Federal Court decides that the Federal Government has Jurisdiction for Métis

OTTAWA, Jan. 8, 2013 /CNW/ - This morning the Federal Court Trial Division released its long-awaited reasons for judgment in Daniels v. Canada.

Judge Phelan has issued a declaration that the federal government has jurisdiction for Métis under s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.  That head of power states that the federal government has exclusive legislative authority with respect to "Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians."  This case effectively finds that Métis are "Indians" within the meaning of s. 91(24).

The case has been 12 years in the making.  Canada has resisted the claim vigorously, first by denying access to its records and then on the grounds that insufficient facts, the difficulty of the case and the definitional difficulties should preclude a remedy being granted by the court.  The court rejected Canada's assertions on all of these grounds and emphasized that difficulty cannot be used to deny a remedy.  The judge also held that the Métis have a right to know which government has jurisdiction over them.

The issue of jurisdiction for Métis is an important one.  For decades Canada has only assumed jurisdiction for Métis north of the 60th parallel.  This exclusion has increasingly created a divide between Indians and Métis as economic restrictions have come into place.  As the court noted Canada's own documents admit that Métis are more exposed to discrimination and other social disabilities and that "in the absence of Federal initiative in this field they are the most disadvantaged of all Canadian citizens."

Métis National Council President, Clément Chartier, stated that, "this decision is a step forward for the Métis.  We have long understood that the jurisdiction question must be settled by the courts and it has been our understanding that jurisdiction rests with Canada. We now look forward to discussions with the federal government about how we can better work together to implement this decision."

Vice-President and Manitoba Métis Federation President, called the decision "a historic milestone and this opens the door for us now to work with the federal government to redirect our Métis tax dollars to meet the economic needs of our people ". He further stated "this decision will be front and centre at our upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development".

The case also determined that non-status Indians are "Indians" within the meaning of s. 91(24).

SOURCE: METIS NATIONAL COUNCIL

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