Indigenous

Supreme Court will not hear Quebec community's case seeking Métis rights

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the appeal of a Quebec group seeking recognition of Métis rights to occupy hunting camps on public lands.

Group says court's dismissal of application is not 'a denial of our rights or our existence as a community'

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa is shown in a 2015 file photo. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the appeal of a Quebec group seeking recognition of Métis rights to occupy hunting camps on public lands.

Brought forth by lead plaintiff Ghislain Corneau and other members of the Communauté métisse du Domaine du Roy et de la Seigneurie de Mingan (CMDRSM), the case intended to defend the constitutional rights of 4,000 members living across the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec who say they are Métis.

The SCC announced Thursday morning that the case was dismissed with costs.

"Although we are disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear our appeal which raises important questions of Métis s.35 rights, this decision should in no way be interpreted as a denial of our rights or our existence as a community," the CMDSRM said via a statement issued through their lawyers at Westaway Law Group.

"The lower courts in this matter failed to recognize the existence of our historic community largely because they viewed the evidence before them through a Eurocentric lens. In addition, our ability to prove our claim was also hindered by the fact that Métis history was never adequately documented by the Crown in Quebec."

The community was the first organization in Quebec to attempt to meet the Powley Test in a case to the Quebec Superior Court in 2007.

No court has yet recognized any Métis community east of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Ghislain Corneau in 2015 after the Quebec Superior Court did not rule in his favour. (Radio-Canada)

The community was hoping to present new evidence. The statement said the group will be exploring "all potential avenues for the recognition" of their inherent rights.

"The CMDRSM is a vibrant modern people and will continue to move forward in seeking recognition of its rights as an Indigenous community," the statement read. 

"Our determination to achieve reconciliation is unshaken and our vision for our community is resolute."

Métis National Council 'satisfied' with judgment

The Métis National Council (MNC) was an intervener in the Corneau case at the Quebec Court of Appeal, along with three Innu First Nations.

Clément Chartier, president of the MNC, said the organization was concerned about courts reinterpreting and altering the Powley Test.

"Now that the appeal has been dismissed, that concern has been allayed," said Chartier.

"There is only one historic Métis Nation and one historic Métis Nation homeland, and that's based primarily in Western Canada."

Clement Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, is seen at a ceremony to honour Métis veterans in November 2009. (David Vincent/The Associated Press)

Chartier said if the leave had been granted, the MNC would have intervened again.

The MNC also issued a news release Thursday stating groups in eastern Canada claiming Métis section 35 rights on the basis of mixed ancestry have "no connection to our people and nation but seek to usurp our rights and benefits that we have fought so hard to attain" and that the judgment will hopefully "deter these groups from continuing their attempts at identity theft."

"The term Métis is becoming an adjective opposed to a proper noun, so that always remains a concern," Chartier told CBC News.

"It's always a potential flash point for the Métis Nation, so we continue to state who we are. If courts elsewhere say these people are Métis and have certain rights, that certainly doesn't mean they are a part of the historic Métis Nation, and never will be."

About the Author

Jessica Deer

Journalist

Jessica Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.