The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously ruled Metis and non-status are Indians under the Constitution.
The landmark, 9-0 ruling will have an impact on the relationship between the federal government and 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Indians across the country.
The high court was asked to rule on whether the federal government has the same responsibility to them as to status Indians and Inuit.
The court said that since it is already long-established in Canadian law the federal government has a fiduciary duty to the country’s Aboriginal Peoples, there would be no practical utility in restating that in the ruling.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples went to court in 1999 to allege discrimination because they were not considered Indians under the Constitution.
Justice Rosalie Abella, writing for the court, said the provincial and federal governments have both denied having legal authority over non-status Indians and Metis, leaving them in a “jurisdictional wasteland.”
In the meantime, the Government of Saskatchewan says affirmation of Saskatchewan’s long-standing position the Métis of Western Canada should be recognized.
In a statement released to the media, a government official says “We are pleased the Court saw merit in Saskatchewan’s argument that the constitutional term “Indian” should be interpreted widely, recognizing the diversity of languages, cultures, and ancestries that make up Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Our government will continue to work closely with Aboriginal leadership to further our shared goals of reconciliation and improved quality of life for everyone who calls this province home.”
“The decision has no immediate implications for the Province. The Court was clear in saying that provincial laws continue to apply to the Métis as they have in the past and that there is no change to the legal test that must be met in order to establish Métis Aboriginal rights to hunt and fish.”
(with files from The Canadian Press)