Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British Colonies along the Atlantic Coast and the newly conquered lands of New France.  Remember the Plains of Abraham?  Also, the Royal Proclamation declared clearly the Crown’s understanding of the status of the aboriginal people of the New World. To be clear, the Royal Proclamation is a statement of Canadian Constitutional law which remains in force today, both on its own and through the Constitution Act (1982).

The Royal Proclamation, together with the Quebec Act of  of 1774,  is the legal reason that Quebec continues to have a distinct Constitutional position as a Nation within Canada and as a Nation with distinct, constitutionally guaranteed legal institutions.

The First Nations are very clearly described in the Royal Proclamation as “Nations” and British Subjects are told that the people of these Nations are “not [to] be molested or disturbed in the Possession of the lands (the vast majority of the continent)] not having been ceded to Us”.

The Royal Proclamation lays out explicitly that, until such time as these lands are “ceded to or purchased by” the Crown, all lands in North America other than those in the Atlantic drainage basin are exclusively the land of the First Nations.

The Royal Proclamation continues in force in Canadian law and is re-emphasised in the Constitution Act (1982).  The lands which it covers have only been legally modified by the Treaties and, in the U.S. by the Declaration of Independence, theRevolution and the resultant explicit rejection of British jurisdiction.

The Treaty Process and the Treaties are direct outgrowths of the Royal Proclamation.  The negotiation of treaties between nations/states is a time honoured tradition on both sides of the Atlantic.  To be effective, careful attention must be payed to language differences.  This attention was not always given in negotiations with First Nations, but the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that the First Nations’ understanding of the Treaty agreements has the same legal weight as the English treaty documents.  The Treaties remain legally binding on both the Crown — Canada — and on the First Nations with whom the Crown negotiated.  Both parties have responsibilities and rights under the Treaties.  The most obvious right gained by the Crown is the right to share the land.

I want to emphasize something about the Treaties, about all international treaties. The Treaties are perpetual unless abrogated by one party, in which case everything is reset, or if they are changed or rescinded by mutual agreement.  This fact can not be emphasized too strongly.  If the Crown or the First Nation unilaterally abrogates it’s responsibilities under the Treaty, the Treaty is finished.  The First Nation is no longer entitled to the benefits of the treaty, such as health care and education — benefits all non-Treaty Canadians enjoy — and, what should be most disturbing for non-Treaty Canadians, the Crown is no longer entitled to share the land which is not drained by rivers flowing into the Atlantic.  That’s a lot of land which, if the Treaties were ever abrogated by the Crown (imagine that!), would revert under International and Canadian Law to the control of the First Nations.

Back before Confederation there was a thing written called The Durham Report.  Seems this British guy called Lord Durham was sent out to the Canadas to try to figure out what to do about the Quebecois Problem.  After tramping about in the back woods of Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City, he wrote a report which said, in brief “make a Confederation of all the remaining British North American colonies, including Quebec, and in a decade or two the French language will disappear and the people of Quebec will be assimilated into the great British melting pot!”

So, in 1867, the British Parliament passed, and Queen Victoria assented to The British North America Act (which remained our most recent constitutional document until 1982), and Lord Durham’s plan was put into effect.  As I’m sure is very clear today, French didn’t disappear and Quebec remains a distinct society.  I, for one, am glad that Lord Durham had myopic foresight.

I mention all this about Lord Durham and the BNA because the First Nations were treated to something similar to the myopic Lord’s report and the BNA.  This parallel bit of legislation was The Indian Act, which remains pretty much the only legislative expression of the Crown’s understanding of the Treaty process and the Treaties.  The fact that it is the only expression of this understanding has made many First Nations leaders fearful of having the Indian Act rescinded, despite all the evils the Act has been responsible for, including the Residential Schools catastrophe.  It is changes to the Act, made without consultation, by the current government’s Bill C-45 which has, in part, spurred the Idle No More movement.

