Tens of thousands of Métis and non-status Indians now recognised under the Indian Act
By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly
Over 130 local Métis celebrated the ruling announcement from the ‘Daniels Case’ decision at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre on April 14. The decision delivered by the Supreme Court of Canada ended a 17-year long debate on what classifies non-status Indians and Métis as “Indians” under section 91(24) of the Constitution.
In 1999, former Alberta Métis President Harry Daniels argued the Government of Canada to revisit its arbitrary and exclusionary policies towards non-status Indians and Métis. He believed both groups were a constitutional responsibility at a federal level, not a provincial. Once Daniels passed away five years after initiating the case, his son Gabriel continued to keep it a priority.
President of the McMurray Métis Gail Gallupe called the decision a “history moment” and “a dream come true” for the Métis people.
“For too long the Métis people have fallen through the cracks as neither the Federal nor Provincial governments have taken responsibility for dealing with us,” she said. “As a result, our people have been disadvantaged.”
Cindy Punko, a lifelong resident of Fort McMurray and member of McMurray Métis’ board of directors presented a speech at the local event, alongside Mayor Melissa Blake, as well as Ward 4 Councillor Jane Stroud and Ward 1 Councillor Colleen Tatum.
“Today is a historic day. What happened today will change the course of Canada,” said Punko at the event. “It will have a profound impact on how the Métis are treated by the government and industry. It will improve our quality of life. And most importantly, it will have great implications for our children. How they grow up, how they feel about themselves, and how they will be treated by the federal government.”
The Métis of Wood Buffalo further announced they are calling on the Alberta Government to recognize the change.
“We need an off-settlement Métis consultation policy that is fair and just,” Punko explained. “We are eager to work with you to develop it, but we will no longer accept the status quo.”
Founded in 1987 and governed under the bylaws of the Métis Nation of Alberta by an elected Local Council, McMurray Métis is accountable to its membership with a mandate to pursue the advancement of the Métis people of Fort McMurray and northeastern Alberta. For more information, visit www.McMurrayMetis.org.