Who Are the Metis People in Section 35(2)


  • Catherine Bell




Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples. Section 35(2) defines "the Aboriginal peoples of Canada" as Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples. Although s. 35 may appear straightforward, the author points out its ambiguity. This article attempts to clarify it. The ambiguity stems from the fact that the section does not define the term "Metis" nor does it say whether the "Metis" have existing aboriginal rights recognized in s. 35(1). These questions arise because self-identifying Metis are not a homogeneous group that lend themselves to easy definition. Moreover they have traditionally been excluded from federal programs benefiting Indian peoples. The author examines the difficulties involved in defining the term 'Metis ' and analyzes some of the frameworks that have been suggested by various groups, including Metis organizations. She concludes that the term must be defined according to logical and political considerations in addition to self-identification based on racial, cultural and historical criteria.