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The Métis Scrip System

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


Today’s post is about the Métis scrip system. Scrip is not a topic of common knowledge for most people, as it is rarely talked about.


What is the scrip system?


The Métis scrip system was implemented by the government of Canada, with the intention of extinguishing Métis land rights and title.[1] There were two types of scrip that were used, land scrip and money scrip. Money scrip was issued in dollar amounts, and was like a coupon that the holder could use towards the purchase of homestead land.[2] Land scrip could also be used to buy homestead land, but was issued in acre amounts, and could only be used by the specific holder named on the certificate.[3]


The government determined which lands would be available to the Métis under this system, and how much the lands would cost.[4]


For about four decades, the scrip system was used to “extinguish Métis title to land in the West so that the government could use the land for commercial development and white settlement.”[5]

Photo credit: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/metis-scrip-in-canada


What were some of the issues with scrip?


The scrip system had many flaws, which led to the systematic loss of Métis lands.[6]

Applying for scrip was a long and complicated process, with many government restrictions.[7] It included many hoops to jump through and documents to fill out, including a “minimum of nine forms” that were required.[8] The process also demanded an understanding of Canada’s financial and legal systems, which was an unrealistic area of expertise to expect of the Métis.[9]


One of the hardships related with land scrip was the Rule of Location. The Rule of Location stated that “the individual named on the scrip coupon had to appear in person in order to locate their scrip.”[10] This rule meant that the “Métis grantee had to travel to the Dominion Lands Office that administered the land they wanted to acquire.”[11] Many people had to travel very long distances in order to fulfil this requirement.


A real-life example of the hardship caused by this rule was seen in the experience of a Métis woman named Eléonore Hamelin. Eléonore lived in Lac La Biche, but “the land purchased with [her] scrip was located in Saskatchewan.”[12] This meant that she had to travel what would have been about 850 kilometres, just to follow the Rule of Location so she could fulfil her scrip claim.


Because the federal government determined which lands would be available to Métis people, these lands could be hundreds of kilometres away.[13] This meant that the Métis would have to choose between leaving their homes and communities, or being unable to fulfil their scrip claims, and so losing out on the value of their allotments.[14]


Another issue with the scrip system was that there was no protection against fraud. In many cases, fraudulent impersonators would locate land scrip, rather than the Métis person it was assigned to.[15] The legal complexity and disorganization of the scrip system made it more difficult for Métis people, and easier for fraudsters.[16] To make matters worse, government officials were also responsible for mishandling scrip and even ignoring land claims.[17]

Additionally, the government did not deal with the Métis as a group, but as individuals.[18] Some Métis feel that this divided their communities, and others argue that land title that was held by the community should not have been able to be surrendered by individual Métis people.[19]


The issues of the scrip system have led to disputes between Métis people and the Canadian government over rights to traditional lands.[20]


Where is the issue now?


In 2017, the federal government and the Métis Nation of Alberta signed a Framework Agreement, “to allow for the formal negotiation of Métis rights to self-government.”[21] One of the main factors of the Agreement is that it “establishes a process to acknowledge and address the sorry legacy of Métis scrip.”[22] The signing of this Agreement is a step in the right direction for long overdue reconciliation. It is a sign that the government of Canada is finally feeling the pressure to start fixing the wrongs it has committed against the Métis.


Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG


[1] Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, “Scrip” (2022) online: Canadian Geographic <https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/scrip/>. [2] “Métis Scrip In Alberta” (10 August 2018) at 27, online (pdf): Rupertsland Centre For Métis Research In Collaboration With The Métis Nation Of Alberta <https://www.ualberta.ca/native-studies/media-library/rcmr/publications/rcmr-scrip-booklet-2018-final-150dpi.pdf>. [3] Ibid. [4] “Métis Scrip in Canada” (2 October 2019) online: The Canadian Encyclopedia <https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/metis-scrip-in-canada>. [5] Ibid. [6] Supra note 1. [7] Supra note 4. [8] Supra note 2 at 11. [9] Supra note 4. [10] Supra note 2 at 14. [11] Ibid. [12] Supra note 2 at 21. [13] Supra note 4. [14] Ibid. [15] Supra note 2 at 23. [16] Supra note 4. [17] Ibid. [18] Ibid. [19] Ibid. [20] Ibid. [21] Ibid. [22] Ibid.

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