MÃ©tis claims in Maritimes leap by thousands
In the three years since the country's top court defined MÃ©tis rights for the first time, thousands of people in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have come forward to claim MÃ©tis status.
The 2003 Supreme Court of Canada decision, known as thePowley ruling, recognized a community in Ontario as MÃ©tis and gave them the aboriginal right to hunt for food —a decision seen as a first step toward granting full aboriginal rights to hunt and fish for food out of season or without a provincial licence.
The New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council estimates 1,000 people have come forward in recent years claiming MÃ©tisstatus.
In Nova Scotia, the claims have risen in the province to 8,000 from about 4,000 five years earlier, according to the Confederacy of Nova Scotia MÃ©tis.
Paul Ross, a spokesman for the confederacy, said he doesn't believe the rise in claims has anything to do with the landmark Supreme Court decision, which was specific to a MÃ©tis community in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
"Everybody in this area is MÃ©tis," said Ross. "We just want to be recognized as MÃ©tis here in Nova Scotia."
'Historic MÃ©tis nation' ranges from Ontario to B.C.
Just because someone has made a claim to be recognized as MÃ©tis doesn't mean they are MÃ©tis, said Tony Belcourt, who is withthe MÃ©tis National Council.
"They're certainly not affiliated with what we call the historic MÃ©tis nation in what we call our homeland, from Ontario to B.C.," Belcourt said.
Under the council's definition, people areMÃ©tis if they self-identify as such, are of historic MÃ©tis nation ancestry and are accepted by the MÃ©tis Nation.
Therights of around 300,000 MÃ©tis people in Canada, who have mixed aboriginal and non-aboriginal ancestry, have never been defined under the 1982 Constitution.
Visibility, decline in racism may be factors
Bradford Morse, an aboriginal law instructor at the University of Ottawa, said the Powley decision is likely only one of the reasons why people in the Maritimes are declaring themselves MÃ©tis.
"Part of it is influenced by the visibility the media gives to MÃ©tis rights, part of it is a function of increased programs and services being available for MÃ©tis," said Morse.
He said it's also possible some people are willing to declare themselves MÃ©tis because there's less racial discrimination now than there was years ago.