There were mixed reactions to a court ruling in Ottawa Thursday.
Métis activists are pleased the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the initial decision in the Daniels case that says they should be recognized as Indians under the Canadian constitution.
Métis National Council President Clem Chartier says Thursday’s court decision has a significant impact for Métis people across the country.
“The federal government can no longer say they don’t have jurisdiction or the companion responsibility to deal with the Métis people,” he says.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is also calling the court decision a significant move forward.
National Chief Betty Anne Lavallee says in a release, “Today, I am very pleased that the Federal Court of Appeal agreed that Métis are Indians under the section 91(24) of the Constitution – as well, we are equally as pleased the Federal Government conceded at the appeal hearing that non-Status Indians fall under federal jurisdiction.”
However, the appeal court ruling also overturns an earlier judicial decision that recognized non-status Indigenous peoples as Indians under the constitution.
Instead, Federal Court of Appeal says non-status Indians as a group do not lend themselves to the general application of application sought by the respondents.
For this reason, the court says recognition of non-status Indians under the constitution should be done on a case-by-case basis.
Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan President Kim Beaudin says this is very disappointing.
“In a sense, non-status people with this ruling were thrown under the bus and it’s kind of sad,” he says.
Nevertheless, Chartier warns Métis people should not raise their hopes too high, as the ruling does not mean they now have the same rights as status First Nations people under the constitution.
“I can’t in the near future, and perhaps even in the distant future, see that we would get the same level of services that status Indians are getting.”
He estimates the ruling affects about 400,000 Métis people across the country.
The initial court challenge was started by the late Harry Daniels.
Both Chartier and Beaudin say they anticipate the federal government will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.