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Métis Stake Their Claim in the Supreme Court

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The Métis are anxiously awaiting a Supreme Court decision on a potentially precedent-setting land claim covering 1.4 million acres in Manitoba.

Almost deeper than the claim itself is the recognition that a ruling in the Métis' favor would give to the aboriginal group's role in the founding of the country, The Globe and Mail reports. The claimants are descended from the Métis rebel and hero Louis Riel who say they were promised land when Manitoba became part of Canada in 1870.

“This is the unfinished business of Confederation,” said former judge Thomas Berger, who is representing the Métis, to reporters after the Supreme Court appearance.

The Métis are looking for compensation for the tract of land that lies along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers and includes some parcels within Winnipeg's borders. The claim goes all the way south to the U.S. border and west to Portage la Prairie, according to CTV. The goal isn't to take this property away from anyone, the Métis told CTV News. Besides fiscal compensation, they want their own Crown land.

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The claim is being brought by the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and holds that the deal was part of an agreement that ended the Red River Rebellion, when the federal government pledged land to 7,000 Métis children. That land was supposed to be handed over en masse so the Métis could create a homeland, but instead it was doled out piecemeal, the MMF alleges, over several years, splitting up families and communities as racism and hostility chased people away.

Canada's government argues that at 141 years old, the claim should be thrown out. Two Manitoba courts have previously agreed. This is the Métis' last chance to change that. And December 13 was also a chance for the Métis to speak their history for the first time, said MMF President David Chartrand to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

"We won it already," he said of the case. "What we won was that we were able to tell the story of the Métis people. We were able to tell [of] our terror that we've been through, the suffering that the Métis people faced and the challenge that we lost our economic opportunity as a people. It also brings the true perspective of the Métis."