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R. v. Powley and the Métis of BC : A Dialogue Between Legal and Historical Notions of Belonging
My work explores the intersection of law and history in the examination of Métis rights cases in British Columbia. The aboriginal interracial history of BC has been seen as fractured and not tending to the creation of culturally distinct historical communities. This makes it difficult for Métis rights claimants in the courts, as the leading case, R. v. Powley, requires a claimant to prove an ancestral connection to an historic Métis community with a land base in the area where the right is claimed. I will suggest that distinct historical Métis communities do exist in BC, but due to migration, racism and the workings of the law, many aboriginal interracial people have existed in a state of liminality. I will also suggest that the tests in Powley should be modified to take account of the realities of Métis history in BC in order not to doubly penalize claimants whose communities may have « gone underground » in order to avoid racism and discrimination.