Not remarkably long after the debacle of his government’s earlier White Paper (sardonically responded to by Harold Cardinal’s Red Paper), Pierre Trudeau managed to get the British Parliament to pass and Queen Elizabeth II to assent to The Constitution Act (1982) which included the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This document is a startling contrast to the assimilationist goals of the White Paper.  Look!  Aboriginal and Treaty Rights are affirmed!  Oh My! It affirms “any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763”  And, one of my favourite bits: “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”  That’s right, suckers! Assimilation is explicitly declared unconstitutional!  And the Government can’t even benignly neglect Canadian cultures into assimilation. The Federal Government must preserve and enhance our cultural mosaic!

The Foundational and Constitutional documents of the magnificent experiment that is Canada come together in the Constitution Act (1982) and shout out “Assimilation No More! Honour the Treaties”  On Monday, December 10, 2012, the First Nations, Metis, other Aboriginal Peoples, and their non-Aboriginal supporters came together to shout out “Idle No More! Honour the Treaties!” I, an old White guy, am proud to say that I stood and marched among the fifteen hundred in Edmonton.  I, too, am a party to the Treaties.  I benefit from the rights enshrined in the Treaties, and I hold my Treaty Responsibilities sacred.

I, descended of colonial settlers in Upper and Lower Canada, fully intend to be Idle No More!


64 comments on “Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson

  1. Corrections, the red paper response was written collectively by the Indian Association of Alberta. Then three chiefs in Alberta, representing Treaty 6,7, and 8, lobbied British Parliament to include a section securing the treaty rights when the constitution act was patriated. Trudeau sent 11 justice lawyers to London to contest this but section 35 emerged regardless. Thanks for your summation and support.

    • anhaga says:

      Thanks, Ms Snow, for the correction. I realize that Mr Cardinal was not the monolithic source of the Red Paper, but his is the name most largely associated with it. Calling it Harold Cardinal’s Red Paper was a bit of shorthand.
      Thanks again. Let’s continue the work to make Canada all it should be for all of its nations by honouring the Treaties!

    • Terrence Debassige says:

      My understanding is that the few aboriginal university students were rounded up and sequestered at a hotel in in Montreal and tasked with writing a response to the White Paper. My cousin Louis Debassige, from Manitoulin Island Ontario, was one of those students brought in. Another was Harold Cardinal and of course he went on to write the book on it.

    • Marlene Penner says:

      What I meant by the Aboriginal tribes fighting and was corrected with the above treaty information was…..before the white man even arrived, how were boundaries allocated? Isn’t it survival of the fittest or conquerer over the conquered? How did the Aboriginals deal with each other when one conquered the other? I doubt that treaties were put in place? Was Canada as a conquerer really that harsh? MUCH money has been allocated to the reserves but with not much of a return in terms of social, economic and educational welfare. Let’s face today’s reality. How can the Aboriginal lifestyle be improved? Money doesn’t cut it. An honest question. THX for your replies.

      • My two immediate thoughts, Marlene are that Canada (or Britain) has never been the conqueror of aboriginal nations and that, indeed, treaties were very much involved in pre-contact relations (consider the Six Nations Confederacy and the Blackfoot Confederate). Sorry I’m not replying in greater detail – I’m at a family dinner just now. I’m sure others would be happy to add their points.

      • Now, as to “Was Canada as a conquerer really that harsh”

        Ignoring the “conqueror” bit because such a concept has absolutely nothing to do with Canadian history or jurisprudence . . .

        Are you not aware of the residential schools, to which by force *all* aboriginal schools were required to be removed by law? Are you unaware that the principals of those schools were automatically declared the legal guardians of all the children, regardless of their parents wishes or parental abilities? Do you know about the thousands of young aboriginal girls who were forcibly sterilized under the direction of those “guardians”?

        Do you know know that under legislation (“the Gradual Civilization Act”) beginning in the 1850s, aboriginal people were declared to be something less than citizens? Are you unaware that Federal Government policy was explicitly declared to be “the final solution to the Indian problem”?

