For #Métis and Non-Status *Indians

By Prof. Sebastien Malette


The Métis Federation of Canada intervened before the highest court in the country on October 8th to suggest that all Métis and Non-Status Indians* are included as “Indians” under section 91 (24). The Métis Federation of Canada sought to do justice to all Aboriginal People regarding the responsibility of the Federal plan on the division of powers between the provinces and the Federal, section 91 (24) of the 1867 Constitution.

We suggested a test in three parts, namely:
1) proof of Aboriginal ethnicity (including culture, and not only “race” or blood quantum that are outdated concepts)
2) self-identification
3) acceptance by a community (without defining it first, following this case law of the Supreme Court)

We hope that this test would allow to extract ourselves from competitions on identity (between Western and Eastern Métis for example), and leave everyone the freedom to join the community best suited to each (in mutual agreement with the community).

I must clarify that  Métis and Non-status Indians* will not be “Indians” under the Indian Act which is an Act of Parliament (whereas Parliament has discretion to abolish). The Supreme Court recognized Inuit as “Indians” in 1939, but not Indians within the meaning of the law of 1876 Indians, or even as First Nations (if we assume that the term “Indian” first refers to “First Nations”).

Nevertheless, this judgment has important consequences for Métis and Non-Status Indians* and will thus set the standard on identity, rules and powers to negotiate.

I hope this allays fears that First Nations would be forced to accept more members within their folds or loose “paradoxical" privilege gained by a 19th century colonial law,

If First Nations choose to accept non-Status Indians*, according to the ancient customs of adoption that once restored the power of multiple Nations, it will remain at their collective discretion (at least I hope).

Regarding the Métis of the East and West and First Nations, we hope for the best negotiations and relations between us, by focusing on what are our shared values ​​and kinship.

For Métis, it will be a balance between cultural survival, autonomy, and the restoration of alliance with First Nations who share  territory and Spirit.

This being said, a positive resolution for Métis and non-Status Indians* will have consequences in the sense that the Fed will see its responsibility to Métis and Non-status, described by the Chief Justice as being prisoners in a constitutional "no-man’s land”.

This Supreme Court ruling is therefore an important part in future negotiations to establish a fairer treatment for the Indigenous Peoples across Canada (which – even if we include all people with Aboriginal descent – represent less than 5% of the total population of Canada).

* the term Indian is used here only to align with the language of the Parliamentary Act.

This article was translated from the original French version available here