Canada’s history will be put on trial Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada rules on a 142-year-old land dispute between the federal government and Manitoba Metis.
The landmark case, which has been in and out of litigation for 30 years, centres on a legal challenge brought forward the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) over farm land promised to Metis children as part of the Red River Settlement of 1870.
MMF argues the government backtracked on the land allocation terms of the settlement.
“It is … a test of our Constitution; it is a test of our legal system,” MMF president David Chartrand said.
The dispute dates back to when Prime Minister John A. Macdonald vowed to set aside about 1.4 million acres of land for 7,000 Metis under the Manitoba Act.
The terms of this agreement convinced Metis rebels led by Louis Riel to put an end to the Red River Rebellion and opened the door for Manitoba to enter into Confederation.
Riel and his supporters led the rebellion in a bid to preserve lands and Metis culture.
“We are actually talking about who we are as a people and how we became such a unique country,” Chartrand said.
Chartrand, who admits he has had some “sleepless” nights as decision day approaches, said he is hopeful Canada’s top court will declare Canada failed to uphold its constitutional obligation to the Metis people.
Crown lawyers have long argued the case should be thrown out of court because of how old it is.