Metis Treaties in Canada: Past Present and Future

This research will bring together experts in the field of Aboriginal law, colonial history, and Aboriginal studies to investigate historical agreements with the Metis, and current treaties processes.


Standard historical accounts of indigenous settler relations in Canada do not refer to treaties involving the Métis. The basic aim of this project is to challenge this common understanding and to show that Métis-settler relations in Canada, from the 19th century to the current times, have been marked by the conclusion of treaties

  • Understand the legal position of Metis peoples today in relation to a treaty model
  • Document historical and contemporary Metis – Canadian governmental political, social and economic agreements
  • Determine the degree of social organization necessary for a community to qualify for nation to nation treaty negotiations .
  • Determine the legal status of past treaties and other constructive agreements.
  • Identify the relevant legal principles concerning the doctrine of Aboriginal rights as applied to Metis “rights-bearing communities”.
  • Appreciate the legal impact of the scrip process in the prairies for the resolution of Metis interests through treaty.
  • Analyze the issue of individual qualification as a beneficiary of a Metis – Canadian treaty.

Summary of Research

This research project will look at past and present treaties and agreements with Metis peoples and the Crown as context and background for an examination of the future potential for Metis specific treaties. Treaties with First nations and Inuit peoples have been a well-established practice since early contact. Modern land claims with First Nations and Inuit are ongoing. There is much information on treaties with First Nations, but little to no attention paid to treaties with Metis communities specifically. Some of the lack of attention to Metis specific treaties is historical because of the difference between land allocation policies in the Prairies post 1870 between Metis, who were denied treaty and First Nations that did benefit from a treaty process.  Are there outstanding constitutional obligations that required the Crown to have entered into treaty in the past or presently require a treaty approach?  We hope to confirm that as a result of recent constitutional developments in the field of Aboriginal rights generally and Metis rights more specifically, the issue of Metis specific treaties is likely to become of much greater interest.


It is anticipated that as a result of recent legal developments that treaty negotiations will become increasingly relevant and determinative of Metis – Crown relations and gain greater prominence as a model for resolving and reconciling Metis-Crown interests. However, significant questions remain. How will this process unfold? What legal principles ought to guide this process given the unique ethnogenesis of Metis communities and the different historical relationship between Metis and Colonial authorities as compared to other Aboriginal peoples’ experiences? What historical and contemporary Metis specific treaty precedents exist?


Research methodology will largely be interdisciplinary, including historical review and archival research. Coexistent with this data collection, extensive legal research on the nature of treaties both internationally and within an English colonial framework will be undertaken involving, in part, comparative legal analysis of Indigenous treaties within the United States and New Zealand. Interviews with participants involved in treaty or agreement negotiations in the recent past and those involved in ongoing land claim or agreement negotiations may also be conducted.