        And the money “allocated” to reserves. Are you really unaware that the Treaties were an arrangement whereby aboriginal land would be shared with the Crown in a system of reciprocity? Do you not know that the funds “allocated” to reserves are payments on the Crown’s debt to the First Nations under the treaties, that, in fact, the funds belong to the First Nations and are only being held in trust for those First Nations?

        So, to sum up.

        Boundaries were determined in various ways before contact, including treaties.

        Canada’s behaviour as a treaty partner (again, not a conqueror) has been nothing other than attempted genocide.

        The money you mention belongs to the First Nations. And as far as any alleged squandering goes, under the Indian Act the Minister must approve every single penny that the Chief and Council disburses. All funds must be accounted for and these days First Nations have official homepages readily found with a quick google and their audited financial statements are posted for all to see. And, if you look closely, you’ll notice that under the Constitution and the Indian Act, unlike other Canadians, First Nations get no Provincial funding for education or healthcare. Those items are completely at the discretion of the Federal Minister. Historically First Nations persons have received far less money for health and education from the Federal Government than other Canadians receive from the Provinces. The primary reason for chronic social problems on reserves (apart from that Residential School thing) is the Federal Government’s chronic withholding of funds from those reserves.

        How can aboriginal lifestyle be improved?

        The answer is simple, although the process will be a challenge: honour the Treaties.

      • Marlene Penner says:

        Begin forwarded message:

        > From: Behind the Hedge > Date: January 6, 2013 5:49:06 PM PST > To: > Subject: [New comment] Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson > Reply-To: “Behind the Hedge” > >

      • Marlene Penner says:

        Since had a problem with finding my reply, I’ll repost my response to John’s more comprehensive blog:

        Please, I’m not trying to undermine the deep hurts caused by our Canadian forefathers (hindsight is always 20:20) but how does remaining in the mindset of deep hurt help to heal the individual Aboriginal? Throughout the ages, millions have suffered horribly at the hands of fellow man. My own grandparents escaped from the hands of Russia’s evil Stalin in the 1920s while other relatives, not so fortunate, were exiled to Siberia or starved to death. Millions died in Nazi Germany. Horrific atrocities. There’s nothing new under the sun, says a proverb.
        But what is achieved by dwelling on this? A life wasted in bitterness? I have learned through the loss of our own young daughter in a car accident some years ago, that one must move on.
        I appreciate hearing of people who have forgiven those who grievously wronged them and who then are empowered to be emotionally free, no longer allowing the perpetrator to have power over them. An example is Pastor Dale Lang whose teenage son was gunned down in a Tabor, AB high-school. In order to get on with his life, he chose to forgive the perpetrator and then to focus on what he had instead of what he had lost. Life is too short and exciting to be lived in anger. Today he’s a happy, content man. Money does not solve emotional problems. I suggest that only forgiveness can. I know this is a tall order, but letting go does wonders for the psyche.
        We cannot undo the past – oh that we could – and what was taken away from us but let’s see what we can do with what we DO have.
        Are the people of Canada through the government offering help for schools, jobs, housing and health? Are there incentives in place for the betterment of Aboriginal communities?
        Could looking at the situation from this angle prove to be beneficial?
        Someone once said “Pain is inevitable, misery is optional”. This quote has guided me many a time.

      • Hi again, Marlene.
        I’ll just respond for now to one thing you mention: I haven’t meat anyone involved in Idle No More who is remaining in the mindset of deep hurt, as you put it. All have been warm and welcoming to me. And they all strike me as absolutely unwilling to allow “the perpetrator to have power over them”. That is the whole point of the movement and of its name in particular: these people are no longer passive victims. They are demanding the respect the deserve. They are not demanding money. They are demanding respect for themselves, for their people, and for the Treaties that were meant to benefit all but have benefited only one party to the sharing agreement. They are asking that a goodfaith conversation be undertaken by both sides to move forward into the future for the peaceful benefit of all.

        By the way, Marlene, have you watched 8th Fire? You really should. All Canadians really should. I think you can still watch it online here:

        Best wishes.

