Canadian Supreme Court Ruling on Métis and non-status Indians
Now we have a new ruling in this country. One many of waited on for years.
RULING: Canada’s 450,000 estimated Métis and approximately 200,000 ‘non-status’ Indians are indeed “Indians” under the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Canada declared Thursday in a long-awaited landmark decision more than 15 years in the making.
“It is the federal government to whom they can turn,” the unanimous 9-0 ruling said.
The high court was also asked to rule on whether the federal government has the same responsibility to them as to status Indians and Inuit, and whether they have a right to be consulted by the government on their rights and needs.
No need, the court said.
“It was already well established in Canadian law that the federal government was in a fiduciary relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples and that the federal government had a duty to consult and negotiate with them when their rights were engaged,” said Justice Rosalie Abella, writing for the court.
“Restating this in declarations would be of no practical utility.”
SIGNIFICANCE: A 9-0 ruling is not a small thing psychologically. Usually, one does not see a unanimous decision at any level of court – let alone the Supreme Court of Canada.
What will the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Daniels case likely mean in real terms for Métis and non-status Indians in Canada?
First, let us view establish some context to better understand the meaning of this April 2016 Supreme Court decision first.
The April 14, 2016 ruling which was a 9-0 unanimous decision from the highest court in Canada. It takes the discussion far beyond the earlier Federal Court of Canada ruling on the Métis and the non-status Indians.
The Métis we should know already are not simply a mix between Indians and Europeans. No. The Métis existed as a distinct people and culture with their own identity, economy, lifestyle, flag and languages pre-dating Canada’s founding. Something which took place only – in 1867. ‘Yesterday in the scheme of things.’
The non-status Indians are a box many First Nations people ended up in because of earlier bureaucratic decisions by the Federal Government of Canada. These Indians were not “recognized” by the Federal Government. As a result, these First Nations ‘have laid on the side of the road’ for decades like their Métis cousins.
Both of these two groups have not lived but instead existed in a jurisdictional wasteland outside of the responsibility of the Federal Government since the Federal Government began to segment Aboriginal peoples in this land. This relationship has been one of ‘You guys go here; and you other guys go there’ attitude. The result limbo for the aboriginal groups in question.
“We are charting new waters now but have not yet reached land”, one might call this recent ruling.
In hard terms what might the recent Supreme Court ruling mean with concern to long discussed matters such as healthcare coverage and sharing profits from mineral rights?
Why might non-aboriginal Canadians want to view this recent Supreme Court decision? Are we talking special rights here? or a correction which should have occured towards these two aboriginal groups many years ago?
What does Federal obligation mean?
The Federal Government will need to take consultation more seriously than it has in the past. Also, the Feds will need to think twice when giving corporations access to natural resources and minerals which the Metis and non-status were not consulted on traditionally. The governed just decided unilaterally or with provinces and then gave away access to those resources to various companies.
Does the Federal Government need to live up to law in this country? On this question let us first discuss the Parliament, which is the legislative branch of Canadian Government. The Judicial branch of Canadian government ruling now means that the legislative branch can no longer ignore section 91.
Understand that the Parliament is not above the Canadian Constitution; the parliament cannot simple do its own thing; or act in a way that is against the law or spirit of the Charter. Instead, the parliament is to uphold the Charter.
Aboriginal Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
How do the two relate to one another?
What is section 91 and why is it important?
OVERALL: The consequence of this Daniels decision?
It is a is PSYCHOLOGICAL one.
YET for any MATERIAL benefits (healthcare coverage, access to mineral rights, a real voice in the Commons, etc…) to acrue to Métis and non-status Indians we are very likely going to wait for some time.
The Feds, and the Corporations which lobby them, and in well thought out strategized strength, will not easily hand over their long-privileged access and use of the hard resources of this land.
A hand from ANOTHER PLACE (MaKom) will need to bring along any tangible changes here.