Get out your wallets: Ottawa appeals ruling on Métis and Non-Status Indians

We knew that other shoe had to drop eventually.

The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs says Ottawa has to challenge the Federal Court ruling ordering the federal government to recognize its responsibilities for the concerns of Métis and Non-Status Indians. Effectively, the Court had concluded that Ottawa must regard Métis and non-status Indians as “Indians” under the Constitution. But Minister John Duncan says the ruling can’t be accepted at face value because it’s not affordable:

“Our government must ensure that programs and services to Aboriginal Peoples are fiscally sustainable.”

Put more bluntly, if those 400,000 Métis and 200,000+ off-reserve Indians who went to Federal Court were to count as “Indians” constitutionally, it would break the bank. The assumption here is that hundreds of thousands of people were going to come seeking cash money; no word about the dignity, fairness and self-worth mentioned by Betty-Anne Lavallée of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples when the decision came down last month. No, it’s all about government having the flexibility to spend money where it wants, when it wants to. And if that’s advertising or jets, that’s what it is.

Never mind what Judge Michael Phelan wrote in the Federal Court decision:

There is no dispute that the Crown has a fiduciary relationship with aboriginal people both historically and pursuant to section 35 (of the Constitution).

Never mind too that Phelan specifically stipulated:

“That duty is not an open-ended undefined obligation but must be focused on a specific interest.”

Never mind the specific interests of some of the interested parties are simply to get the federal government to acknowledge the existence of, and responsibility to, a unique people rather than trying to palm them off on the provinces as some sort of resident dissidents.

When I wrote about this last month, I mentioned that we should all expect some dancing on the head of a pin.

If history is anything to go by, this is going to be yet another expensive Arthur Murray experience.

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