  2. Thank you so much for making these key points in such a pivotal time for all Canadians. First Nations and the Canadian Government are not the only ones who are attached to or obligated to abide by the treaties and Indian Act, all people of Canada are!

    • Marlene Penner says:

      What does ‘demanding the respect they deserve’ realistically look like? If these Treaty talks are satisfactory to the Aboriginals, what will Canada look like in, say, 5 years economically re our place in the global market? Will Canada be prospering, able to be a refuge for true refugees, able to compete on the world markets, etc. etc.? What about security issues? Burgeoning Islamic terrorists vow to control Canada by Sharia law. If that cannot be stopped, what rights will any Canadians have whether they be Aboriginal or ‘white’?
      Again, what do the Aboriginals want? The Government has already apologized for past wrongs. What else? How will this flesh out for all of Canada?

      • My expectation, Marlene, is that by every measure Canada would be improved for all Canadians. But that’s beside the point. The same questions you ask were asked in South Africa when a good friend of mine was stewing in prison for fighting apartheid. All sorts of people worried that an end to the racist policies would spell disaster for South African society. But those who felt that morality, justice, human rights, and international law trumped momentary economic concerns carried the day in the end. I hope the same will happen in Canada. Asking “what will be the price of acting morally, justly, in defence of human rights, in accordance with international law, and in defence of the planet’s environment which is our only hope for the future?” is kind of an absurd question when you really think about it. And that really is the question you’re asking.
        What Idle No More is asking for immediately is a reconsideration of C-45. What is being asked for in the long term, as I understand things, is a return to the Treaty relationship that has been neglected for over a century, a time in which explicit Government policy has been to consider the Treaties as nothing unless they are an instrument of eliminating the First Nations as distinct entities (i.e. genocide). Idle No More is a clear indication that the old policy has failed and will never succeed. It’s time to return to the Treaties and for everyone to respect them as the foundational, constitutional documents they are for all Canadians.
        How will it flesh out for all of Canada? Bloddy wonderfully, in my opinion!

  3. anhaga says:

    Thanks for the shout-out Roseanne! My family arrived on this land from Europe seven and eight generations ago. I have a niece and great-nephew and another great-niece/nephew on the way who share French, British and Cree ancestors — We have no other homeland. We, too, depend on the Treaties and on the Treaties being honoured.

    Idle No More is about so much more than C-45. This is about what Wab Kinew shared with all Canadians — the Eighth Fire. If we don’t all come together around the Eighth Fire and vow to be Idle No More, I think Canada has no purpose and no future. What a tragic failed experiment of such glorious potential Canada would be then.

    We can’t let it fail.

  4. Basil Johnson says:

    Remember the education the Canadian population is just general. And this isn’t not explained. Intel university. So ignorance is due to being limited in te scope of knowledge of the area studied.

  5. Scott (hidden from brainwashed psychos) says:

    What good is a document written over 100 years ago? What’s wrong with revisiting it every year? *With* first nations consultation, every year. The PCs are taking money away from them? No, they are REGULATING PAYMENTS TO CHIEFS WHO WRITE THEIR OWN SALARY AND WITHHOLD PUBLIC MONEY FROM THEIR OWN BANDS FOR PERSONAL GAIN; like building casinos and moving ciggs and guns over the borders. Maybe there should be a regulation that says bands/reserves need to be audited every year? Would that too be that a “slap in the face of first nations”?

    I’m sick of brainwashed hipsters paying too much attention to liberal media, liberal media who have a stake in public funds (the CBC) and refuse to compete like a real business for fear of not surviving. Welcome to the real world. Who around here can provide some unbiased FACTS and LINKS to pages (without spelling or grammar mistakes throughout, not blogs, maybe a page?) that detail how “first nations” will be affected? Nobody, because NOBODY KNOWS FOR SURE. Just like every other piece of legislation that’s ever passed in this country. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT MINORITIES OR “THE CHILDREN” or “families”. I think it’s time someone did something about every corrupt chief in Canada.

