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Criminalizing Indigenous Rights in Canada

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Original Peoples

Criminalizing Indigenous Rights in Canada
David Parker
September 8th, 2008.

HALIFAX - In September of 2007, the United Nations adopted the non-binding Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Four high profile countries notably voted against the declaration - namely Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[1] All four countries are states that were established by white settlers on indigenous lands, and all four are currently in disputes with indigenous peoples over land and sovereignty.

The Canadian state, built on the theft and occupation of indigenous lands, continues to benefit from its unjustly acquired assets. Equipped with an ultra-security state apparatus, Canada's repressive and suppressive anti-terrorist and security measures have historically struck hardest against those that have the most to gain, namely aboriginal nations and their legitimate claims for their rights to land and dignity.

Recent cases of indigenous protest in Ontario have been in opposition to government authorized resource extraction on native lands. Despite legitimate demands for sovereignty and decision-making power over their traditional lands, native protesters have been incarcerated: Robert Lovelace and the KI-6 (6 council members of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation) have received harsh fines and 6 months in jail for peacefully protesting against mineral exploration on the lands of KI and Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN).

The province of British Columbia was settled and colonized without treaties between the indigenous inhabitants and settlers. Large areas of BC still remain unceded, and the indigenous populations claim sovereignty over these lands.[2] In the BC southern interior, the Secwepemc people have been in a long standing dispute with Sun Peaks mega ski resort Northeast of Kamloops. In August and September of 2004, 200 aboriginals and supporters rallied against the expansion of Sun Peaks. The BC Supreme Court granted Sun Peaks an injunction excluding Aboriginal people from using 846 hectares of their traditional territory, and on September 21st, the RCMP dismantled the camp, arresting three indigenous protesters.[3]

The continued denial of sovereignty for First Nations by the settler state is an injustice and a violation of the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, attempts by First Nations to redress this injustice is met with state, police, and at times military repression.

The situation in the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory has been a sweeping crack down on community members in an effort to stifle resistance to the further development of the Culbertson Tract, a long standing land claim of the Tyendinaga Mohawks. The Federal Government has dumped money into policing, and the RCMP have stated government intentions to "fight contraband in three Mohawk communities (including Tyendinaga), which he [Stockwell Day] said is funding organized crime and possibly even terrorists".[4] Charges of terrorism are used to justify extreme violations of human rights by both Canadian and U.S. governments against racially profiled communities they deem threats to national security. Alleging that Mohawks are harbouring terrorists is a dangerous, racist allegation.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are seen by many natives as a real threat to indigenous people and lands. Indigenous resistance to Olympic development has been criminalized to assure tourists that they will be safe. This resulted in the punishment of Harriet Nahanee, a Pedachat elder sentenced to provincial jail for contempt of court for her part in the Sea-to-Sky highway expansion protest at Eagleridge bluffs. She died of pneumonia and complications at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver on Feb. 24th, one month after her sentence. It is suspected that Nahanee's condition worsened during her incarceration at the Surrey Pre-Trial centre. Solicitor-General John Les denied any government responsibility and refused requests for an inquiry.[5]

In July of 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of KI and AAFN, upholding their right to be consulted regarding any development on their traditional land. The ruling, relevant to the cases mentioned above where court injunctions were used to quell and criminalize indigenous dissent, made a clear statement that private parties must not seek court injunctions as a first response to prevent protest action of First Nations with legitimate aboriginal rights.[6] Despite this victory in courts for the KI and AAFN, it remains for the colonial governments to interpret the court ruling.

[1] CBC News. "Canada votes 'no' as UN native rights declaration passes". September 13, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

[2] Kim Peterson. "I take this as genocide". September 30, 2004. The Dominion Paper. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

[3] Harold Lavendar. "Sun Peaks aboriginal land dispute". New Socialist, September 2004. Retrieved August 20, 2008 from

[4] "Tyendinaga: More charges laid, clampdown intensifies". May 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2008 from

[5] Ange Sterritt. "Honor the dead, fight for the living, Harriet Nahanee and Shawn Brant". November, 2007. Retrieved August 20, 2008 from

[6] Annie Leeks. "Frontenac Ventures Corporation v. Ardoch Algonquin First Nation; Platinex Inc. v. Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation". Blakes Bulletin on Aboriginal Issues, July 2008. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

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some info & historical documentation (sovereignty) (complete video)

A good book to start with would be "A Concise History of Canada's First Nations" by Olive Patricia Dickason. Another one to consider is "Aboriginal Peoples in Canada "by James S. Frideres and René R. Gadacz . Both of these are university level texts, and will give you a good start to understanding the history of this country, what has actually happened in regards to Canada's native people and the actual monetary costs associated with Aboriginal people.

