Landmark case could open doors for N.W.T.'s North Slave Métis Alliance
Favourable outcome could mean more funding, leverage in land claim negotiations
The outcome of a landmark Métis rights case now before the Supreme Court of Canada could open doors for the N.W.T.'s North Slave Métis Alliance.
"It's conceivable here that the government of Canada would have to negotiate a land claim with the North Slave Métis people as Métis, through our Métis ethnicity," says alliance president Bill Enge.
In 1999, Métis leader Harry Daniels started the Métis and non-status Indian rights case. Daniels died in 2004, but his case finally went before the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The top court is being asked to determine whether Métis and non-status Indians in Canada have the right to be treated as "Indians" under the Constitution Act and fall under federal jurisdiction.
The Métis case argues they do not get the same access to health, education and other benefits Ottawa gives status Indians: being able to hunt, trap, fish and gather on public land; and the ability to negotiate and enter treaties with the federal government.
Enge says a favourable decision in the Harry Daniels case could make a big difference for the North Slave Métis Alliance.
He says the outcome of the case would mean funding to run their band offices, similar to what First Nations get, and it could give them leverage in future land claim negotiations.
Enge says he's optimistic the Supreme Court will rule in the Métis' favour, but he doesn't expect a decision until the middle of next year.
The N.W.T. Métis Nation, which has been negotiating a land claim in the southern part of the N.W.T. for years, recently signed an agreement-in-principal with the federal government.