    Go read the part about water sources on reserves and tell me this isn’t for the betterment of first nations. How long have the chiefs been putting that off…

    • anhaga says:

      Thanks for the comment, Scott! I agree, everyone should go and do their own research. I’ve been doing that myself for about four decades. As for your initial question (“What good is a document written over 100 years ago?”), well, I’m pretty certain that a number of our neighbours to the south think their little 18th century document is of some value. Actually, I suspect most people, if they really think about it, feel that certain basic rules which can only be changed through careful consideration are quite important to any society. Although I may be a hipster (first time this fifty-something has been called that) and although I may be brainwashed, I well remember the challenges surrounding the development of Constitution Act (1982) and particularly the amending formula.

      Your question “What’s wrong with revisiting it every year? *With* first nations consultation, every year” has missed one of the fundamental points of Idle No More, which is that C-45 makes changes *without* consultation. Idle No More is asking for exactly the consultation you are suggesting. What’s wrong with that?

      You ask for links. Here are a few to the constitutional documents I mention:

      Royal Proclamation, 1763:
      British North America Act:
      Constitution Act (1982):

    • Christopher(Practice what you preach) says:

      Hey Scott, you see the corruption on one side, I think you should do your research again. The last time I’ve checked All the FN chiefs In Canada make a salary no more than a 100k, As for corruption you should see how much the government and parliament employees make and YES they’re all millionaires.
      As for FIrst Nations people- I believe in what they say, is to be true, for we have trusted them with our lives and thought us how to survive.

    • Albert says:

      um little do you know and it shows that we do gave audits every year. We do pay taxes, work, and contribute the the economy. It is people like you who need to open your eyes to how we live and what we been through and still going through as a nation. I can tell you but your ignorance will still tell you it is lies i can even show you but you will be blinded by your own ignorance that was passed down from your parents and so on.

    • A-nony-mice says:

      Bands are subject to audits every year. If they don’t comply or there is something amiss, they face third-party management (which is paid out of the monies that the Reserve was supposed to receive). Additionally, this third-party manager is contracted by the Federal Government and their pay is determined by same as opposed to being determined upon how much the band would actually be paid out by the government.

      I think you need to take some of your own advice and actually look into things and not keep your mind clouded by assumption.

  6. Scott (hidden from brainwashed psychos) says:

    Sorry sir, I wasn’t calling you a hipster. I usually refer to hipsters based on looks (scarves, elbow patches, new-old-new shirts, skinny jeans, etc) but I’ve never seen you before. Sorry for the confusion. I was lumping together the un-politically-educated people who consume, love, buy and enjoy oil based products and byproducts every day yet who protest against it. This issue goes hand in hand. With the media’s help, and like any other human being in the world, people love to blame “the man” (who supports them with welfare cheques, treaty cheques, etc), and anyone other than themselves.

    Thanks for the links. Of course there needs to be careful consideration to changes in a society. Hence C-45 giving first nations a voice. Does more than half of anyone protesting in this movement understand the (positive) implications of C-45? Or are they sheep? Led by their chief Sheppard to protest revocation of the sheppards self-defined salary?

    • Sorry, Scott! WordPress shunted your response into the spam file. As soon as I found it I approved it!

      As for the Canadian Taxpayers’s Federation, I’ve had quarrels with them for years, ever since I was a small business owner in Alberta. Kept that one going for twenty-one years before retiring, no thanks to the CTF.

      As for the CTF link, you do know that under the Indian Act, no Reserve Chief and Council is allowed to disperse funds without the approval of the Minister, right? Under the Indian Act, the buck stops with the White guy in Ottawa. You got a problem with the Enoch chief’s salary, talk to the Minister. Or are you arguing Stelmach didn’t get paid enough? Take that one up with the Alberta Legislature.

