as “Powley Day”, September 19 celebrates the anniversary of the landmark Métis rights victory at the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Powley.

As Métis, we are nation builders; we stand up and stand strong for the rights, respect and recognition of our families and communities. It has been 18 years since the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) celebrated Canada’s highest court’s unanimous decision alongside the Métis Governments in Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, ending a ten-year legal battle and ushering in a new era recognizing Métis rights in Canada.

In Powley, the courts recognized and affirmed what the MNO had been saying all along–-that there were distinct Métis people and communities on the land before Canada became Canada, before Ontario became Ontario, with a culture and identity all their own, and that their rights were entrenched within Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution. While other Métis rights cases had been fought in the courts before, Powley was the first to be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court. It was lead by the MNO, the Powley family and the Métis community around Sault Ste. Marie, but all Métis communities across Canada have greatly benefited from it.

The victory in Powley set the stage for a series of achievements for Métis people, not just in Ontario but across the Métis Nation Homeland, including the ground-breaking Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreements signed in June, 2019 by the MNO, the Métis Nation of Alberta, Métis Nation–Saskatchewan and the Manitoba Metis Federation.

Today, we remember the sacrifices made by Steve, Roddy and the entire Powley family, and reflect on how the Powley decision forever changed the world for Métis in Canada-–finally securing recognition of Métis as a distinct Indigenous peoples within Canada, and helping open the path forward toward full Métis self-government.

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