I myself am ALGONQUIN -a registered "status Indian" under DIAND's policy.  I have lived both on & off-reserve ... my family works in Indian Government both on & off-reserve. My family have been civil right activists since the 1920's...  The Crown has ALWAYS APPLIED MARTIAL LAW & SWAT TACTICS AGAINST US...

What about the James Bay Cree ?
What about Barrier Lake?
What about Golden Lake Algonquins?
What about the Lubican Lake Crees?
What about Innu of Labrador ?
What about the Teme-Augama Anishnabai ?
What about the elders barricade in Northern Sask against clearcutting?   ( I was in my 20's when I had to cross an RCMP gaunlet full of German Shepard dogs when I visited these elders- when they came to Ottawa I brought them to visit the elders of Barriere Lake)
What about the Cheaslaten of northern B.C. having 24 hrs notice & being burnt out & flooded by Alcan Corp.under the watchful eyes of DIAND? (Sheila Jordan made a film about this community in the northern interior of B.C.)
What about the Gitksan/Wet'suwet'en barricades against clearcutting by Westar?
What about Rouseau River being attacked by SWAT in the mid-90's?
What about Restigouche? Oka? Burnt Church?

All these communities are full of registered Indians under DIAND. Only a handful of Canadians have ever stood with us to face the batons, fire hoses, & RCMP dogs. Mostly university students involved in social justice although I do remember the "Ragin' Grannies" in the 1980's who shamed the federal gov't in song & poetry.

This next piece is about the "RED PAPER in response to Trudeau's infamous  " White Paper" which is still Canada's unofficial "covert" stance on it's "INDIAN PROBLEM"

see: Harpers' right hand man: Tom Flanagan & Alan Cairns " Citizen Plus" for

INDIAN ACT, 1946-1948
Laurie Meijer Drees
Malaspina University College,Vancouver Island
This paper is posted at DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln.


From its inception, the Indian Act did outline
a process by which Indian wards could
divest themselves of their "registered" status
and assume their full citizenship rights. This
process, known as "enfranchisement" under
the act, was one whereby a status Indian person
would be removed from under the jurisdiction
and restrictions of the Indian Act,
thereby gaining the same voting, property, taxpaying,
and social rights as non-Indian citizens.
The enfranchisement process was meant
to "advance" those individuals who were
deemed no longer requiring the protection of
federal legislation, and who were deemed
assimilatable into Canadian political life. Between
1919 and 1922, "enfranchisement"
could be involuntarily bestowed upon Registered
Indians by the Department of Indian
Affairs, and although the act was amended to
eliminate involuntary enfranchisement for a
decade, the process was reestablished between
1933 and 1951. At the time of the committee
hearings, Indian people were still considered
unable to fully assume their rights to vote (provincially
and federally) and were further denied
access to the public education system,
full property rights, and the newly emerging
social welfare programs such as Old Age Pensions,
Mother's Allowances, and Indigent Relief
as a result of the existence of this act. In
short, the Indian Act controlled virtually every
aspect of Indian peoples' lives, including
the composition of their communities, their
governments, and their economies.8 Overall,
the notion that Indian communities were incapable
of governing themselves or their resources
was implied by the structure of the
act. As Arthur Ray notes, "the act created a
special class of people designated solely on the
basis of their race, and it established a means
for governing them autocratically."9 Reserve
communities across Canada were all governed
by this same piece of legislation. During the
interwar years, Indian peoples living in the
province of Alberta viewed the act as restrictive
and incomprehensible; in particular,
Alberta Indian leaders viewed the act as in
conflict with their historic treaties.Outside government circles there was also public demand for the reform of Indian Affairs.
Historian J. R. Miller notes how Canadian
society became more "human rights
conscious" following World War II, and that
this contributed to a public perception that
Canada's paternalistic Indian policy was unacceptable.
21 Historian John Tobias similarly
indicates that "the public was generally concerned
with what was regarded as the treatment
of the Indian as a second-class person
and with the fact that the Indian did not have
the same status as other Canadians."22 Indian
participation in the war effort was often touted
as the basis for their rights to full citizenship
and thus the need for reform. The popular
publication Newsweek reported in 1946, "More
than 2600 Indian men and women served in
the armed forces. Thousands took various war
jobs. Many Canadians believe Indians should
possess full rights of citizenship."23 One published
opinion poll even heralded that 85 percent
of Canadians surveyed believed Canadian
Indians had come into their own and had equal
rights to their non-Indian fellow citizens. 24Governmental
concern with the notion of citizenship is
not surprising given that in this in this same
time period, Canada's Parliament enacted its
first Citizenship Act (1946), illustrating the
concern of this issue generally.
Immediately, the Special Committee recognized
Indian peoples to be existing in a state
of fundamental inequality. The granting of
citizenship rights, including both social and
political rights, was viewed by committee
members as the answer to Indian peoples' problems.
The politicians believed it imperative
that Indian communities have access to their
social rights derived from a stable economic
base and use their own local governments in a
self-determining manner. Through the attainment
of citizenship Indians could become truly
"free" and fully functioning members of the
Canadian community. At the same time, the
committee also believed Indian peoples would
not be able to assert citizenship rights until
they had been suitably and sufficiently educated.
This position was revealed by the
lengthy committee discussions on the poor
state of Indian education. In the eyes of the
government, only formal education would
properly prepare First Nations for their civic
duties.When the committee made its
final representation to Parliament in February
1948 after 128 meetings and after considering
over 400 briefs, it concluded that the Indian
Act be completely overhauled and it recommended
a new Special Committee be struck
to formulate a draft bill amending the act.
Most significantly, the report emphasized "All
proposed revisions are designed to make possible
the gradual transition of Indians from
wardship to citizenship." Despite the broad
mandate of the committee, citizenship eventually
became the focus of its attention and
the basis for its reformist suggestions.

