Sep 19, 2022
On September 19, the Métis Nation of Ontario marks Powley Day: an annual celebration of the landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling in R. v. Powley (2003) that affirms the Métis as a distinct nation and peoples – with a history pre-dating the Canadian state – and serves as a key step towards Métis self-government.
The Métis chronicle is complex, vibrant and – as with Powley – has often intersected with the courts. The recent book The North-West Is Our Mother: The Story of Louis Riel's People, the Métis Nation not only brings hundreds of years of Métis history to life, its author, Jean Teillet (a lawyer who also happens to be Louis Riel’s great-grandniece!) pays particular attention to court cases that have affected Métis status and rights.
Whereas Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 offered formal (albeit generalized) federal recognition of Métis rights, the Powley case – emerging from unlawful hunting charges brought upon Steve and Roddy Powley, two Sault Ste. Marie Métis community members – sought to define those rights.
Over the course of a decade, and after wending through multiple provincial courts, the case ultimately reached the Supreme Court of Canada, which formally recognized “that there were distinct Métis people and communities on the land before Canada became Canada, before Ontario became Ontario, with a culture and identity all their own, and that their rights were entrenched within Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution.” (https://www.metisnation.org/news/september-19-powley-day/)
In the time since the Powley decision, Métis throughout the country have continued to assert their autonomy. Subsequent self-government agreements between the Government of Canada and Métis nations in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba can be seen as building, in part, on the events marked on the 19th.
OPL has a number of resources by Métis authors – highlighted in the list below – each offering unique insight into a diversity of stories and thought that make up the Métis nation. In the days leading up to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, pay particular attention to titles that reflect on the effects of residential schools on the Métis, such as Larry Chartrand’s Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada, Josie Penny’s On the Goose: a Labrador Métis Woman Remembers, and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s report on the Métis experience in residential schools, and keep up with OPL’s programming marking the day.