Metis, off-reserve aboriginals hopeful about Supreme Court rights ruling | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Metis, off-reserve aboriginals hopeful about Supreme Court rights ruling

April 13, 2016 - 1:23 PM

EDMONTON - Metis and non-status Indians will be watching a Supreme Court of Canada ruling Thursday on whether the federal government has the same responsibility to them as to status Indians and Inuit.

The decision will ultimately affect about 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Indians across Canada.

"People are asking what will it mean for us regardless of which way the decision goes," Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said Wednesday. "It is on the minds of a lot of people across the country."

Dorey said the ruling should finally settle whether Metis and non-status Indians are entitled to the same programs, services and rights as First Nations and Inuit.

"Hopefully it is going to open doors for our people because we have been discriminated against for decades," he said.

"The ball gets tossed back and forth between federal and provincial jurisdictions as to who holds the responsibility. This decision is hopefully going to clarify that."

The congress represents non-status Indians and Metis. It joined with several individuals, including Metis leader Harry Daniels, in taking the federal government to court in 1999 to allege discrimination because they were not considered "Indians" under the Constitution and had been denied certain rights.

In 2013, the Federal Court recognized them as Indians, but refused to rule that the Crown had fiduciary duties and a duty to consult and negotiate with Metis and non-status Indians.

The Federal Court of Appeal upheld part of the decision when it ruled that Metis should remain Indians under the Constitution. But it said that extending that recognition to non-status Indians should be done on a case-by-case basis.

The congress and the federal government then appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

The Metis National Council is an intervener.

Council lawyer Jason Madden said Metis have been excluded from programs that First Nations have access to, including non-insured health benefits and land claims.

He said the ruling is expected to make it clear whether Metis should be knocking on Ottawa's door for services and programs or go to the provinces.

"The decision is going to be momentous for the next generation, because this ambiguity that Metis have lived with where they have fallen through the cracks will no longer happen," he said from Toronto.

"If it lands with the federal government there is going to have to be a whole bunch of updating and reviewing of Canada's existing exclusionary policies that will have real impacts on the day-to-day lives of Metis."

Dorey cautioned that a favourable court ruling for the congress would have no immediate effect on the lives of Metis and non-status Indians.

He said there would have to be negotiations on what happens next as the ruling would also affect provinces and municipalities that currently provide services for Metis and Indians who live off reserves.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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