OTTAWA — The Federal Court has ruled Metis and non-status Indians are indeed “Indians” under a section of the Constitution Act, and fall under federal jurisdiction.
The decision helps to clarify the relationship between Ottawa and the more than 600,000 aboriginal people who live off-reserve.
While the decision does not go so far as to declare that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to the group, it says such duties would flow automatically now that their standing has been clarified.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and several Metis and non-status Indians took the federal government to court in 1999 alleging discrimination because they are not considered “Indians” under a section of the Constitution Act.
They argued they are entitled to some or all of the same rights and benefits as on-reserve First Nations members.
They say that includes access to the same health, education and other benefits Ottawa gives status Indians; being able to hunt, trap, fish and gather on public land; and the ability to negotiate and enter treaties with the federal government.
The congress and the Metis and non-status Indians involved in the case alleged in court documents that they’ve been the victims of “deprivations and discrimination” by the federal government.