Métis National Council President applauds Ontario Métis Court victory on Harvesting Rights

Once again calls on governments from Ontario westward to neagotiate versus litigate on Métis Harvesting Right

Ottawa, ON (June 12, 2007) --- Today, Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council (MNC) offered congratulations to the leadership and citizens of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) on their recent court victory that upholds the terms of the accommodation agreement negotiated and entered into with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

In July 2004, the MNR and MNO entered into an interim Métis harvesting agreement which recognized the MNO’s Harvesters Card system and provided that valid MNO Harvesters Card holders, harvesting for food, would not be subject to enforcement procedures, as long as conservation or safety was not at issue. Subsequent to July 7th, the MNR unilaterally imposed an arbitrary line across the middle of the province and took the position that only Métis living north of its line could benefit from the accommodation agreement. The MNO and three of its harvesters challenged the MNR’s actions. Specifically, they challenged MNR’s imposition of an arbitrary line.

In a decision released today in North Bay, the Ontario Court of Justice agreed with the Métis harvesters and the MNO. The MNR could not unilaterally draw an arbitrary line based on its interpretation of the agreement. Based on the landmark Powley decision on Métis harvesting rights and subsequent Aboriginal rights cases, the trial judge found that the MNO-MNR Harvesting Agreement “was not merely legally defensible but a highly principled response.” Based on the MNO-MNR Agreement, the trial judge stayed (dismissed) the charges against all three Métis harvesters.

“This victory is significant for the entire Métis Nation. It confirms that the MNO and MNR did the right thing in July 2004 by entering into an accommodation on Métis harvesting. It also confirms that Métis can rely on deals we negotiate and enter into with governments,” said President Chartier.

Chartier added, “ In 2003, Powley affirmed that the Métis people have harvesting rights. We should not be having to continue to go to court, at great expense to Métis and all Canadian taxpayers, to establish our rights hectare by hectare throughout our Homeland. Governments from Ontario westward should be respecting Canada’s Constitution and their constitutional obligations by arriving at mutually agreeable accommodations with us, instead of delaying the inevitable and creating more distrust and frustration between governments and our people. This judgment reaffirms that negotiations are the preferred approach to litigation.”

The Métis Nation continues to realize victories throughout its Homeland in the courts. Upcoming cases on Métis harvesting rights are expected in Saskatchewan (R. v. Belhumeur) and Manitoba (R. v. Goodon) in the next few months. Currently, the only formal negotiations that are ongoing are between the Government of Alberta and the Métis Nation of Alberta for a Métis harvesting agreement that builds upon the MNA-Alberta Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement that is in place in that province.

“Governments must come to grips with the reality that Métis rights are not going anywhere. As we have done for generations, we will fight and stand up for our rights wherever we need to. We will not accept less than what we know are our rights by virtue of being bullied or being confronted by government stall tactics. It is time for governments to show some honour and do what they are constitutionally mandated to do: negotiate with Métis in order to recognize and affirm our rights,” concluded Chartier.

The MNC represents the Métis Nation in Canada at the national and international level. The Métis Nation’s homeland includes the three Prairie provinces and extends into Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the northern United States. There are approximately 350,000 – 400,000 Métis Nation citizens in Canada.

For further information on the judgment visit www.metisnation.org or contact:

Zoran Vidic
Senior Communications Officer
(613) 295-9298
(613) 232-3216 ext. 124
email: zoranv@metisnation.ca