Historical and Legal Recognition of Métis Rights

Who are the Métis and the Métis Nation?

Emergence and Evolution of the Metis Nation

The booklet chronicles the milestones in the history of the Métis people and nation from the early fur trade era to the contemporary period of reconciliation.

Map of Métis Economic Activity During the Fur Trade of the Western Interior ca.1866

As children of the fur trade, the Métis played instrumental roles in the economy of that era. The map depicts the scope of Métis economic activity, in particular their role in the provision and transport of goods and supplies.

Legislative and Constitutional Recognition of Métis Rights

Map of Legal Recognition of Métis

The map outlines the historical and legal recognition of the Métis through the land grant provisions of the Manitoba Act and Dominion Lands Act, the scrip commissions, and the establishment of the Métis Settlements in Alberta.

Manitoba Act 1870

Federal legislation to establish and provide for the Government of the Province of Manitoba, the result of a negotiated agreement between the Métis Provisional Government of Louis Riel and the federal government of Sir John A. Macdonald. Section 31 provides for a 1.4 million acre land grant for the children of the Métis heads of families. In 1981, the failed land grant scheme becomes subject of a 32 year court battle between the Manitoba Metis Federation and the federal government culminating in the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013, Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. v. Canada.

Dominion Lands Act 1870

Federal legislation affecting the Public Lands of the Dominion. Section 125(e) of the Act provides for land grants for Métis resident in the North West Territories outside of the limits of Manitoba on July 15, 1870 toward extinguishment of the Aboriginal title, leading to the infamous scrip system.

Constitution Act 1982

Section 35 (1) recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Section 35(2) identifies the Aboriginal peoples as the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Alberta Métis Settlements Accord and Legislation

In 1989, the Province of Alberta and the Métis Settlements conclude the Alberta-Métis Settlements Accord that was implemented through four pieces of provincial legislation in 1990. The legislation protects the land base and self-government of the eight Métis settlements in Alberta.

Métis Settlement Act

The Métis Settlements Act establishes a governance framework and provides for co-management of subsurface resources on the Settlements with the Province.

Metis Settlements Land Protection Act

The Metis Settlements Land Protection Act transfers 1.28 million acres of land to the Métis Settlements General Council, resulting in the only protected Métis land base in Canada.

Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act

The Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act protects Métis settlement lands under the provincial constitution.

Metis Settlements Accord Implementation Act

The Metis Settlements Accord Implementation Act provides for a 17-year statutory funding commitment.

Supreme Court of Canada Decisions on Métis Rights

Powley 2003

The Supreme Court of Canada upholds Métis harvesting rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It also restricts the application of Métis section 35 rights to those who can prove an ancestral connection to and acceptance by a historical Métis community.

Cunningham 2011

The Supreme Court of Canada upholds the section of the Métis Settlements Act providing that voluntary registration under the Indian Act precludes membership in a Métis Settlement.

Manitoba Metis Federation 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada rules that the federal government failed to implement section 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, (1.4 million acre land grant for the Métis children) in accordance with the Honour of the Crown.

Daniels 2016

The Supreme Court of Canada rules that federal government has jurisdiction for Métis. One of the original plaintiffs in the case was Harry Daniels, a Métis leader instrumental in the recognition of the Métis in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, who died in 2004.

Lower Court Decisions on Métis Rights

Morin and Daigneault 1996

Provincial Court of Saskatchewan finds that section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 gives two Métis men the right to harvest fish for food and that scrip issued in accordance with the Dominion Lands Act did not take away Métis harvesting rights. On appeal, the Court of Queen’s Bench in September 1997 upheld that decision.

Laviolette 2005

Provincial Court of Saskatchewan rules that the accused, as a member of the Metis community of Northwest Saskatchewan has an Aboriginal right to fish within the meaning of section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Belhumeur 2007

Provincial Court of Saskatchewan rules that a Métis person living in Regina has the right to fish for food pursuant to s. 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 and that the regional community to which this right applies is the Qu’Appelle Valley and environs which extend to the City of Regina.

Goodon 2008

Provincial Court of Manitoba upholds the constitutionally protected right of Metis in southwest Manitoba to hunt for food under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Contemporary Action on Reconciliation and Self-Government

A Matter of National and Constitutional Import

A Matter of National and Constitutional Import

This report by Thomas Isaac  the Minister’s Special Representative (MSR) on Reconciliation with Métis, addresses his mandate to meet with the Métis National Council, its Governing Members, the Métis Settlements General Council, and provincial and territorial governments to map out a process for dialogue on Section 35 Métis rights. The mandate also directed  the MSR to engage with the Manitoba Metis Federation to explore ways to advance dialogue on reconciliation with Métis in Manitoba in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2013 Manitoba Metis Federation decision.

