On December 10, 2018, the Court of Quebec released its decision in R. v. Tremblay.
The Métis defendant in this case, Mr. Tremblay, was charged with almost 50 different provincial offenses related to hunting or trapping in Quebec since 2011. Many of these charges were for ancillary activities such as re-opening trails or moving trees. The charges relate to his activities in ZEC (“zone d'exploitation controlee” or “controlled harvesting area”) Maganasipi, located on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River north east of Mattawa, Ontario.
Mr. Tremblay contested these charges on the basis that he was exercising a Métis right to harvest. Mr. Tremblay was convicted on all charges. The Quebec Court concluded he had not proven Métis harvesting rights in ZEC Maganasipi based on the legal test for Métis harvesting rights set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013 in R. v. Powley. The Powley case was and remains the only Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing and affirming Métis harvesting rights and was advanced and supported by the MNO from trial to the highest court in the country.
While Mr. Tremblay is a MNO citizen and a MNO Harvester Card Holder for the Mattawa/Nipissing Traditional Territory within Ontario, he pursued this case independently from the MNO and this case was not advanced or financially supported by the MNO in any way. Mr. Tremblay was acting outside of the scope of the MNO Harvesting Policy as adopted by the MNO Annual General Assembly. He also retained his own lawyers and experts to represent him.
Because the ruling is from a Quebec court, this decision does not have any impact on Métis harvesting rights that may exist within Ontario. Quebec courts only have jurisdiction to determine matters within the borders of Quebec. The MNO remains committed to advancing Métis rights and defending its harvesters, who are following the MNO Harvesters Policy, within the province of Ontario.
This decision also does not affect the collaborative work on Métis harvesting undertaken by the MNO and Ontario. In August 2017, the MNO and Ontario recognized the Mattawa/Ottawa River Historic Métis Community, along with six other Historic Métis Communities within Ontario, as meeting the criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Powley.
The collaborative work led to the negotiation and signing of the MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement on Métis Harvesting in April 2018. The Quebec court decision does not affect this agreement in any way.
MNO President Margaret Froh said, “The MNO mandate—as set out in our Statement of Prime Purpose—is to represent our Métis citizens here in Ontario and to advance Métis rights and self-government in the province of Ontario. We will continue to do this. Our citizens and harvesters need to know that this case does not impact our Métis rights-related work here in Ontario.”
“Over the next few months, the MNO will be reviewing and discussing this decision with our Métis citizens and communities here in Ontario to see if we will take any further action in relation to this case,” added President Froh.
Additional information on this case will be posted to the MNO’s website.
QUESTION / ANSWERS & KEY DETAILS
1. Was this case a loss for the MNO?
No. The MNO was not a party in this litigation. Unlike the Powley case, this was not a “test case” advanced by the MNO.
2. Does this case affect the Powley decision?
No. The Powley case remains the only Supreme Court of Canada decision that recognizes and affirms Métis harvesting rights. It remains the highest decision from a court on these issues in Canada.
3. Mr. Tremblay is an MNO citizen and MNO Harvester Card holder. MNO leadership testified at the trial. Was the MNO involved in the case?
No, the MNO was not involved in this case. Mr. Tremblay pursued this case independently from the MNO and was not financially supported by the MNO in any way. By harvesting in Quebec, Mr. Tremblay was acting outside of the scope of the MNO Harvesting Policy adopted by the MNO Annual General Assembly. He retained his own lawyers and experts to represent him. Any MNO leadership who testified at the trial chose to do so in their individual capacity. They were not speaking for the MNO.
4. Why didn’t the MNO support this case?
The MNO is committed to advancing Métis rights in Ontario and defending MNO Harvester Card Holders who are following the MNO Harvesting Policy. Mr. Tremblay was charged with harvesting-related offences in Quebec. The MNO Harvesters Policy is applicable in Ontario only, and therefore Mr. Tremblay was acting outside of the Policy. The MNO does not support harvesters who act outside of the MNO Harvesting Policy, even when those harvesters have an MNO Harvester Card.
5. Does this decision have any impact on the MNO Harvesting Policy or the MNO’s harvesting agreement with Ontario?
No. The MNO Harvesting Policy applies to harvesting by MNO Harvester Card holders in Ontario only.
6. Does this decision impact Ontario’s recognition of the Mattawa/Ottawa River Historic Métis Community?
No. The MNO and Ontario’s extensive research on the Mattawa/Ottawa River Historic Métis Community was not before the Quebec court. The Quebec court’s decision was based on different information than what informed the MNO and Ontario’s identification of this Historic Métis Community. No information about the MNO, or its Harvesting Policy or Harvester Card system was before the Court. Furthermore, the Court of Quebec only has jurisdiction to make determinations about matters that are within the geographic boundaries of that province—not in Ontario.
7. Does this decision impact the MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement on Métis Harvesting?
No. The MNO-Ontario Harvesting Framework Agreement applies only within Ontario. A Quebec court has no jurisdiction to make determinations on Métis rights outside of Quebec or to interfere with an agreement between the MNO and Ontario. The MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement on Métis Harvesting remains in place and is not impacted.
8. What is the MNO doing to get Métis harvesting rights recognized in Quebec?
The MNO is focused on advancing Métis harvesting rights in Ontario, as its mandate is to represent its registered citizens and the communities comprised of those citizens in Ontario. To date, the MNO has not pursued negotiations with Quebec on this issue.
9. What happens next?
The MNO will be reviewing this decision carefully and discussing it with MNO citizens and communities in Ontario to determine if the MNO will take any further steps related to this case. Mr. Tremblay may also choose to appeal this decision. If he does so, the MNO will consider its options at that time.