The Powley Story: Metis rights

R v. Powley

Year: 2003

Court: Supreme Court of Canada

Citation: 2003 SCC 43

Location: ON

TAGS: Métis Rights; Harvesting Rights

The Supreme Court of Canada modified the Van der Peet test for proving Aboriginal rights for Métis people.


In 1993, Steve and Roddy Powley killed a bull moose near Sault Ste Marie, ON. They were charged with hunting without a license and unlawful possession of moose. The Powley’s argued that as Métis peoples, they had an Aboriginal right to hunt. The SCC ruled unanimously that the Powleys, as members of the Sault Ste Marie Métis community, had a Métis right to hunt protected by s.35 of the Constitution. 

Why this Case Matters: 

This case was the first major Aboriginal rights case that concerned Métis peoples. This case established “the Powley Test,” which lays out what constitutes a Métis right and who may be entitled to those rights. In order to establish a Métis right, a claimant must: 

  • Identify the historic rights-bearing community, and prove that the community shared customs, traditions, and a collective identity. 
  • Identify the contemporary rights-bearing community. There must be some sort of connection between the historic and contemporary communities.
  • Demonstrate their membership in the contemporary community, which requires
    • That they self-identify as a member of the community,
    • Evidence of an ancestral connection to the historic community, and 
    • Demonstration that they are accepted by the contemporary community

These elements must be shown in addition to the requirements of the test for Aboriginal rights laid out in Van der Peet. However, the customs, practices and traditions of the historic Métis community do not need to pre-date contact with settler peoples.

Supreme Court Judgment:

CanLII – R. v. Powley, 2003 SCC 43 (CanLII), [2003] 2 SCR 207

Go Deeper: 

UBC Arts Indigenous Foundations, Tanisha Salomons & Erin Hanson – Powley Case

Pape Salter Teillet Law, Jason Madden, Nuri Frame, Zachary Davis and Megan Strachan – “Another Chapter in the Pursuit of Reconciliation and Redress…”A Summary of Daniels v. Canada at the Supreme Court of Canada

Metis Nation of Alberta – The Powley Story (more resources through this link)

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