Metis and other non-status aboriginals now 'Indian'
OTTAWA — The government is considering its next steps following a Federal Court decision Tuesday that grants Metis and off-reservation Indians the same status as other First Nations in a 13-year-long court case aboriginal people call a victory.
This means 600,000 Metis and non-status Indians in Canada are "Indians" under the federal Constitution Act and are entitled to legal access to education, health care benefits and negotiation rights in land claims.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan did not acknowledge the near-certainty that the government will appeal and push the case to the Supreme Court, although spokesman Jan O'Driscoll said the government was reviewing the decision.
"As the Federal Court stated, this decision is not about 'the interpretation or application of particular rights either under the Constitution or under specific agreements, nor is it about Aboriginal rights," O'Driscoll said in a statement. "Our government continues to work in partnership with all Aboriginals across Canada to address shared priorities such as education, economic development and jobs."
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples called it a victory, despite the likelihood of an appeal.
"This is huge and it ends the denial of aboriginal birthrights that has existed for far too long," Betty Ann Lavallee, CAP's national chief told reporters.
Bob Lovelace, Queen's University professor and retired Algonquin, said the ruling opens doors to more litigation, but would also set precedent for the courts.
Senator Patrick Brazeau, former chief of the CAP, praised the decision.