Ancient, medieval, Islamic and world history -- comments, resources and discussion.
Friday, March 08, 2013
"The honour of the Crown is thus engaged here."
Thus says the Supreme Court of Canada about the failure of federal governments to fulfill an 1870 commitment to the native Metis, i.e., to distribute and convey title to an appropriate land allocation to them in what is now Manitoba. The CBC has a good summary:
The Manitoba Act, made in 1870, promised to set aside 5,565 square kilometres of land for 7,000 children of the Red River Métis. That land includes what is now the city of Winnipeg.
The land transfer to the Métis outlined in the Act was to be a "concrete measure" to reconcile with the Métis community, the ruling agrees, calling its "prompt and equitable implementation... fundamental."
The land grants were meant to give the Métis a head start in the race for land in the new province, and that meant the grants had to be made while a head start was still possible, the justices wrote. "Everyone concerned understood that a wave of settlement from Europe and Canada to the east would soon sweep over the province."
The land deal was made in order to settle the Red River Rebellion, which was fought by Métis rebels struggling to hold onto their land amid growing white settlements.
However, it took 15 years for the lands to be completely distributed, while the Métis rebels faced hostility from large numbers of incoming settlers.
Lower courts found in federal government's favour
The federal government ultimately distributed the land through a random lottery, destroying the dream of a Métis homeland.
"Section 31 conferred land rights on yet-to-be-identified individuals – the Métis children," the ruling says. "Yet the record leaves no doubt that it was a promise made to the Métis people collectively, in recognition of their distinct community. The honour of the Crown is thus engaged here."
The Metis are not asking for the land allocation (which would include all of Winnipeg!) but for compensation. How long will that take?