Mixed-race groups win Canada land claim

Canada's Manitoba Metis won a historic victory Friday, when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had failed to properly hand out land grants promised to the indigenous group 142 years ago.

The 6-2 decision opens the door to claims by the Manitoba Metis Federation to 1.4 million acres (566,560 hectares) of land that now includes the province's capital Winnipeg.

The land was promised in the Manitoba Act, a law passed in 1870 to prevent a rebellion by the Metis, mixed-race descendants of First Nations indigenous people and European immigrants.

It was eventually distributed via a lottery that largely benefited European settlers.

"The federal Crown failed to implement the land grant provision... in accordance with the honor of the Crown," the Supreme Court said in its decision.

"This was not a matter of occasional negligence, but of repeated mistakes and inaction that persisted for more than a decade."

Government lawyers had argued that some parts of Manitoba law were incompatible with federal legislation and thus invalid, while stressing that the matter had run its course more than a century after the original agreement.

But Metis representatives stressed that the indigenous group was no longer seeking to regain the land at the heart of the conflict, and was instead seeking damages.

There were about 400,000 Metis in Canada in 2006, including about 72,000 in Manitoba. The group is experiencing growth of about three percent per year.