After a long and drawn out battle, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Metis and non-status Indians are now officially considered Indians under Canada’s 1867 constitution.
“It means the end of discrimination, it means the end of exclusion and it means the end of excuses and that’s the key thing for us,” said David Chartrand, President of the Manitoba Metis Federation, moments after the ruling was announced in Ottawa.
The decision will allow off-reserve aboriginals to have access to the same programs and services that are available to First Nations and Inuit.
“It was always on reserve, off reserve status and now it’s finally an Indian is an Indian regardless of where you live and if you are status or non-status,” said Chief Grace Conrad, president of the Native Council of Nova Scotia.
Chief Conrad said she was overwhelmed on Thursday after hearing about the Supreme Court ruling. “We know that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to us now,” she said.
The ruling ends a lengthy legal challenge. One that’s been before the courts since 1999 and cost nearly $6 million dollars.
In total, 600,000 Metis and non-status Indians will be extended rights throughout the country.
Roger Hunka, Director of the Maritime Aboriginal Aquatic Resources Secretariat, said the decision will allow aboriginals to live a better life.
“It is significant that those persons who felt forgotten, left, just gone through the cracks, now have an opportunity to say ‘well, I am somebody. I am worth something. I’m not a nobody, I’m not forgotten’,” said Hunka.
“In other words, the dignity of that person is elevated. They don’t have to keep crawling and begging.”
The Supreme Court decision comes on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.
“It took us 150 years to slowly come to the point where we’re going to an honourable confederation where everybody is going to be a part of it,” said Hunka.