Métis Nation of Alberta Applauds Ontario Métis Court Victory on Métis Harvesting Rights

    Ontario Court Confirms Province-Wide Métis Harvesting Agreement is
    'Legally Defensible' and 'Highly Principled'

    EDMONTON, June 12 /CNW/ - Today, Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis
Nation of Alberta (MNA), congratulated the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) on
its recent court victory in R. v. Laurin, Lemieux and Lemieux. The Ontario
court case upheld the province-wide Métis harvesting agreement the MNO 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, 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. The MNO-MNR
Agreement was meant to be province-wide. Based on the 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 dismissed the charges against all three Métis harvesters.
    Further, based on recent decisions from the Ontario Court of Appeal (R.
v. Shipman and R. v. Meshake), the law in Ontario supports the position that
Métis can harvest inside areas where they have a tradition of harvesting as
well as outside areas where they have a tradition of harvest through marriage
or permission being granted through community acceptance processes.
    "I want to congratulate the MNO and Métis lawyers Jason Madden and Jean
Teillet, for their ongoing efforts in advancing the Métis Nation's hunt for
justice. This decision is important because it affirms that province-wide
accommodations are not only legally defensible, but a highly principled way to
implement the Powley decision," said President Poitras.
    "This decision is timely, since the MNA continues to be in good faith
negotiations with the Alberta Government to arrive at an accommodation that
builds on our Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement by July 1st," President
Poitras said. "This judgment supports recent proposals the MNA has put forward
to Alberta and confirms that the best course of action for all involved is for
governments and Métis to arrive at mutually agreeable accommodation
agreements, rather than resorting to litigation which costs taxpayers money
and erodes good will and cooperation between both parties."
    "I believe this recent decision is extremely helpful to our ongoing
negotiations with Alberta and provides greater certainty that arriving at
accommodation agreements with Métis harvesting is the right thing to do,"
concluded Poitras.
    For more information on R. v. Laurin, Lemieux and Lemieux visit the MNO's
website at www.metisnation.org.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Monique Devlin, Métis Nation of
Alberta, Phone: (780) 455-2200, Cell: (780) 490-8188, Email:

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