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Métis applaud court ruling

About 4,000 registered Métis in the Red Deer area should be celebrating their new status as “Indians” after Tuesday’s Federal Court ruling.

After a 13-year legal battle, the court ruled that Métis and non-status Indians are indeed “Indians” under a section of the Constitution Act, and fall under federal jurisdiction.

But Raye St. Deny, executive director of Shining Mountains Living Community Services, said she is waiting for the federal government to follow through on its responsibilities.

The federal government has already said it would appeal the decision, she said.

“It’s not going to change anything right away. I hope it will in the future for our kids and grandkids,” St. Deny said on Wednesday.

Métis Nation of Alberta says the ruling means all aboriginal peoples in Canada — Métis, Inuit and Indians — are now understood to be a federal responsibility. Until this decision, Canada only admitted that Indians, Inuit and Métis north of the 60th parallel were its responsibility.

But it does not mean Métis are Indians culturally, socially or politically.

The ruling came after the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and several Métis and non-status Indians took the federal government to court in 1999, alleging discrimination, and argued they are entitled to some or all of the same rights and benefits as on-reserve First Nations members.

St. Denys said Métis have waited a long time for recognition that removes the differences between aboriginal groups.

“Usually people say aboriginal and First Nations as if they’re two separate things. This has clarified that we are all aboriginal people. There is no lesser-than status,” St. Deny said.

Métis elder Cora Fedyk said she really isn’t interested in labelling people.

“To me, I think of everyone as a brother and sister. That’s the way I look at it,” said Fedyk, 82, while visiting the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre on Wednesday.

“We are all people. We are all equal. My mind is open.”

Fedyk said she has always felt at home at the local friendship centre where aboriginal peoples share their culture.

“I’m kind of happy we’re all together.”

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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