Status ruling 'beginning of another journey'
Kamloops This Week
In Deb Canada’s opinion, one conversation has ended and another is about to begin.
Canada, a Metis, said a federal court ruling that Metis and non-status Indians are “Indians” under the Constitution Act and fall under federal jurisdiction isn’t the end of the issue.
The decision comes after 13 years of legal battles to clarify the relationship between the federal government and aboriginal people who are not members of reserves.
Canada, chief executive officer of the Metis Commission for Children and Families B .C., said caution is required as the Metis and non-status Indians move forward “because this is the beginning of another journey to ensure we are recognized.”
In theory, the decision should require the federal government to provide the same health care and other benefits aboriginals living on reserves receive.
“I’m not getting my hopes up,” Canada said. “It still has such a colonial feel to it.”
She said it was good to have the Metis voices heard — albeit over 13 years — but that the collective voice that resonated with the court does not represent every Metis.
“Some of the Metis don’t see each other as Indian,” she said.
“And, for a lot of Metis, we’re fairly new at all of this so I hope that, collectively, with this new development, we can move forward. We just have to be really careful.”
Despite the ruling, Canada said often the Metis do not receive the same level of respect from government that other First Nations bands do.
“We have to respect each other’s differences. We have our own beliefs of who we are and who we are not.”
The lawsuit was launched by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, along with Metis and non-status Indians, in 1999.
The suit alleged discrimination because they were not included in the definition of Indian in a section of the Constitution Act.