The main foyer of the Supreme Court of Canada erupted in cheers Thursday morning after a unanimous decision ruled that Metis and Non-Status indians are in fact indians under the constitution.
That means roughly 200,000 Metis and 400,000 non-status aboriginals are the responsibility of the federal government.
Before today it was not clear who they should turn to for programs and services and other benefits.
“I guess we were like a football. The non-aborinials didn’t want us, the First Nations didn’t want us” commented Bruce Dumont, President of the B.C. Metis Nation.
The Supreme Court ruling is being celebrated across the country.
The President of the Comox Valley Metis Association Bryce Mercredi said he was feeling relieved and happy as he wondered what the ruling could mean for over 60,000 Metis in BC.
Many details still have to be negotiated.
“We are finally recognized by the Federal Government and from what I gather we would have the same rights as the other aboriginal groups” Mercredi told CHEK News.
The ruling could give Metis and non-status aboriginals access to health and education programs but also a seat at the table when it comes to negotiating land claims and treaties.
“So now it will be a big step for us all of a sudden included in a lot of the discussions happening across the country” said Merdredi.
The case was launched in 1999 by prominent Metis leader Harry Daniels, but it didn’t go to trial until 2011.
Daniels died in 2004. But Bryce Mercredi says their fight goes back way farther than that.
“It probably goes all the way back to the days of Louis Riel” he said.
Louis Riel led two resistance movements against the Canadian government in the mid to late 1800’s as he sought to preserve Métis rights and culture.
Prime Minister Trudeau says the ruling with have broad consequences but that his government will work to advance reconciliation.