Tens of thousands of square kilometres of land in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan are owed to the Métis people, a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Saskatoon claims.
The individuals and communities involved in the lawsuit said they are seeking redress for wrongfully being deprived of land dating back to the 1880s.
The claim encompasses 120,000 square kilometres — most of which are in oil sands territory.
“We want to be crystal clear to Canadians and to lawmakers. This long-overdue action could have been avoided if successive governments had simply done the right thing and admitted that the scrip process deprived Metis people of what the law promised us,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis Community.
The scrip system promised 160 to 240 acres of land or dollars for the purchase of land to every Métis individual, according to the plaintiffs.
They allege that abuse, mismanagement and fraudulent actions prevented Métis people from benefiting from the program.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to recognize they have existing Aboriginal rights under the Constitution, that the government has an obligation to negotiate with the plaintiffs, and a declaration the Crown did not fulfil its obligations under the scrip system.
Quintal said they are not looking to displace anyone from the land they are claiming.
“In fact, we support responsible business, including resource extraction,” Quintal said.
“However, the time has come to demand the wrongs of the past be righted in a meaningful way. We are confident in the success of this action and determined that justice will be done.”
A federal spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying they “have not received a copy of the statement of claim filed.
“As this matter is before the courts, we are not in a position to comment further at this time.”