OTTAWA, Dec. 17 /CNW/ - Lawyers for the Métis National Council and Métis Nation of Alberta went before the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday in Ottawa to intervene in Cunningham v. Alberta (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development).
At issue was whether sections 75 and 90 of The Métis Settlements Act (MSA) breached the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in prohibiting individuals, who voluntarily register under the Indian Act from maintaining or obtaining status as members on the Métis settlements.
The Respondents (Cunningham et al.) who had been removed from the Métis settlements registry pursuant to Section 90, were granted a ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal that sections 75 and 90 of the MSA were constitutionally invalid.
The Métis National Council intervened in the appeal. MNC lawyer Jason Madden argued that the Métis settlements are the only legislatively recognized Métis self-government arrangement and collectively-held Métis land base that exists in Canada so far. They represent the only concrete step the government of Canada has taken in the 20th century to recognize and protect a Métis land base and to provide a framework for the implementation of Métis self-government as a part of the reconciliation process between the Métis Nation and Canada.
He further argued that the membership scheme in the MSA reflects a negotiated agreement that appropriately provided for the Métis community to decide issues of membership on the Settlements. Madden cautioned that removal of this authority from the Métis community could result in individual choice over-riding the collective will of the people.
The Métis Nation of Alberta also intervened. MNA lawyer Jean Teillet, argued that the statutory appeal process ought to have been engaged prior to a review of sections 75 and 90 by the courts. This misstep effectively circumvented the internal self-government process provided for in the legislation.
Teillet also argued that a "one-enrollment" policy (where a person cannot be registered under two Aboriginal registries at one time) similarly forms the basis of historic treaties, the Indian Act, Métis Nation registries and modern land claim and self-government agreements. Teillet submitted that the central issue in the case is whether Aboriginal peoples and/or government can legislate or negotiate schemes that include a policy prohibiting multiple concurrent enrollments. The Métis Nation of Alberta urged the court not to seek a legal remedy for the complex identity issue but rather grant a declaration, which prohibits removal from membership for improper purposes under section 90.
The Supreme Court of Canada reserved its decision.
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.
For further information: For further information:
Manager, Pubic & Political Affairs
(613) 232-3216 or (613) 292-8606 mobile