To understand more fully the 1969 White Paper & the Indian Activism that fought it -please read the posted comments of:

I wrote about WCIP/ George Manual re: Fourth World etc.etc.

*************************************************************************** states in most clearly:

" In the absence of human and civil rights laws to protect us, we were at the mercy of a largely biased white society. Therefore, legal redress to resolve our complaints wasn't available. Factually, the justice system was used more by society to persecute us than to provide justice. We were classified as "Wards of the Crown" - at best treated as third class citizens.

"The most galling aspect about this is that many of the same whites whose bigotry prevents inclusion, and thus prevents Native People from achieving a standard of living equal to theirs, are the first to complain bitterly about the cost of Indian welfare, and to state that "Indians" are too lazy to work. "

"In spite of exclusion, but caused primarily by the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, the quality of life for First Nations Peoples in Canada has improved measurably in the past 50 years. The Declaration forced the country to begin the process of cleaning up its act and stop discriminating openly against Natives - the World was watching! This did not, however, mean that legislation was immediately introduced to repeal well entrenched apartheid laws that were enacted to oppress "Indians."

"When trying to pinpoint a date when the easing of apartheid laws allowed First Nations Peoples to escape from "Wards of the Crown status," to third class Canadian Citizenship status, the water is very muddied. The repeal of some apartheid laws in 1951 wasn't the watershed. The fact that it took governments fourteen years after the Canada Citizenship Act was proclaimed on January 1, 1947, to extend to us, August 10, 1960, the right to vote in federal elections clouds the matter further. "

"To add insult to injury a racist statement was included as part of the enfranchisement applications devised by government: Up until 1985, if a Registered Indian wanted to be enfranchised, he/she had to sign a declaration containing this paragraph: "...and certify that I am capable of assuming the responsibilities of citizenship."




Prepared by:
Wendy Moss, Elaine Gardner-O'Toole, Law and Government Division
November 1987
Revised November 1991




   A. The Federal and Provincial Franchise

   B. Self-Government

   C. Property Rights

      1. The Right to Homestead

      2. Restricted Right to Sell Agricultural Products

      3. Wills and Estates



   A. Liquor Offences

   B. Other Criminal Offences





In regards to "political activity -means & measures again gotta go by RCAP

"We have characterized this fourth stage in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada as a period of negotiation and renewal, and it is this stage that is still under way. By the early 1970s, it was clear even to most people in non-Aboriginal society that substantial changes in the relationship were required, and negotiations taking various forms ensued — at road block sites, in legislative offices, across the constitutional bargaining table and in international forums. These discussions gradually brought about a better understanding of the Aboriginal perspective and some movement toward a middle ground. A particularly important development was the adoption of a constitutional provision that recognized and affirmed existing Aboriginal and treaty rights and that included Métis people, Inuit and First Nations within the definition of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.1 The negotiations were far from smooth, however, and reversals were not uncommon."

"The only threat we see comes from continuing to deny Aboriginal peoples justice within Canada. The social pathology, economic deprivation and political instability that prevail in many Aboriginal communities cannot be overcome until we address the fundamental contradiction of continuing colonialism in this country. Aboriginal people's frustration and despair about their situation feed into an ever more intense rejection of the bases of social and political stability. "Re-orienting Canadian society toward respect for Aboriginal autonomy is no threat to Canadians. Aboriginal peoples have sophisticated perspectives on political relations with other peoples. Our relations with Aboriginal peoples have been corrupted not by the inadequacy of indigenous cultures but by their subjection to an alien European value system bent on destroying their way of life. Aboriginal political systems are predicated on key values such as co-existence, sharing, balance, equity and harmony. These values provide a sound foundation for reconstructing a relationship respectful of the rights and responsibilities of both partners."

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