March 16, 2013
Victory for Metis People
From articles by Peoples Voice
In a major Aboriginal legal rights case, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled 6‑2 in a favour of a case brought by the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), regarding the issuance of lands designated for Métis children under the Manitoba Act of 1870. Passed by Parliament in the wake of the "Red River Rebellion" of 1869-70, the Manitoba Act brought that province into the new Confederation of Canada. The leader of the Red River Métis people, Louis Riel, is regarded as the founder of Manitoba for his role in these historic events.
The ruling is another important milestone in the long struggle by Aboriginal peoples to achieve justice and national equality within the Canadian state.
The court's decision comes 140 years since the shameful theft of lands which were to be provided to the Métis under the terms of the Manitoba Act. Instead, the Métis were scattered by the Canadian colonial ruling class, which seized their homeland as part of the process of settling the prairie provinces for the expansion of an emerging capitalist economy. This genocidal policy continued with the defeat of the heroic Métis and their allies at Batoche in 1885, and the subsequent generations of abysmal poverty and racist oppression.
But the Métis never surrendered to the push for assimilation and annihilation. New resistance leaders took up the cause of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, including the "Métis Patriots of the 20th Century," the communists Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris, who played key roles in rebuilding the movements of the Métis for their national rights starting in the 1930s.
The Métis succeeded in achieving recognition as a distinct Aboriginal people in the Canadian Constitution, and kept raising demands to redress the historic crimes committed against their nation. The latest SCC ruling, along with the court decision in the "Daniels" case, regarding the status of some 600,000 Métis and non-status Indians across Canada, show that major legal advances can be achieved as part of a wider strategy of popular struggles. It is no coincidence that the blue and white flags of the Métis have been prominent at many powerful actions of the Idle No More movement.
We salute the Métis on this historic victory, and we pledge our solidarity in the struggle to turn this legal ruling into meaningful gains for their social equality and national rights.
The March 8 ruling declared that the federal Crown failed to implement the land grant provision set out in Section 31 of the Manitoba Act, and awarded costs to the appellants.
Prior to the ruling, MMF President David Chartrand said, "Our People sent a message that our Land Claim must be a priority and one that I must advance all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to seek justice. This case is about lost and stolen properties and a People who were displaced and dispersed across and beyond their Homeland.
"The 1870 Manitoba Act recorded solemn promises made to provide lands to our children and to recognize the titles to our lands along the Red River. These and other promises were not kept. The Métis children and their families were swindled and their lands stolen by speculators. This was facilitated by government delays, unconstitutional legislation, and orders in council.
"This has been called the unfinished business of Confederation. As a Partner in bringing Manitoba into Confederation, and as an Aboriginal People, the Métis believe the Honour of the Crown and Canada's fiduciary responsibilities require this business be closed fairly and equitably. We have spent over 30 years in the courts struggling to right these wrongs done to our Ancestors."
Ruling greeted with celebration
Hundreds of people were at Winnipeg Airport to greet Métis leaders returning from Ottawa after the decision. A rally was held at Louis Riel's gravesite, in the cemetery of the St. Boniface Cathedral, to celebrate their success and the prospects of the next steps of negotiations with the provincial and federal governments. A celebration with Métis fiddling, dancing, and traditional food was held at the Community Hall of the Cathedral.
"To be a part of this historic event was truly a gift from the Great Spirit, a God‑inspired moment, with Riel surely smiling down upon the great victory and vindication of his sacrifices and a testament to the tenacity, perseverance and excellent leadership of President David Chartrand, his government members and the Métis Nation citizens within the province of Manitoba which brought the Métis Nation of the Northwest into confederation," stated President Clément Chartier of the Métis National Council.
From another perspective, BC Métis Federation President Keith Henry stated, "Many Métis families across Canada are connected to the historic lands of the Red River in Manitoba, and to have the highest court in the lands rule that the Federal Government failed to implement the land grants is known to many of us. The decision will have to be fully reviewed to better understand the future impacts but clearly this is a major victory and will open the Federal Government up to future Métis land claims. Many of us Métis know today that the Federal Government continues to fail our people, and this is another court ruling supporting Métis rights."
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