Métis And Non-Status Indians Receive Federal Recognition From Supreme Court

It has been a long time coming but Métis people and Non-Status Indians now have full status thanks to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in mid-April. Prime Minister Trudeau called the decision a landmark ruling. “We, of course, respect the Supreme Court decision, and we’ll be engaging—not just on our own but with Indigenous leadership—to figure out what the path is forward.”

Governments have never agreed on whose responsibility Métis and non-status Indians were, and the new ruling places the responsibility with the federal government, which means both will now have access to post-secondary education funding and health benefits, along with organizational funding. BC Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad was happy with the decision since the BC government had signed an accord with the Métis in 2006. “We now have an opportunity to continue to build and strengthen our relationship with the Métis, and hopefully there will be an opportunity for the federal government to play a more prominent role.”

The late Métis leader Harry Daniels, who began the case for non-status Indians in 1999.

The late Métis leader Harry Daniels, who began the case for non-status Indians in 1999.

The ruling states: “There is no consensus on who is considered Métis or a non-status Indian, nor need there be. Cultural and ethnic labels do not lend themselves to neat boundaries.” There are 451,795 Métis in Canada with 46,325 in Winnipeg alone, which has the largest Indigenous population of any city in Canada. Proud leader Louis Riel, architect of western Canada, is an important historical figure, not only to the Métis people but to all Canadians. Non status indians were historically removed from any resources that came with a settlement. “When the treaties are made, they (federal negotiators) are pretty clear to dial in the no-status members, but then they don’t fully resource them in the treaty package to take account of these numbers. So I think this is a clear signal this has to stop,” University of Ottawa law professor Joseph Magnet told the Ottawa Citizen. “I’m very happy that we were successful in removing a blockage. The court recognized that this blockage has caused significant disadvantage, discrimination, and resulted in denial of programs and services that all governments recognized were necessary.”

Dwight Dorey, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples described it best: “This is a great day for over 600,000 Métis and non-status Indians. Now hopefully we will not have to wait any longer to sit at the table.”

The case that was started in 1999 by the late Métis leader Harry Daniels along with Leah Gardner and Terry Joudrey has finally delivered the result they had anticipated for all those years. “I’m overwhelmed and ecstatic, and I wish my father were here to see this,” Gabriel Daniels told the media. “He’d probably do a jig right now.”