Whitehorse Daily Star

Métis decision ‘very, very exciting news’

Last week’s Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding aboriginal rights for non-status Indians and Métis will have a major impact in the Yukon.

By Chuck Tobin on April 20, 2016

Last week’s Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding aboriginal rights for non-status Indians and Métis will have a major impact in the Yukon.

So say a couple of Yukoners intimate with the issue.

Bill Webber was the former president of the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians through the late 1970s, and has remained abreast with the issues facing non-status Indians.

Rick Christianson is the current president of the Métis Nation of the Yukon.

Both believe the decision is not only a win for non-status Indians and Métis, but believe the impact here will be profound.

Nobody’s going to see anything overnight, but things will change, they agree.

“We have to sit down as an executive to see where we can go from here,” Christianson said in interview this week of the way forward for the Métis Nation.

“It is certainly exciting news, but it is not something here in the Yukon we can just take off with.”

Webber said the decision will affect Yukon First Nations across the board: the three without land claim and self-government agreements and the 11 First Nations that have final agreements.

“It will be interesting to see how this unfolds,” Webber said in a separate interview. “I think it will take a number of years before it flushes out.”

Webber pointed out, for instance, that annual financial transfer payments to the 11 self-governing First Nations is based on the number of status Indians belonging to the First Nation.

Funding formulas will have to change as a result of the decision, he said.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last week that non-status Indians and Métis have aboriginal rights under the Constitution of Canada in same way as status Indians have rights under the Constitution.

Ottawa and the provinces have “alternately” denied responsibility for looking after the interests of non-status and Métis, the high court points out.

“This results in these indigenous communities being in a jurisdictional wasteland with significant and obvious disadvantaging consequences,” reads the decision.

The Supreme Court points out over the years, decades and centuries, even Ottawa would embrace Métis and non-status Indians as their own when it was convenient: such as to ensure settlement with aboriginal groups as the federal government pushed forward in the 1800s with its dream of building a trans-Canada railway.

The case on aboriginal rights for non-status and Métis was brought forward by a handful of individuals and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which was formed in 1971 to advocate for non-status Indians and Métis.

Webber said the non-status and Métis can now pursue rights that flow from the Constitution as a result of last Thursday’s decision.

“They’ll be able to negotiate with the government for programming and services, and who knows what else?” he said. “They are going to be treated by law as status Indians.”

Webber said the door is open now for non-status and Métis to look at resource revenue-sharing and the like.

There’s no question the decision will impact on negotiations for the financial transfer arrangements with the 11 self-governing First Nations, he said.

“I have heard there is a few chiefs talking about it already.”

Christianson said the 2006 census showed that 800 Yukoners identified as Métis, though that doesn’t mean they’ll all have the required documentation to proof their heritage.

But he suspects the decision will prompt some to begin pursuing the proof they’ll need.

He said there are just under 200 active members of the Métis Nation of the Yukon.

The decision paves the way to discuss issues like support for educational pursuits, hunting rights and things like not having to pay for hunting licences, rights that are now afforded status Indians, he said.

“Things will take time, and we’ll just have to see where this goes,” Christianson said. “But this is very, very exciting news.”

See related story and letter.

Comments (11)

Up 0 Down 1

Deborah on Apr 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Well I can say that my family built this country as well being early immigrants from Germany and Holland. Native peoples were the first people of canada and just because of the color of their skin were treated unjustly, as were the non-status who came after and the metis. They led the expeditions for mapping and trading. There wouldn't have been the knowledge if not for them.
I don't think that the numbers for non-status and metis are quite as high as 600,000. They all have to prove, prove, prove their heritage. The rebellion with Louis Riel took place at the Red River and this is where Metis was born, so I would imagine your roots must begin here at the Red River settlements? So if you are self claiming metis you had better get busy and do your genealogy. This information is available in all government history departments so that they can check.

Up 4 Down 11

Dee on Apr 25, 2016 at 8:33 pm

Why is everyone complaining that they are financially doomed. If you look at the dollar value of land just in Whitehorse, the Goverments received this land not at fair market value, but at bargain prices when they signed Land Claims Agreements with First Nations. How much is the government making off of the sale of lands and economic development of lands.... Lots of indirect spending in the Yukon as a result of working with First Nations. Just food for thought!

Up 8 Down 9

north on Apr 25, 2016 at 3:37 pm

@cameron - the way colonization was performed elsewhere has no bearing on Canada. We are Canadian and we made treaties, had an act where Indians were set out as "wards of the state", had failed assimilation practices etc...

You should also know, that many of those colonized areas that you are referring to , i.e., New Zealand, Australia, even the USA... are having movements towards reconciliation as well...

Up 13 Down 10

cameron on Apr 24, 2016 at 8:10 pm

That was then - this is now
World history unfortunately shows so many people have been pushed aside to the benefit of the more powerful and numerous groups. That is what has happened all over the world over the centuries. The overwhelmed group hopefully can find a way to move forward and join to the benefit of the good of the whole country rather than seek to divide and fracture.

Up 5 Down 20

Arturs on Apr 22, 2016 at 7:37 pm

"How much is this going to cost Canadian taxpayers over the next 100 years."

How much did it cost the Metis people to get pushed off of land they had been settled on for the previous 100 years. The land in question was not even Canadian it was 'Rupert's Land' and John A. McDonald never had any real authority over it but he bludgeoned the Metis out of the way for the railroad.

Up 28 Down 14

drum on Apr 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm

This country will be unable to financially continue to support all of this. There are not enough taxpayers to cover all the demands made by the indigenous people. We as Canadians just have to pull together - we have to look at the other countries in this world and realise how lucky we are to be Canadian and living where we do. We need to work very hard to ensure that we still have a country worth living in. I deeply respect the indigenous people of this country but we have to come together for the benefit of the future of this country and stop bleeding it dry.

Up 25 Down 12

cameron on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:07 pm

How much is this going to cost Canadian taxpayers over the next 100 years.

Up 27 Down 16

jc on Apr 21, 2016 at 5:58 pm

As one of Irish and Scotish decent, who's descendants and family put so much into the development of Canada, I wonder why we can't get special privileges over and above the joy of paying taxes supporting so many non contributors. Anyway, where does the Liberals expect to get all this extra cash from? - the Bank of Military of course.

Up 17 Down 12

gravy train on Apr 20, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Right on! Choo choo sign me up!

Up 30 Down 16

Just Say'in on Apr 20, 2016 at 8:10 pm

OMG here we go again. We are financially doomed.

Up 7 Down 35

BimllW on Apr 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I see a statement from the supposed governing administration is not forth-coming as per usual.

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