I am pleased to respond to an invitation from Dr. Muriel Newman to provide some of my thoughts on the Indian rights revolution occurring in Canada, and its negative effects on Canadian Crown sovereignty, the rule of law, the Canadian economy and race relations generally between Canadian Indians and the rest of Canadians.
In 1981 Canada patriated its Constitution from Great Britain and, at the same time, made additions to it. One of the additions was to foolishly and unnecessarily add section 35, which states, “The Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” This had the effect of elevating Indian rights from treaty and legislative rights only, to Constitutional rights, and of creating a situation where the Courts would define those rights, rather than Parliament.
Since then a highly activist Supreme Court of Canada has brought about a constitutional revolution in our country, to the detriment of us all, including the vast majority of vulnerable, ever-more dependent Canadian Indians, who for one reason or another, cannot jockey themselves into the ranks of their elites and thus personally benefit from it.
Firstly, the Supreme Court ruled that, contrary to the express wording of most of the treaties, which clearly stated that Indians fully, finally and forever surrendered and relinquished all title to the land in favour of the Crown, (save and except lands reserved to them as “reservations”, and save and except their right to hunt and fish on the surrendered land), our Indians did not surrender all their title to the land. Instead, our Supreme Court ruled, with no historical justification whatsoever, and contrary to over 125 years of established law and practice, that they had merely agreed to share the land.
And, the Supreme Court ruled, the broad exercise of Indian rights is now not just reservation-based, as before. Apparently, unknown to Canadians for 125 years, (because such rights were never claimed or exercised during that time and no one ever thought of it), as the Supreme Court decreed, aboriginals now have, (and presumably always had, we all just didn’t know it), the right to be “consulted and accommodated” regarding the alleged impact on them of any planned Crown or private economic undertaking proposed to occur on their “traditional lands”. “Traditional lands” is turning out to mean not just their small reservations, but basically all of rural and wilderness Canada, where most of our resource-based economy is situated.
Now, any time the federal government, a provincial government or a private company wants to do anything on Crown land in Canada, such as build a dam or a pipeline, exploit a forestry license or open a new mine, every nearby Indian band automatically claims, whether it’s the case or not, that the proposed activity will adversely impact their “traditional culture” or their hunting and fishing rights, and they demand to be“ consulted and accommodated” accordingly, which is turning out to be a fancy phrase meaning to be paid money and granted benefits, basically for doing nothing but merely happening to exist in that general location.
And if the price demanded is not paid, the proposed undertaking will get tied up in Court or in endless negotiations, (usually paid for by the Canadian taxpayer), for so long that the economic impetus for the proposed undertaking is often lost.
Already a proposed north-south Mackenzie Valley pipeline has been cancelled, a proposed Alberta to B.C pipeline is stalled, and a billion dollar Ontario chromite/platinum mining venture has been put on hold, largely due to aboriginals exercising their increasingly demanding, delay-causing, veto-like, “consult and accommodate” constitutional rights.
Prior to this judicially-caused constitutional revolution there were two founts of constitutional sovereignty in Canada- the federal Crown and the provincial Crowns.
In my opinion, as the result of these Supreme Court decisions, and our non-Indian elites craven and unprincipled response to them, we now we have a third, de facto fount of constitutional sovereignty-over 600 tiny, poorly governed, self-seeking, technically illiterate, socially dysfunctional Indian bands.
The result is a serious diminution- an emasculation- of necessary and beneficial Crown sovereignty, with legal confusion and unpredictability extant, and consequential harm to the Canadian economy, to the principle of the rule of law (the police and politicians are afraid of Indians and are often afraid to enforce the law against them) and to the Canadian social fabric.
Canadians are finding that we are no longer, through our elected representatives and through our federal and provincial parliaments, masters of our own house.
This revolution has been almost entirely driven by Indian and non-Indian elites. Our politicians and civil service elites have not even tried to inform the Canadian populace about the profound significance of what is going on. It’s as if they are ashamed to talk about it. Most people are afraid to raise their concerns for fear of being called a “racist”. There is a lot of muttering and self-censorship happening. It’s not a socially or civically healthy situation.
Race relations in Canada between Indians and non-Indians have probably worsened since these events have occurred.
As Canadian Indian elites move to exploit their amazing Court victories they are tending to lead their peoples away from the idea of integrating and assimilating with the rest of Canadians. There’s so much money to be made and new power to acquire by furthering the benignly racist, segregationist status quo, now being strengthened by our Courts and political elites.
With musical accompaniment from our non-Indian elites, Indian elites are trumpeting a new, most illiberal civic model of racial apartness for their peoples. So enthusiastic are they for this new racial apartness model that they are now demanding a separate, Canadian taxpayer-funded, “Indians-only” school system!
Indian elites now seem to feel that the “separate but equal” legal straitjacket (the pernicious doctrine that American blacks fought against for almost 100 years, so socially harmful was it.) that our Supreme Court is further entrenching for them is beneficial for their people. It’s not. It’s only beneficial, in a materialist, short-term way, for those relatively few Indian elites who can derive jobs, money and power from it.
Integration and “one set of laws for all” used to be the classic liberal, humanist ideal. It was Nelson Mandela’s credo. It’s what Gandhi and Martin Luther King died for. It should still be the overriding goal and ideal for any and every civilized society. It was the ideal Canada shared and, however haltingly, was moving towards. That is, until out elites and our Supreme Court, with no advice or consent from the Canadian people, very harmfully put Canada on the reverse, benignly segregationist course that we are on now.
New Zealand should be very wary of following in Canada’s footsteps.
Peter has written extensively on this topic in an essay “There is no difference“.