ONCE AGAIN CALLS ON GOVERNMENTS FROM ONTARIO WESTWARD TO NEGOTIATE VERSUS
LITIGATE ON METIS HARVESTING RIGHT
OTTAWA, June 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, Clément Chartier, President of the
Métis National Council (MNC) offered congratulations to the leadership and
citizens of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) on their recent court victory
that upholds the terms of the accommodation agreement negotiated and entered
into with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
In July 2004, the MNR and MNO entered into an interim Métis harvesting
agreement which recognized the MNO's Harvesters Card system and provided that
valid MNO Harvesters Card holders, harvesting for food, would not be subject
to enforcement procedures, as long as conservation or safety was not at issue.
Subsequent to July 7th, the MNR unilaterally imposed an arbitrary line across
the middle of the province and took the position that only Métis living north
of its line could benefit from the accommodation agreement. The MNO and three
of its harvesters challenged the MNR's actions. Specifically, they challenged
MNR's imposition of an arbitrary line.
In a decision released today in North Bay, the Ontario Court of Justice
agreed with the Métis harvesters and the MNO. The MNR could not unilaterally
draw an arbitrary line based on its interpretation of the agreement. Based on
the landmark Powley decision on Métis harvesting rights and subsequent
Aboriginal rights cases, the trial judge found that the MNO-MNR Harvesting
Agreement "was not merely legally defensible but a highly principled
response." Based on the MNO-MNR Agreement, the trial judge stayed (dismissed)
the charges against all three Métis harvesters.
"This victory is significant for the entire Métis Nation. It confirms
that the MNO and MNR did the right thing in July 2004 by entering into an
accommodation on Métis harvesting. It also confirms that Métis can rely on
deals we negotiate and enter into with governments," said President Chartier.
Chartier added, "In 2003, Powley affirmed that the Métis people have
harvesting rights. We should not be having to continue to go to court, at
great expense to Métis and all Canadian taxpayers, to establish our rights
hectare by hectare throughout our Homeland. Governments from Ontario westward
should be respecting Canada's Constitution and their constitutional
obligations by arriving at mutually agreeable accommodations with us, instead
of delaying the inevitable and creating more distrust and frustration between
governments and our people. This judgment reaffirms that negotiations are the
preferred approach to litigation."
The Métis Nation continues to realize victories throughout its Homeland
in the courts. Upcoming cases on Métis harvesting rights are expected in
Saskatchewan (R. v. Belhumeur) and Manitoba (R. v. Goodon) in the next few
months. Currently, the only formal negotiations that are ongoing are between
the Government of Alberta and the Métis Nation of Alberta for a Métis
harvesting agreement that builds upon the MNA-Alberta Interim Métis Harvesting
Agreement that is in place in that province.
"Governments must come to grips with the reality that Métis rights are
not going anywhere. As we have done for generations, we will fight and stand
up for our rights wherever we need to. We will not accept less than what we
know are our rights by virtue of being bullied or being confronted by
government stall tactics. It is time for governments to show some honour and
do what they are constitutionally mandated to do: negotiate with Métis in
order to recognize and affirm our rights," concluded Chartier.
The MNC represents the Métis Nation in Canada at the national and
international level. The Métis Nation's homeland includes the three 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.
For further information:
For further information: on the judgment visit www.metisnation.org or
contact: Zoran Vidic, Senior Communications Officer, Métis National Council,
(613) 242-3216, Cell: (613) 295-9298