Canada’s supreme court gives Métis people ‘Indian’ aboriginal status

The Guardian,
16 Aprile 2016

The ruling allowed Métis people –
those of mixed aboriginal and European descent – to negotiate with
federal government for new rights and benefits.

Canada’s supreme court has ruled
that more than 600,000 aboriginal people previously denied special
legal status by the federal government should receive it, granting
potential access to new rights and benefits.

The court declared that Métis people
– those of mixed aboriginal and European descent – and
aboriginals not registered with the government are “Indians”
under the Constitution Act of 1867, placing them in federal
jurisdiction with respect to rights and benefits.

The ruling allows Métis and
unregistered aboriginals, or “non-status Indians”, to negotiate
with the federal government for some of the same rights and benefits
granted aboriginal people living on reserves. 

These include hunting
and fishing privileges, tax breaks and assistance for medication,
housing and education.

The case began in 1999, with the
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and one Métis and two non-status
Indians as plaintiffs.
A lower court had initially ruled in
the plaintiffs’ favor, but the then-conservative government raised
the case to the federal court of appeal, which upheld the previous
ruling on Métis, but not unregistered aboriginals.

Joe Magnet, lawyer for the plaintiffs,
said outside court that the lack of “Indian” status meant a lack
of access to benefits and services some aboriginals badly needed.

We will look forward to engaging
the government as to how these discriminatory practices should be

Canada’s prime minister, Justin
, said after the ruling the government respects the
court’s decision and looks forward to talks.
Canadians who don’t have the same
chances as other Canadians do – that is something that has been
going on for far too long,”
he told reporters at an event in
southern Ontario.
Canada’s aboriginals have higher
poverty levels and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and
are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

Trudeau’s Liberal government
announced additional funding in last month’s federal budget for
First Nations communities in a bid for renewed, positive relations.

According to federal data, the
Canadian government spent C$8.1bn ($6.32bn in US dollars) from 2014
to 2015 on aboriginal funding. 

There are roughly 700,000 status
Indians and more than 400,000 Métis and 200,000 non-status Indians.
One of the plaintiffs, Metis activist
Harry Daniels, died before the case was heard. 

His son, Gabriel
Daniels, who later joined the lawsuit, said his father “would
probably be doing a jig right now”