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A Statement from President Clément Chartier of the Métis National Council on the Daniels Decision April 17, 2014

OTTAWA, April 17, 2014 /CNW/ - On behalf of the Métis Nation, I applaud today's decision of the Federal Court of Appeal in the Daniels case. It reinforces our longstanding position that the federal government has constitutional responsibility to deal with the Métis.

Ottawa's non-recognition of Métis for jurisdiction purposes never made sense. Logic dictates that it should be Canada's national government that has a special relationship with the Métis, one of the three Aboriginal peoples in the Constitution and one of Canada's founding nations.

I am particularly pleased that the court clarified the Trial Judge's conception of the Métis to make it clear that he recognized the Métis to be a distinct people and that his conception was not contrary to history or the decisions of the Supreme Court in Powley, Cunningham or Manitoba Métis Federation. The Supreme Court had basically validated our own citizenship criteria adopted before the Powley decision based on ancestral connection to and acceptance by historical Métis communities.

I am also pleased by the Court's affirming that the trial Judge did not issue a declaration that lacked practical utility. The findings it cites in this regard bear repeating:

 

The federal government acknowledged that the Métis were far more exposed to discrimination than other Aboriginal peoples;

The federal government largely accepted constitutional jurisdiction over the Métis until the mid-1980s, when matters of policy and financial concerns changed that acceptance;

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognized the existence of a real jurisdictional issue and called for the federal government to bring a reference, particularly in respect of the Métis, to determine whether section 91(24) applied to the Métis people;

A government document entitled "Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Final Report Comprehensive Assessment for Cabinet Purposes" concluded that it would be premature to embrace the Commission's recommendation to negotiate Métis claims to lands and resources in the absence of a higher court decision on, among other things, the division of federal-provincial liability;

The Métis were not supplied with services while governments fought about jurisdiction, principally a fight about who bore financial responsibility;

The political/policy wrangling between the federal and provincial governments produced a large population of collaterally damaged Métis. As a result, they are deprived of programs, services and intangible benefits all governments recognize are needed;

The resolution of constitutional responsibility has the potential to bring clarity to the respective responsibilities of the different levels of government.

The recognition of Métis as Indians under section 91(24) should accord a further level of respect and reconciliation by removing the constitutional uncertainty surrounding the Métis.

 

We as Métis are a practical people who seek practical solutions to make the Canadian federation work for us. As residents and taxpayers of the provinces, we always accepted that the provinces have an important role to play with us. At the same time, we always believed that Ottawa has primary responsibility to deal with us and must show leadership. The decision today buttresses this belief. The federal government can no longer shrug its shoulders and assume that Métis matters will be dealt with by others, all the while knowing this is not being done.

We are not the only ones who have been seeking confirmation of primary federal responsibility to deal with us as a distinct people.  Industry has been seeking it as well because  it wishes to collaborate with Métis authorities in filling labor market gaps and expediting major energy and resource development projects in western Canada.  It wants to work with us in many areas and has been frustrated by Ottawa's indifference to Métis concerns and priorities. It, like us, wants the federal government to set out rules of engagement in matters such as Duty to Consult to facilitate their work with us rather than leaving them in the dark.

I will be writing to Prime Minister Harper, requesting that he enter into government to government talks with the Métis National Council to define the special relationship between the federal government and the Métis Nation.

The MNC represents the Métis Nation in Canada at the national and international levels. The Métis Nation's homeland includes the 3 Prairie Provinces and extends into Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the northern United States. There are approximately 350,000 – 400,000 Métis Nation citizens in Canada, roughly a quarter of all Aboriginal peoples in the country.

SOURCE Métis National Council

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