Residual Tensions of Empire: The Judicial Construction of Contemporary Metis Identities

Christian Andersen, University of Alberta


Since 1982, when the Métis were recognized as one of three distinct Aboriginal peoples in the Constitution Act, 1982, the Métis have increasingly turned to the courts for clarification of the rights recognized in this Act. In these efforts, many Métis communities have specifically shaped their political discourse in a nationhood form; for indigenous communities, the nation form is a distinctly anti-colonial form and is (supposedly) supplanting earlier indigenous political forms in contemporary Canadian society. Through the use of the intervener factums and court transcripts of a recent Métis court case (R. v. Powley) this paper examines the role of Métis national discourses in the construction of Métis identity. In doing so, it explores the tensions between Métis communities, the nation state and the law - the latter two of which were historically responsible for the cultural and political destruction of the Métis - in determining the proper position of the state in the construction of Métis citizenship codes. The paper reveals observations both about the utter lack of impact of the nation form in judicial discourse (at least for the Métis), and the specific tensions between Métis organizations, `national' and otherwise, about the proper role of the state in this construction.

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Updated 05/20/2006