In March of 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian government failed to keep its promises under the Manitoba Act of 1870 (Galloway, A8). This is a landmark in Canadian history and a massively important ruling for the Métis peoples of Canada, as it signifies the beginning of change. Though this was surely a joyous day for many, the road to this verdict has been a bumpy one. Since the late 1800’s, the Métis have endured great inequalities and injustices. Although they are not all-inclusive, three of the more serious issues are health, employment and incarceration. An examination of these issues reveals why the ruling is so vital to the Métis and what it might mean for their future.
The statistics on health, employment and incarceration really speak for themselves. Surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007 found that Métis adults were at a higher risk of being diagnosed with a chronic condition than were their non-Aboriginal counterparts (Garner et al). Furthermore, Métis adults were twice as likely to die before the age of 75 and that “[s]ocio-economic indicators such as income, education and employment explained a large share of the disparities in premature mortality” (Tjepkema et al). This chart from Statistics Canada also shows that the life expectancy is also significantly lower among the Métis
Life Expectancy Among Aboriginal and Non-Aborginal Canadians, 2001.
Similar to other Aboriginal groups, the Métis suffer from a high unemployment. Studies from 2007 to 2009 indicate that unemployment rates were roughly two percent higher among Métis than non-Aboriginals (Zietsma, 11). During this same time span, the Métis employment rate, that is their participation in the formal economy, was also six to eight percent lower (Zietsma, 11).
Métis youth have also had more trouble with the law than non-Aboriginals. The average age when incarcerated for Métis is 30.6, for as to opposed to 33.9 for a non-Aboriginal (Moore, 25). They also were more likely to commit further crimes (68% to 57%, respectively) (Moore, 26).
The recent Supreme Court ruling represents a turning point in the history of Canada and the Métis peoples. The dispute began after Louis Riel and John A. MacDonald agreed upon the Manitoba Act in 1870, which would have collectively entitled thousands of Métis to 1.4 million acres of land (Galloway, A9). Over 140 years later, the Manitoba Métis Federation was finally rewarded with the recognition of the way they had been mistreated. The court decided that the Canadian federal government had repeatedly neglected to respect the deal and had not held up their end of the bargain (Galloway, A8). They ruled that “the implementation of the land grants, which were required as a result of the Manitoba Act of 1870, was rife with delays, errors and inequalities”, (Galloway, A8).
The verdict is indeed a gigantic step forward for the Métis peoples and their future. Not only are they being recognized for the wrong that has been done to them; perhaps more importantly, the future is looking brighter as well. Though reparations have not yet been determined, the Métis will receive some form of compensation from the Canadian government (CBC News). Perhaps the most important aspect, however, is the feeling that justice has been served. As David Chartrand, President of the Manitoba Métis Foundation, said that righting “the wrongs of Canadian history is the responsibility of all Canadians” (Galloway, A8) and that the victory for the Métis was their vindication (Galloway, A8).
This was an important verdict for the Métis peoples of Canada that gives hope for a brighter future. However, it is important not to forget the rough times and injustices that these people have endured. Among others, the Métis have been the subjects of terrible inequalities with regards to health, employment and incarceration. The journey for these Native Canadians has certainly been long and arduous. Despite this, the many decades of trials and tribulations have led to the Supreme Court’s ruling. After this monumental event in Canadian history, they might still be a long way from the finish line, but the Métis peoples should have a stronger spring in their step going forward. As they begin to forge a new path towards equality, the future trail certainly appears less rocky than the one already traveled.
– Blair Tulk
CBC News. “Metis celebrate historic supreme court land ruling”. Accessed March 17, 2013. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/03/08/pol-metis-supreme-court-land-dispute.html?autoplay=true
Galloway, G. “A Métis Victory 140 Years in the Making”. The Globe and Mail, March 9, 2013.
Garner, R et al. “The Health of First Nations Living Off-Reserve, Inuit, and Métis Adults in Canada: The Impact of Socio-economic Status on Inequalities in Health”. Accessed March 6, 2013. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2010/statcan/82-622-X/82-622-x2010004-eng.pdf?
Moore, J and Trevethan, S. “Profiling federally incarcerated First Nations, Métis and Inuit Offenders”. Accessed March 6, 2013. http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/forum/e143/v14n3a8e.pdf
Statistics Canada. “First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women”. Accessed March 6, 2013. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2010001/article/11442-eng.htm
Tjepkema, M et al. “Potential years of life lost at ages 25 to 74 among Métis and non-Status Indians, 1991 to 2001”. Accessed March 6, 2013. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011001/article/11408-eng.pdf
Zietsma, D. “Aboriginal People Living Off-reserve and the Labour Market: Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, 2008-2009”. Accessed March 17, 2013. http://www.ntab.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Aboriginal-People-Living-Off-Reserve-08-09.pdf