September 19 is Powley Day

September 19 is Powley Day
Posted on 09/16/2021
September 19 is Powley Day

Each year, Métis communities across Ontario celebrate Powley Day on September 19th, marking the anniversary of the landmark Métis rights victory at the Supreme Court of Canada. Powley Day marks the most important Métis Rights recognition since the days of Louis Riel. 


In October of 1993, a father and son named Steve and Roddy Powley killed a bull moose outside Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, tagging it with a Métis card and note that said, “harvesting my meat for winter.” A week later, Conservation Officers charged the two for hunting moose without a license and for unlawful possession of moose contrary to Ontario’s Game and Fish Act. 


The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) led the defense in court, and provided political and financial support to the Powley family. The case was identified as a test case to bring forward Métis rights, specifically harvesting rights, which had been denied by the Ontario government. The Métis Nation Council (MNC) as the National representative Métis body intervened at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Métis won unanimously at each level of court proceedings. The Crown appealed each decision right up to the Supreme Court of Canada. 


In December 1998, a decision from The Ontario Court of Justice (Provincial Division) rules that the Powleys have a Métis right to hunt that is protected by s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In January of 2000, The Ontario Superior Court of Justice confirmed the trial decision and dismissed the Crown’s appeal. In February 2001, The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously upheld these decisions and confirmed that the Powleys have an aboriginal right to hunt as Métis.


Finally, on September 19, 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada provided a unanimous judgment that the Powley’s, as members of the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, can exercise a Métis right to hunt that is protected by s. 35. Read more about the case and proceedings. 


The decision ensured a voice in Ontario for the Métis, which led to recognition of the Métis by the Government of Ontario. The Métis Nation of Ontario has encouraged its citizens “to reflect on how the Powley decision has raised the profile of the Métis, and to the recognition of our rights as a distinct Aboriginal people within Canada (Lipinski, Powley Day Address 2010).” Many Métis communities gather on Powley Day to celebrate their culture in different ways, usually with food, music and dance.


This year, MNO Citizens and communities are invited to submit a brief video tribute to be shared at Métis Nation of Ontario’s Annual General Assembly. Learn more by watching this video


You can also watch a video about the Powley case on YouTube.

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