Montreal

Métis in Gaspé hope DNA tests will grant them more rights

New DNA tests show that aboriginal ancestors of today's Métis people have been living in the Gaspé region for nearly 2,000 years, a finding that the community hopes will help them in court.

Finding could help community defend hunting rights in court

The annual general assembly of the Metis Community of Gaspé, the Lower Saint Lawrence and Magdalen Islands. (Benoît Lavoie)

New DNA tests show that aboriginal ancestors of today's Métis people have been living in the Gaspé region for nearly 2,000 years, a finding that the community hopes will help them in court.

The Métis community in Gaspé, the Lower Saint Lawrence and Magdalen Islands has about 10,000 members who claim to be of both aboriginal and European descent.

At an annual meeting on the weekend, the community association presented new ancestral evidence from genetic tests.

"We did about 20 tests until now, and they all came out positive to show we've been here for 2,000 years," association president Benoît Lavoie said.

Benoît Lavoie, president of the Metis Community of Gaspé, the Lower Saint Lawrence and Magdalen Islands. (Benoît Lavoie)

He said the Association is proceeding carefully to make sure these results are valid. If they are, they could help people of aboriginal descent defend their legal rights, particularly as it relates to ancestral land — for example, in situations where someone is accused of illegal hunting or fishing.

In such cases, the accused have to defend their cases as individuals. Lavoie said prosecutors could use these new findings in court to have the community's rights recognized.

Lavoie said the association is ready to go to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said that the Métis people's presence in eastern Quebec dated back 2,000 years. In fact, it was the aboriginal ancestors of today's Métis people who are said to have lived in the area 2,000 years ago. CBC News regrets the error.
    Sep 24, 2015 10:24 AM ET