Who are the Métis?
The term “Métis” in s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather, it refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, way of life, and recognizable group identity.
The Supreme Court of Canada has set out the basic elements to identify Métis rights holders. In 2003, the Powley decision clarified Métis rights and proved that the Métis are distinct from other Indigenous people under the Canadian Constitution.
The Supreme Court identified three broad factors:
- Ancestral connection to the historic Métis community
- Community acceptance
The individual must self-identify as a member of a Métis community. It is not enough to self-identify as Métis, but that identification must have an ongoing connection to a historic Métis community.
There is no minimum “blood quantum” requirement, but Métis rights holders must have proof of ancestral connection to a historic Métis community.
Historical proof means evidence of an ancestor who received a land grant or scrip granted under the Manitoba Act or the Dominion Lands Act, or who was recognized as a Métis in other government, church or community records.
Learn more about how we identify connections to historic Métis lands and families in the citizenship application process.
At the core of community acceptance is past and ongoing participation in a shared culture, in the customs and traditions that reveal a Métis community’s identity. This might include participation in community activities and testimony from other community members about a person’s connection to the community and its culture.
The Supreme Court said there must be proof of acceptance by the modern Métis community. In order to claim s. 35 rights through community acceptance, it is not enough to prove a genealogical connection to a historic Métis community and then join a Métis Nation. One must have a “past and ongoing” relationship to the Métis community.
POWLEY TEST: ESTABLISHING MÉTIS RIGHTS
The Supreme Court said the appropriate way to define Métis rights in s. 35 is to modify the test used to define Aboriginal rights (the Van der Peet test). This Métis test is called the Powley Test.
THE NATIONAL DEFINITION OF MÉTIS
We use the National Definition of Métis to determine if prospective citizens qualify for MNA citizenship.