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What will government do about Metis decision?

June 20, 2016 4:20 A.M.
Harry Daniels, the late Metis activist who initiated case that went to Supreme Court. (Congress of Aboriginal Peoples)

From a speech in the House of Commons last week by Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod on the (Harry) Daniels vs. Canada decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that Metis and non-status Indians are "Indians" under the Constitution Act of 1867:

MADAM SPEAKER, I am very glad to have the opportunity to follow up on a question that I asked with respect to the Daniels decision.

MP Cathy McLeod

On April 14, a very important decision was rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada. For the first time, our Métis and non-status Indians got some clarity that they had long been waiting for, that is, that they are Indians under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act. This really has significant, immediate, and important consequences. There are approximately 200,000 Métis and 400,000 non-status Indians who really have been left in limbo for a long time.

We did note at the time that the minister said that she welcomed the decision, respected the Supreme Court, and was really glad to see that there was some important interpretation put around it.

My concern is this. The government always likes to suggest that we are not respectful of rights, that we are indifferent, and that we are not concerned about the significant challenges our indigenous communities have over the years. There is nothing that is further from the truth. However, it is our responsibility, and the government's responsibility, to share with Canadians the consequences of many important decisions.

I will provide a quick example. At the time I had said that because the government members knew the decision was coming down they should have been anticipating how it would end and have a plan in place: plan A if it goes in a certain direction and plan B if it goes in a different direction. Instead, they sort of acted surprised, as though they received this decision and had not contemplated anything in terms of how they were going to respond to it, other than saying they welcomed it.

There is a simple example that was immediate. I believe it was the son of Mr. Daniels, or it might have been another person, who was interviewed at the time who said that they have an expectation that they will have the rights to the health care benefits that status Indians have. If members are not aware, those are simple things like dental and pharmaceutical coverage.

That is an expectation. Therefore, we asked the government at the time if it had thought about it and whether it would be providing those kinds of supports. It responded that it welcomed the decision and that we were wrong to ask the question. It said, “Don't ask the question because that's inappropriate.” Therefore, we are trying to find out what analysis the government has done and where it will go next.

This is not the first time that government members sort of jump in and have great glowing words but actually do not do a good job, such as when, all of a sudden a year ago in June, they said, “We are going to implement the 94 recommendations,” but did not have a plan.

What continues to concern us is that there was this significant decision and we are now two months later. Therefore, perhaps tonight we will get a bit more detail, other than the general statements that we always get, in terms of what the government will do in response to this very important decision.



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