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Feds appealing court ruling on Métis

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The federal government is appealing a court ruling decreeing Métis are to be considered "Indians" as defined by the Constitution Act of 1867.

The decision, issued last month, could have wide funding implications that would allow Métis individuals to be eligible for similar health and education services as are available to on-reserve First Nations, which are funded by the federal government.

"Given that the Federal Court decision in the CAP/Daniels case raises complex legal issues, it is prudent for Canada to obtain a decision from a higher court," said Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan in a statement.

Betty Ann Lavallee, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the appeal.

The case dates back to 1999, when the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples filed suit, arguing discrimination against non-status Indians and Métis by the federal government. They argued they are entitled to the same rights and benefits as status Indians, particularly with regard to health care, education and hunting and fishing rights.

Métis leaders were hoping programs such as early childhood education, public health and prevention of chronic illnesses would be extended to Métis communities because of the decision, but how it would impact the federal government was not made clear by the judge’s ruling.

The lawsuit also discussed hunting and fishing rights. However, most of those have been dealt with since the case was first filed. In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Métis right to hunt without a provincial licence. Just a few months ago, the Manitoba government reached a deal with the Manitoba Metis Federation regarding fishing and hunting rights in Manitoba.

The MMF estimates there are about 100,000 Métis living in Manitoba.

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