Métis in the Courts
Since the 1970s, Aboriginal peoples in Canada have increasingly turned to the courts to help resolve conflicts with various Canadian laws. These have focused largely on harvesting practices (hunting and fishing) but more recently they have also included principles of consultation and negotiation between Indigenous communities, government and the resource industry. This “Aboriginal rights era” was given a tremendous boost by the inclusion of three Aboriginal peoples – Indian (now First Nations); Métis (formerly Half-breed and Métis) and Inuit (formerly termed Eskimos) – in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This recognition was followed by a slew of Supreme Court of Canada court cases, particularly in the 1990s. However, these cases tended to be specific to First Nations communities. In fact, even though the Métis began to turn toward the courts following the failure of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, the Supreme Court had decided on no Métis rights court cases until 2003, in R. v. Powley and R. v. Blais. Since 2003, various challenges by Métis claimants have come before the provincial courts. In the last several years, however, several important Métis rights cases have come before the Supreme Court of Canada, including the Cunningham decision in 2011 and the much-anticipated Manitoba Métis Federation decision, due out soon. Likewise, a recent federal court decision – the Daniels decision – has caused a huge uproar in the legal and Aboriginal policy community. We have taken this opportunity to create an online panel of experts to discuss the intricacies of these court cases as well as their possible effects on policy.