Métis, non-status Indians call for action following historic Daniels ruling

Métis and non-status Indigenous people from across Canada are in Ottawa this week for the Daniels Symposium to discuss last year's Supreme Court of Canada ruling that could affect their rights. We asked some attendees what they'd like to see going forward.

2-day symposium to discuss impact of Daniels decision on Métis and non-status Indians

Métis and non-status Indigenous people from across Canada are in Ottawa this week for the Daniels Symposium, a two-day gathering to discuss last year's landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled the federal government has the same responsibility to them as it does to status Indians and Inuit.

Little has developed in nearly a year since that ruling, so those gathered in Ottawa hope to come to a consensus on an action plan to present to the federal government on how they'd like it to proceed.

We caught up with some of the symposium's attendees from across Canada to ask them what the ruling means to them as Métis, non-status, and off-reserve Indigenous people and what they want to see happen in its aftermath.

Scott Clark, Vancouver, B.C.

"I'm a status Indian — treaty status Indian from B.C. with three sons who are non-status off-reserve. It's extremely important that we get some action from the Supreme Court decision about the responsibility of the federal government to work with all Indigenous peoples. 

"We see the crisis situations for Indigenous peoples, particularly in the off-reserve context. We have child welfare issues, we have housing, homelessness, education, employment training — and this is something that Canada's been ignoring since its inception. And it's critically important that we start to address these issues so we get in front of it so that we can build healthy citizens and healthy nations."

Tianna Fisher, Dryden, Ont.

"Indigenous people are often pinned against each other. But with the Daniels decision, we are all Indians under the law. So there needed to be a discussion. Someone needs to stand up to say that we all need to be included. And that's really important to me. 

"Growing up in northwestern Ontario, I'm surrounded by thousands of lakes and lots of trees. I would like to see anyone like me who's an Aboriginal person who doesn't have treaty rights — I want to be able to see more people being allowed to go out and fish or hunt or support their families in a way that I guess isn't conventional in today's society. I want us to be able to include ourselves in national discussions and be represented."

Blake Desjarlais, Fishing Lake Métis Settlement, Alta.

"What I hope to do is really raise awareness that we're all — in a lot of ways — in this together. We're all trying to figure out and navigate ways in which we can achieve the best for our own peoples ... Achieve actual parity with other Canadians and other Indigenous groups. We have done remarkable work the last 80 to 100 years, the Métis settlements, and we're not done. We're not near parity. We're not near any of those places where we ought to be. Our health and our education are still below par, still below the standard of some of our Indigenous peers.

"It's a long and hard struggle, but it's one that I think with the Daniels decision - it moved us a little further and closer to achieving a betterment for the next generation."

Lisa Cooper, Native Council of Prince Edward Island

"For me it's about bringing the issues forward from my community, from the grassroots. Daniels has come out — it's been a year now. The government doesn't seem to have done much about it. And I think it's time for us and our communities to be heard and to give direction to the government on who we are, who we represent, and what needs to be done, and how do we close the gaps that exist between our communities."

Gerald Cunningham, Métis Settlements General Council, Alta.

"One thing we've always wanted to do was establish a relationship with the federal government as well. And the Daniels case basically opens the door for us to be able to look at tripartite agreements between the federal government, and the provincial government, and our Métis settlements government on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government basis.

"I'm hoping that everybody has a better understanding of what the Daniels case is really all about. We talked a lot today about people working together, organizations working together for the benefit of the people that we represent. Basically that we will have the relationship built with the federal government, and that we'll be able to access programs and services on a same level playing field as other Aboriginal groups — something that we've been deprived of for years."