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Court to rule on off-reserve natives' rights

OTTAWA - The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples says a forthcoming Federal Court decision on Metis and non-status Indians could change the relationship between Ottawa and the more than 600,000 aboriginal people who live off-reserve.

The group and several Metis and non-status Indians took the federal government to court in 1999 alleging discrimination because they are not considered "Indians" under the Constitution Act.

They argue they are entitled to some or all of the same rights and benefits as on-reserve First Nations members.

That includes access to the same health, education and other benefits Ottawa gives to status Indians; being able to hunt, trap, fish and gather on public land; and the ability to negotiate and enter treaties with the federal government.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Metis and non-status Indians involved in the case allege in a court document that they've been the victims of discrimination by the federal government.

Federal Court is set to rule Tuesday on the case.

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