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North Slave Métis Alliance seek to join Métis rights court case

The North Slave Métis Alliance is seeking intervenor status in court today in a case between the Akaitcho Dene and federal government, arguing that Métis people have a legitimate rights-bearing land claim in the region.

Alliance argue that Métis land claim rights are based on ancestry, not 'ethnic Métis-ness'

North Slave Métis Alliance president Bill Enge says that 'the Métis Nation has a land claim based on the Indian ancestry of its members, not the ethnic Métis-ness of their members.' (CBC)

The North Slave Métis Alliance is arguing in federal court today that it must be allowed to intervene in a case between the Akaitcho Dene, the federal government, and a rival Métis Nation.

Arguing that there are no "rights-bearing" Métis on their land, the Akaitcho are also asking the federal government to prove that the Northwest Territory Métis Nation's members are actually Métis, and do not belong to the Akaitcho, or another aboriginal group.

The North Slave Métis Alliance, a separate Métis nation, say that they can prove the Akaitcho wrong.

President Bill Enge wants his lawyers to take up the fight with the government, and the Alliance has applied for intervener status.

The North Slave, like many Métis nations across the country, use the 2003 Powley Supreme Court decision to determine the métis status of their membership. The decision defines "Métis" as a "distinctive peoples of mixed ancestry who developed their own customs, practices, traditions and recognizable group identities separate from their Indian, Inuit and European ancestors."

The Northwest Territory Métis Nation does not use the Powley decision to determine the status of its membership, says Enge. Instead, the Nation gives membership to Métis who can trace their ancestry to First Nations who traditionally lived in the territory.

"The [Northwest Territory] Métis Nation has a land claim based on the Indian ancestry of its members," Enge said. "Not the ethnic 'Métis-ness' of its members. 

"They cannot be relied on to counter the Akaitcho Dene argument that there are no ethnic or section 35 aboriginal rights-bearing Métis. It would be tantamount to sabotaging their land claim.

Precedent setting?

Both the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, as well as the Attorney General representing the federal government in the case, are asking the judge to deny intervener status to the Métis Alliance, saying it would only slow down and complicate the proceeding.

In their response to the request for an injunction, federal government representatives say that the case has no bearing on the rights of section 35 Métis.

"This matter is not litigation over the issue of whether Métis exist in the NWT," reads the response, "or what the section 35 rights of such Métis might be."

However, the initial claim from the Akaitcho Dene, states that the Akaitcho believe "there have never been 'rights-bearing' Métis communities within the meaning of Powley in Akaitcho Territory," asking the Crown to prove otherwise.

"What historic and current Métis rights-bearing communities does Canada believe are represented by the NWT Métis Nation?" the claim goes on to read.

It's this distinction that Enge takes issue with.

Enge fought the Northwest Territories government earlier this year for the North Slave Métis' traditional right to hunt caribou in the region. The Alliance was eventually awarded tags.

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