Taking Métis Indigenous Rights Seriously: 'Indian' Title in s. 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870

Title: Taking Métis Indigenous Rights Seriously: 'Indian' Title in s. 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870
Authors: O'Toole, Darren
Date: 2012
Abstract: In Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that ss. 35(1) is “a solemn commitment that must be given meaningful content” the objective of which is to ensure that Aboriginal rights “are taken seriously.” Despite such a clear directive from the highest court, in Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada [2007], MacInnes J. of the Queen’s Bench of Manitoba seemed incapable of taking seriously the Aboriginal title of the Métis under s. 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, and in no way thought of its explicit recognition as ‘a solemn commitment that must be given meaningful content’. For his part, if Scott C.J. of the Manitoba Court of Appeal was able to find a ‘cognizable Aboriginal interest’ in the expression ‘Indian title’, and thereby recognize to some extent Métis Aboriginal rights, he seemed incapable of conceiving such interests as title. This thesis is basically an attempt to ‘take seriously’ the common law Aboriginal title of the Métis. In order to do so, it first looks at the treatment of the concept of Indian title and the Royal Proclamation, 1763, in the lower courts throughout the infamous St. Catharine’s Milling and Lumber case. Subsequently, the existing common law doctrines of inherent Métis rights, those of the derivative rights doctrine, the empty box doctrine and the distinct Aboriginal people doctrine are all found to be inadequate to the task of providing cogency to the ‘constitutional imperative’ that was evoked in Powley. A fourth doctrine is therefore proposed, that of a Métis Autochthonous or Indigenous rights doctrine. In light of this, it is argued that the recognition of the ‘Indian’ title in s. 31 was not a mere ‘political expediency’ but is rooted in the underlying constitutional principle of the protection of minorities. Furthermore, insofar as the ‘Indian’ title of the Métis is taken seriously, it can be seen as having been extinguished through the federal power over ‘lands reserved for Indians’ under ss. 91(24). The legal implication is that they were, in the logic of the times, basically enfranchised ‘Indians’. Finally, by applying the grid established in Sioui for determining the existence of a ‘treaty’, it is argued that s. 31 is a ‘treaty’ or land claims settlement within the meaning of s. 35.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/23779
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -