The Canadian Press – OTTAWA – Canada’s 600,000 Metis and 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.”
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples joined with several individuals, including Metis leader Harry Daniels, in taking the federal government to court in 1999 to allege discrimination because they were not considered “Indians” under the Constitution.
Some 17 years later, the ruling is sure to have an impact on the relationship between the federal government and 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Indians across the country.
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