Permanent Bilateral Mechanism 2016-19

Advancing and Achieving Reconciliation for the Métis Nation

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party unveils a bold Métis Nation policy during the 2015 federal election campaign. The plan commits the Liberals to negotiate a settlement of the outstanding land claim of the Manitoba Métis  and self-government agreements with the MNC Governing Members.

Announcement of Permanent Bilateral Mechanism 2016

These new mechanisms were announced in December 2016, as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Distinctions-based permanent bilateral mechanisms (PBM) were established with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders to identify joint priorities, co-develop policy and monitor progress.

Canada-Métis Nation Accord 2017

In April 2017, the Prime Minister and the President of the Métis National Council and its Governing Members signed the Canada-Métis Nation Accord during the first Métis Nation-Crown Summit. The Accord set out a Métis Nation specific process under the PBM to co-develop policies and programs to reduce socio-economic disparities and advance self-determination and self-government.

9 step Policy and Engagement Approach under PBM

The MNC developed a 9 step approach to working out sectoral agreements and budget asks with the federal government to implement the priorities set out in the Canada-Métis Nation Accord. This approach led to the conclusion of multiple sub-accords under the Canada-Métis Nation Accord and unprecedented federal investments in the Métis Nations.

Sub-Accords under Canada-Métis Nation Accord

Métis Nation Skills and Employment Training Accord June 15, 2018

The first of the sub-accords encompassed the renewal of the skills and employment training program. Canada will invest a total of $625,369,476 in Métis Nation Skills and Employment Training Agreements with Governing Members in 2018-2019 through to 2027-2028.

Canada-Métis Nation Housing Sub-Accord July 19, 2018

The Sub-accord commits $500 million over 10 years to support the implementation of the Métis Nation Housing Strategy.

Métis Nation Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Accord March 6, 2019

This sub-accord commits $450.7 million over 10 years to support ELCC for Métis children and families in the Métis Homeland. The Métis National Council Governing Members shall develop and deliver a full suite of ELCC programs and services to address the distinct needs of Métis Nation children and families.

Canada-Métis Nation Post-Secondary Education Sub-Accord June 10, 2019

Under the sub-accord, the Government of Canada will invest $362-million over 10 years and $40-million ongoing to support Métis Nation post-secondary education. Canada will enter into Métis Nation Post-Secondary Education Agreements with each of the Governing Members to help make sure Métis Nation students have the opportunities they need to pursue post-secondary education.

Canada-Métis Nation Interim Governance Sub-Accord June 13, 2019

The sub-accord provides governance funding to the MMC and Governing Members to advance a government-to-government, nation-to-nation relationship between the parties and to provide Métis Nation governments with the capacity to engage in co-development processes across multiple areas of social and economic policy. Financial support to be provided by the Government of Canada to the MNC and Governing Members will amount to $147 million over 5 years from 2017/2018 to 2021/2022 and $41,250,000 ongoing.

Canada-Métis Nation Economic Development Sub-Accord June 13, 2019

The sub-accord provides for $50 million over 5 years for Métis Nation capital corporations to support the start-up and expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises. It also establishes a Working Group toward the implementation of the priorities of the Métis Nation Economic Development Strategy.

Canada-Métis Nation Homelessness Accord June 13, 2019

The Government of Canada will provide the MNC and Governing Members with $43,104,960 from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2028 to support the development of innovative long term homelessness solutions and to enable the Governing Members to provide services for Métis Nation citizens experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness .

Agreements on Métis Self-government and Claims

Framework Agreement for Advancing Reconciliation Between Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. and Canada November 15, 2016

This agreement establishes a formal negotiation process to jointly develop a renewed Nation-to-Nation, Government-to-Government relationship between the Crown and the Manitoba Métis Community.  The negotiations between the Manitoba Metis Federation and Canada under the Framework Agreement are active and ongoing.

Canada-Manitoba Metis Federation Joint Action Plan on Advancing Reconciliation September 22, 2018

The parties agree to a three-part plan for moving forward together to advance reconciliation with the Manitoba Métis Community under the 2016 Framework Agreement for Advancing Reconciliation Between Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. and Canada. In order to support this plan, Canada will provide $154.3 million to the Manitoba Metis Federation as the parties continue to work to advance reconciliation.

Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement between Métis Nation of Alberta and Canada June 27, 2019

This Agreement sets out a mutually agreeable process leading to federal legislative recognition of the Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta, as an Indigenous government, along with the recognition of the Jurisdiction as set out in this Agreement premised on rights recognition and implementation.

Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement between Métis Nation-Saskatchewan and Canada June 27, 2019

This Agreement sets out a mutually agreeable process leading to federal legislative recognition of the Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Saskatchewan, as an Indigenous government, along with the recognition of the Jurisdiction as set out in this Agreement premised on rights recognition and implementation.

Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement between Métis Nation of Ontario and Canada June 27, 2019

This Agreement sets out a mutually agreeable process leading to federal legislative recognition of the Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Ontario, as an
Indigenous government, along with the recognition of the Jurisdiction as set out in this Agreement premised on rights recognition and implementation.

Federal Legislation Recognizing Métis Rights and Jurisdiction

Indigenous Languages Act June 21, 2019

The Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages. The Act also supports the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages.

An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families June 21, 2019

This enactment affirms the rights and jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples in relation to child and family services and sets out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to Indigenous children, such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality.

Metis National Council Governance Structure and Reform

Metis National Council- Bylaws

The bylaws of the Métis National Council Secretariat Inc. were adopted July 23, 1993. They highlight the structure, rules and procedures of the Registered Office of the
Corporation (the MNC) as well as the official membership of the MNC – the founding members being the Métis Nation of Alberta, the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan and the Manitoba Métis Federation.

Resolutions of the MNC General Assembly on Citizenship and Boundaries

The MNC General Assembly has adopted a number of resolutions on the core issues of citizenship and boundaries.

Governance Reform

The MNC General Assembly has considered a number of proposals for the adoption of a Métis Nation Constitution and the direct election of a national President. The graphics depict the current representational structure of the MNC and how it would be impacted by a formal division of powers with the Governing Members and the direct election of national President.

Draft Electoral Laws

The MNC General Assembly has also considered the new electoral law it would have to adopt in order to move to the direct election of national President.

International Issues

International Human Rights Standards

Through the Métis National Council, the Métis Nation has been deeply engaged with the global human rights system for more than three decades. We have worked to advance international human rights standards that recognize and uphold the distinct needs and aspirations of Métis citizens. We have also extended our solidarity to Indigenous peoples in other regions of the Americas who often face extreme risks just for speaking out for their rights.

International human rights standards recognize or affirm the inherent rights of individuals and peoples. These standards also set out the obligations of governments to respect, protect and fulfill these rights.

There are a wide range of mechanisms providing oversight of whether or not states are meeting these obligations. While these mechanisms generally do not have direct enforcement powers, we can achieve compliance and implementation through our own efforts in engaging with government, in mobilizing public opinion and, when necessary, going to court. In some cases, international enforcement mechanisms are available when domestic remedies have been exhausted.

Key International Human Rights Instruments

The most comprehensive global human rights instruments affirming and protecting the human rights of Indigenous peoples are the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) and the Organization of American States American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2016). Together these two instruments establish the minimum global standards for upholding the rights Indigenous peoples.

Key International Mechanisms

The United Nations and the Organization of American States have set up mechanisms to promote and to oversee implementation of human rights. There are four UN mechanisms specific to Indigenous peoples.

  • The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the world’s largest assembly of Indigenous peoples, states and international organizations, promotes sharing of best practices other experiences in the implementation of human rights. Its mandate is to provide advice to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN General Assembly

  • The UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples submits research studies to the UN Human Rights Council on international human rights standards, norms and laws related to Indigenous peoples. Its mandate is to provide advice to Indigenous peoples, states and the UN system.

  • The UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples carries out investigations on key themes in Indigenous rights and on the situation of Indigenous peoples in specific countries.

  • The UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples provides financial support for Indigenous peoples’ participation in international processes.

Treaty Bodies Monitoring State Compliance with Conventions and Covenants

Indigenous peoples have also actively engaged with the Treaty bodies that monitor state compliance with Conventions and Covenants like the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Treaty bodies have also played an important role in developing international standards for Indigenous rights.

Other Important International Mechanisms and Fora

  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Summit of the Americas(where Indigenous peoples have organized parallel Indigenous Leadership Summits, including the 5thSummit held in April 2018).
  • The American Council of Indigenous Peoples. The Métis Nation actively supports the Council, which is headquartered in Ottawa and supports advancement of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and facilitates regional engagement of Indigenous peoples in international processes. The Council will hold its first General Assembly in 2020.