Court rejects Manitoba Métis land claim
Métis federation alleges Crown didn't transfer land it promised in 1870 deal
The Manitoba Métis Federation has lost another court battle in a massive land claim dispute that includes all of present-day Winnipeg.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling Wednesday that found the federal government did not violate its duty to the Métis when it distributed land more than a century ago after Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870.
The federation quickly vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"It's not a loss; we just didn't win," federation president David Chartrand said Wednesday. "So, there's still another round to go.
"A book will be published on this matter when it's all finished and done with, and it will tell you the true story of how our people were openly and physically and outright abused by the people, inhabitants at the time and the government."
When Manitoba became a province, the federal government agreed to allot more than 5,600 square kilometres of the land that became Manitoba to the children of the Métis families that lived there at the time. The transfer of land took more than a decade, during which time non-Métis settlers moved into the area and took up some of the desirable real estate. Some Métis family members ended up with parcels of land well apart from each other.
The federation also says some Métis received money instead of land — a claim the court rejected — while others were pressured by speculators into immediately selling their land at low prices.
No 'convincing evidence': judge
The appeal court ruled that the Métis do not have a case.
"There was great delay ... and mistakes were no doubt made," Chief Justice Richard Scott wrote on behalf of the five appeal judges.
"However, while there may well have been inattention or carelessness, there is no convincing evidence that Canada's conduct overall constituted 'deliberate ineptitude' or 'unconscionable conduct' so as to constitute a breach of fiduciary duty.
"The Métis children as a whole did receive 1.4 million acres (5,665 square kilometres) — in fact, slightly in excess of that amount."
The federation rejects the idea that all the land was handed over. Its claim covers much of southern Manitoba, including the entire city of Winnipeg.
But it doesn't want the city land now; it wants money instead.
"We can't remove the buildings that now exist in our lands, and if you count the value of the homes and the lands, and the losses, I'm sure it would go into the billions [of dollars]," Chartrand said.