Daniels vs. Canada decision
Federal court ruling on Métis and non-status Indians
Update - Daniels v. Canada
On April 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada overruled the federal government’s appeal of the Federal Court of Canada’s decision of January 8, 2013 in the case of Daniels v. Canada. This landmark decision, widely celebrated by Métis and non-status Indians, brings to an end a 17-year long legal battle involving plaintiffs Harry Daniels, Gabriel Daniels, Leah Gardner, Terry Joudrey and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples’ in their legal battle with the Canadian government to declare approximately 200,000 Métis and 400,000 non-status Indians as “Indians” under the Constitution Act, 1867. The decision resolves the jurisdictional ambiguity around responsibility for Métis and non-status Indians which has left them with “obvious disadvantaging consequences” [(Daniels v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development), 2016 SCC12)]. According to Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan:
One of the results of the positions taken by the federal and provincial governments and the “political football — buck passing” practice is that financially [Métis and non-status Indians] have been deprived of significant funding for their affairs. . . . [T]he political/policy wrangling between the federal and provincial governments has produced a large population of collaterally damaged [Métis and non-status Indians]. They are deprived of programs, services and intangible benefits recognized by all governments as needed. [paras. 107-8] Under this ruling, the federal government now has fiduciary responsibilities to all Indigenous peoples in Canada, including Métis and non-status Indians.
For the full ruling, see http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/15858/index.do
January 2013 - On January 8, 2013, the Federal Court of Canada ruled in favour of plaintiffs Harry Daniels, Gabriel Daniels, Leah Gardner, Terry Joudrey and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in a 13-year long legal battle with the Canadian government to declare Métis and non-status Indians as “Indians” under the Constitution Act, 1867. The Daniels decision means that approximately 200,000 Métis and 400,000 non-status Indians will be considered “Indians” under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, which refers to the federal government’s legislative jurisdiction over “Indians and land reserved to Indians.”
In his decision on the case, Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan writes that recognition of Métis and non-status Indians as “Indians” under the Constitution Act “should accord a further level of respect and reconciliation by removing the constitutional uncertainty surrounding these groups.” Although the Daniels decision does not directly declare that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility toward Métis and non-status Indians, it does indicate that definition of these groups as Indians under the Act will automatically trigger a fiduciary relationship that is “not an open-ended undefined obligation but … focused on a specific interest.”