A road allowance is land that had been surveyed and set apart by the government for future roads and development - it was the margin between provincial land and Crown land. The state simultaneously denied Métis land rights and also would not allow them to purchase land. The decision to permit Métis families to move onto road allowances was one that further perpetuated their economic marginalization. Some Métis found and occupied abandoned shacks and rail cars as housing was not provided on road allowances. After 1885, the Métis were effectively legally ignored by all levels of government until the 1930s, when a surge of Métis political organization engaged in consciousness-raising and mobilization.
Metis were denied their land rights following the Red River Resistance and Riel Resistance. The land dispossession of many Metis resulted in their establishing residence on unoccupied road allowances on Crown land. Metis people disposessed of their homelands and unable to reside in road allowance communities were pushed to find shelter on elsewhere.
In addition to a lack of access to education and healthcare, being restricted to the road allowance with no access to farmland and limited work opportunities meant that families were often relegated to finding temporary, low-paying work. Racism and prejudice also factored into the struggle for many Métis to find long-term, well paying work; Métis were socially relegated to undesirable jobs due to hiring discrimination and an assumption that they were incapable/unreliable. As well, the search for such work resulted in a high level of transience and disrupted schooling for Métis children that were able to attend. Many Métis families experienced poverty, and this was particularly severe during the Great Depression when conditions worsened both economically and environmentally (the Dust Bowl).
- St. Onge, Nicole, Macdougall, Brenda, and Podruchny, Carolyn. Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012.
- Please see related entry titled "Metis Loss of Education Opportunities Due to Forced Transience and Lack of Government Funding."