Frequently Asked Questions - Powley

What is the Powley case?

Two Métis men, Steve and Roddy Powley killed a moose in 1993 and were charged with contravening Ontario hunting law. The men argued that section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 protects the right of Métis to hunt for food. The case was appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in favour of the Powleys in September 2003. In its decision, the Supreme Court found that the Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario has an Aboriginal right, protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, to hunt for food.

What is section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982?

Section 35 recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. Supreme Court decisions in a series of cases have served to clarify these rights, and have established legal tests to determine the scope and content of Aboriginal rights, and which groups hold them.

Does the Powley decision recognize harvesting rights for Métis throughout Canada?

No. The Powley decision deals only with the Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie, although it does establish a legal test to determine the Aboriginal rights of other Métis groups. To establish their Aboriginal rights, Métis individuals or groups must demonstrate that they meet the legal tests set out in the Powley decision.

Does the Powley decision include a legal definition of Métis?

No, although the Powley decision does provide guidance on who can claim Aboriginal rights under section 35. According to the decision, the term "Métis" refers to distinctive peoples of mixed ancestry who developed their own customs, practices, traditions and recognizable group identities separate from their Indian, Inuit and European ancestors. The term "Métis" does not refer to all individuals of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry.

How does the Powley decision affect the Government of Canada's Aboriginal policies?

The Powley decision deals solely with Métis Aboriginal harvesting rights and does not affect current federal programs and services provided to status Indians. The Government of Canada is committed to implementing the Powley decision in good faith, while facilitating responsible hunting and helping to ensure public safety. To clarify the long-term implications of the Supreme Court's decision, federal, provincial and territorial governments, along with Métis organizations and other stakeholders, are working toward a common understanding of the issues involved. Various consultations and initiatives are underway.

How has the Government of Canada's responded to the Powley decision?

Since the Powley decision, Government of Canada officials have held discussions with provincial, territorial and Métis representatives to establish an effective way to accommodate Métis harvesters in a safe, orderly and responsible manner. Before any new policy or initiative can be introduced, however, a series of complex issues must be resolved. At present, for instance, there is no single, reliable and consistent method in place to identify Métis harvesters across the country.

What activities has the federal government undertaken in response to the Powley decision?

The Métis and Non-Status Indian Relations Directorate leads the Government of Canada's response to the Powley decision. To ensure a comprehensive response, preliminary work includes: analysis of relevant policies and legislation; solicitation of input from stakeholders; identification of possible methods to identify Métis harvesters and implement interim harvesting arrangements; and provision of support to Métis organizations to facilitate their participation in ongoing discussions with federal, provincial and territorial officials.

Does the Powley decision mean that Métis are free to hunt and fish without licences?

Not necessarily. These section 35 rights are not absolute. Governments can limit these rights (e.g., to respond to concerns regarding conservation, public safety and health). Specific questions about licensing should be directed to the appropriate government agency or ministry.

Does the Powley decision grant Métis the right to kill an animal and sell it commercially?

No. The Powley decision addressed only Métis harvesting for the purpose of food.

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