I don't really have an issue overall with Métis people, but our real issue is in Ontario and specifically with the Métis Nation of Ontario, where they're having real claims to consultation rights and harvesting rights within our homelands. We know their objectives are about land, and this legislation is tied to that.
I'm not a lawyer, but we did speak with several about this issue. I understand that the Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that the foundation of section 35 rights in Canadian law is about our presence in our homelands before Europeans came here. In other words, it's our pre-existing relationship with land over which the Crown now exerts jurisdiction that is the very foundation of section 35 rights in Canadian law. We can't speak about section 35 rights without speaking about land, because without that relationship with land there would be no section 35 rights.
Even in the Supreme Court's 1996 decision in Van der Peet, these were the words of Chief Justice Lamer:
...the doctrine of aboriginal rights exists, and is recognized and affirmed by s. 35(1), because of one simple fact: when Europeans arrived in North America, aboriginal peoples were already here, living in communities on the land, and participating in distinctive cultures, as they had done for centuries. It is this fact, and this fact above all others, which separates aboriginal peoples from all other minority groups in Canadian society and which mandates their special legal, and now constitutional, status.
More specifically, what s. 35(1) does is provide the constitutional framework through which the fact that aboriginals lived on the land in distinctive societies, with their own practices, traditions and cultures, is acknowledged and reconciled with the sovereignty of the Crown.
Recognizing that section 35 right to self-government is necessarily about land because there cannot be section 35 rights without that pre-existing relationship with specific homelands.
The Supreme Court, in Powley, did say that there were Métis nations in Ontario that had section 35 rights. We're not asking Parliament to ignore that, but no court in Canada, including its top court, has ever recognized Métis rights to self-government anywhere in Ontario, let alone across the entire province. When it comes to Métis in general, we don't have an issue, but we know that, specifically in Ontario, the Métis Nation of Ontario is vastly overreaching in terms of what kind of recognition they're going to be getting. That's our major concern.
If Canada had consulted with us, then it would have known that. In fact, [Technical difficulty—Editor] Canada has run fast in the other direction without discussion or answers. It's been acting as though we do not already have well-established treaty relationships with it. It has turned its back on a covenant chain and the process agreed to through it to resolve disputes by meeting in council and discussing issues and concerns among the treaty nations. Not only has Canada not consulted, but it's breaching fundamental treaty obligations by refusing to sit down with us [Technical difficulty—Editor] to hear our concerns and engage in reasoned dialogue. The only thing that we have is this process here, today.
There's a recent decision from the Supreme Court in Quebec that talks about the covenant [Technical difficulty—Editor] chain and the dispute resolution process. That case involved two individuals from the Mohawks of Kahnawake, where the discussion of the covenant chain applies equally to our first nations in Ontario.