Métis Nation of Ontario supports Métis Nation of Alberta in harvesting rights

OTTAWA, June 22 /CNW Telbec/ - On behalf of Ontario Métis, Gary Lipinski, President of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) offered his support to the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), as that community's year-long court battle over Métis harvesting rights in Alberta wraps up with closing arguments today and tomorrow (June 22 and 23, 2010) in Medicine Hat.

R. v. Jones and Hirsekorn flows from the denial of Métis harvesting rights throughout much of the province by the current Alberta Government lead by Premier Ed Stelmach. In 2007, the Stelmach government cancelled the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement (IMHA), negotiated in 2004 between the MNA and the Alberta Government led by then Premier Ralph Klein. The IMHA implemented the historic Powley decision in Alberta and allowed Métis harvesters to hunt, fish and trap for food. Since the Stelmach Government unilaterally cancelled the IMHA in July 2007 for political reasons, Métis harvesters exercising their constitutional rights have been harassed and charged by the Alberta Government.

"Ontario Métis fully support the Métis Nation of Alberta as it pushes the rights agenda for the entire Métis Nation forward," said MNO President Gary Lipinski. "In Ontario, through our pursuit of R. v. Powley and R. v. Lemieux, Lemieux and Laurin, we made significant gains in the recognition of Métis harvesting rights which assisted our Métis Nation brothers and sisters in other provinces. We look forward to the additional gains that will flow to the entire Métis Nation from a positive result in the Alberta case because for the first time a court will make a decision about Métis mobility and where Métis harvesting rights can be exercised," he added.

Métis lawyers, Jean Teillet and Jason Madden, represent Ron Jones and Garry Hirsekorn, the Métis harvesters from Alberta. The defendants argue they are members of a historic rights-bearing Métis community called the Métis of the Northwest and that they are members of a modern day Métis community that spans southern and central Alberta and extends into northern Alberta and other parts of the modern day Métis Nation. They assert their community possesses food harvesting rights that are protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Over the last year, the Alberta Provincial Court has heard 42 days of testimony from 35 witnesses, including, six experts and 30 Métis community witnesses. This trial is a "test case" for the entire province, since there are over 25 other Métis harvesters charged across the province and Métis continue to reject Alberta's current harvesting policy. Additional information about the case is available at www.albertametis.com.

SOURCE Métis Nation of Ontario

For further information: For further information: www.albertametis.com

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