Harry Daniels challenged the notion of the two founding nations of Canada, being English and French. In 1978 before the Task Force on Canadian Unity he declared that the Métis, by virtue of the actions of the Red River Government were “the only charter group in Canada with a history of national political independence before joining confederation.”
The Constitution of 1982
The importance of the inclusion of the Métis people in the definition of Aboriginal peoples of Canada in the Constitution Act of 1982 cannot be underestimated. Part II Section 35 (2) states: In this Act, “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. This simple statement represents more than a hundred years of struggle and countless hours of work by Aboriginal leaders, the NCC and by Harry Daniels. This simple statement enshrined in our Constitution has significant importance for the future of all the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
The Court Challenge
Although Harry’s life was cut short, his fight for justice for Métis and non-status Indians has not ended. An action before the Federal Court was launched in 1999 by Harry Daniels and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. The case entitled (Daniels v. Canada) sought recognition of three basic principles, in that:
Métis and Non-Status Indians (MNSI) are Indians under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867,
The Crown owes to Métis and Non-Status Indians a fiduciary duty as Aboriginal peoples,
Canada must negotiate and consult with the Métis and Non-Status Indians, on a collective basis through representatives of their choice, with respect to their rights, interests and needs as Aboriginal peoples.
Historic Court Decision – 2013
The Landmark Court Ruling on January 8, 2013 by the Federal Court affirms the belief that Harry Daniels and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples had; that Metis and Non-Status are Indians under the Constitution. With this Historic Ruling, this is a significant time in history for all Métis and Non-Status Indians.
Following an appeal by the Government of Canada, on October 29, 2014, the Federal Court of Appeal heard arguments from all interested parties. The Appeal Court will render its decision on April 17, 2014, almost 15 years since the court case first began.
Whatever the final outcome of the court case, it is a culmination of a lifetime of work by Harry Daniels and his search for social justice for Métis and Non-Status Indian people of Canada.
Appeal Court Ruling
On April 17, 2014 the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the rights on Métis. National Chief Betty Ann Lavallée, in a statement to the press stated,
“I am very pleased that the Federal Court of Appeal agreed that Métis are Indians under the section 91(24) of the Constitution – as well, we are equally as pleased the Federal Government conceded at the appeal hearing that non-Status Indians fall under federal jurisdiction.”