The highest court in Canada has ruled 600,000 Metis and off-reserve Indians are entitled to the same rights, programs and services as all other Inuit and First Nations people.
Robert Doucette, president of the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan, said this is just the beginning for Metis people in Canada.
“It doesn’t change anything immediately for Metis people,” he said.
“This is just now another step in the process and the long line of negotiations that are going to have to take place … It’s going to need the willingness of the federal and provincial governments to acknowledge this ruling and to act on it.”
Doucette said he’s happy the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed what they’ve known all along.
“The highest court in the land has affirmed what Harry Daniels (Metis activist) fought for, that the Metis should be treated with the same respect that all other First Nations and Inuit people are being treated with across this country,” he said.
Doucette said leaders will have more leverage to negotiate with the Canadian government to ensure Metis people’s needs are being met and they’re being treated with the same respect as other First Nations and Inuit people.
A Saskatchewan advocacy group for Metis and off-reserve Indians says the ruling means they will no longer be a political football for the federal government.
Speaking from Ottawa, president of the Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan Kim Beaudin said the decision was a “watershed moment”, adding it gives hope to thousands of people, including his own family who have struggled with their identity.
“We fell through the cracks for years and years,” said Beaudin. In 1958, his home reserve, the Michel band near Edmonton, was expunged by the federal government, which forced his relatives to spread out across the country.
“We ended up moving up all over the place, trying to find a place to settle down.”
“It was hard,” he explained.
Beaudin says there is a lot of work ahead, but is hopeful the legal ruling will lead to new path forward with the federal government.
“I’m hoping that we sit down with the federal government at a table … start implementing a strategy for our people in this country.”