Aboriginal Harvesting Right for Métis
The Métis have Aboriginal rights, which are protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In this case, it was established that the Powley’s have an Aboriginal right to hunt as Métis. Métis rights, as Aboriginal rights, are collective rights.
The existence of the Métis right to hunt exercised by the Powley’s flows from:
- The existence of a historic Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie
- Hunting was an integral part of that Métis community’s culture
- The Métis community continued to exist at Sault Ste. Marie;
- The modern day Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie is rooted in the historic Métis community, and that hunting is still a crucial part of the Métis community’s culture;
- The Powleys belong to the Métis community at Sault Ste. Marie are descendants of the historic Métis community and were hunting within the Métis community’s traditional territory.
- The Métis right to hunt is not game or species specific.
Who is Métis and Who has a Right to Hunt?
The Court has left it open to allow the Métis Nation to define its own citizenship by recognizing that who is Métis for the purposes of exercising a Métis harvesting right may be different than who is Métis for other purposes (i.e. such as citizenship within the MNO).
Powley confirms that a s. 35 Aboriginal harvesting right of a Métis community can be exercised by someone who:
- Self-identifies as Métis;
- Has a demonstrated genealogical connection to the historic Métis community; and
- Is accepted as Métis by the Métis community.
- The Court recognized that there might be other individuals who legitimately claim Métis identity, but do not have a genealogical connection to the historic Métis community. However, whether these individuals may also exercise a Métis community’s harvesting right was not decided in this case because the facts did not warrant such a determination.
- Ancestors of Métis harvesting rights claimants could have taken treaty without losing their Aboriginal rights or Métis status.
MNO Harvesting Agreement legally binding on Government of Ontario
OTTAWA (June 12, 2007) — The Ontario Court of Justice has ruled that the historic harvesting agreement entered into by the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is legally binding on the Government of Ontario and that the laying of charges by the MNR against three Métis harvesters violated the terms of that agreement. The Hon. Justice Greg Rodgers today ordered a stay of proceedings against the three Métis harvesters involved, Marc Laurin, Shaun Lemieux and Roger Lemieux, all of the French River region of Ontario, south of Sudbury.
“We have achieved another major victory in the Metis hunt for justice”, said MNO President and Chief Captain of the Hunt, Tony Belcourt. “This judgment restores our faith in the value of negotiated agreements and justifies our position that we wish to work out our issues at a negotiating table. I hope this judgment will now pave the way for us to finally establish an appropriate working relationship with the Government of Ontario that is long overdue,” Mr. Belcourt added.