  7. aywastin says:

    ay ay “hipster”, I greatly appreciate you sharing your knowledge and acknowledge the important relationship between the different “Nations” of this country.
    To also add: First Nations are audited, which could be requested from AANDC (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, formerly called Indian and Northern Affairs). First Nations write more reports than any other federal programs. I think the Canadian government should be audited, every year.
    The average salary for Chiefs across Canada is $36 000, in comparison to the average Canadian librarian salary $50-60 000. There are some Chiefs who don’t even accept salaries like Chief Clarence Louis. Or Chiefs who would die for the their community, like Chief Theresa Spence who is currently on a hunger strike.
    There are corrupt leaders, not just chiefs, who lead without consulting, who lead behind closed doors, and who approves and supports institutional racism.
    I do STRONGLY agree that something NEEDS to be done about corrupt leaders.

    • anhaga says:

      Thank you, aywastin!si

      I thought about mentioning to Scott that we’re all human and we all can point to corrupt leaders, but my purpose here was to try to explain and simplify the legal, constitutional, unavoidable truths of the Canadian situation. That having been said, I’m glad you’ve brought on further discussion: the more voices in the conversation, the better for everyone.

    • Donna Martin says:

      Well said aywastin .

      • It’s important to mention as well, that serving as Chief doesn’t usually come with a cushy pension after a couple of years. And retired Chiefs aren’t much in demand as highly payed Corporate Board Members, consultants or lobbyists. Being a chief is a grubby, thankless job struggling with Federal Government departments and bureaucracies just to get some little bit of what one’s people have every right to expect, what the rest of Canada takes for granted.

  8. anhaga says:

    A clerical note:

    I intend to approve all comments (as I have to date), whatever side of the issues they present. I will, however, insist that we all remain somewhat respectful and polite (as all have to date). I don’t expect it to be an issue, but I will no more tolerate hateful or threatening comments here than I would in my regular life about town.

    I am, however, just a regular old single parent who absolutely must be offline at times (like sleepytime, for example) so sometimes approval may be slower in coming than is optimal.

  9. Chabin says:

    Thanks for this.

  10. karen says:

    This is a terrific primer for those of us who haven’t or can’t sift through the documents first hand. Thank you too for your respectful reply to Scott. We all deserve respect. I’ve posted this under the link to on my FB page.

  11. anhaga says:

    Okay, I’m finding it really, really funny that I’ve found myself being referred to on at least one webpage as “an old white hipster”! For the record: I don’t think 51 can really be called old; I am White; and, I’m not really sure what a “hipster” is — maybe that does make me old! 🙂

  12. […] In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British C…  […]

  13. […] In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British C…  […]

  14. Chellybean says:

    Thanks this is great, I shared on FB for those who don’t really understand how this affects even us all– How do you respect a Country that decides that we should no longer respect something that Canada was formed on as a Country!! A lot of people whom I know are extremely uneducated on the history of the treaties and what they entail, and believe that First Nations just want to live for free. Which obviously life on any reserve will show this is not the case. So many people do not understand how these documents were to positively effect both FN and colonists! I really like the way in which you write. I have a humble request if possible could you perhaps do a write up on the rise of First Nation women and young men being imprisoned in Canada. I am sure we have all seen the %’s rise and think that this should be looked into as I believe there is more than simple law breaking going on! And in time where Harper would like to focus on more prisons?? This is a red flag issue I believe!!

    • Thanks, Chellybean! I wish our various education systems spent more time explaining our country’s history to young Canadians and less time spending first graders how to do PowerPoint presentations. Canadians’ civic knowledge is generally appalling in all areas.

      In answer to your request, I certainly am interested and disturbed by the demographic disparities in our prisons, but I would like to make a humble suggestion: would you consider writing about the issue?

  15. It has been brought to my attention that a question has been raised somewhere on Facebook about the historical accuracy of the bit I wrote above about Lord Durham and his Report. Here’s what “Wilf” wrote:

    “I don’t know about his interpretation of aboriginal rights, but his history is laughable. Lord Durham’s report was implemented (in part) by the union of the two Canadas (Upper and Lower Canada) in 1840, and was long dead when that union was undone in 1867.”

    Well, Wilf, I’ll take a moment to respond.

    Yes, Lord Durham’s report was implemented in part by the union of the provinces which became Ontario and Quebec less than thirty years later with the BNA Act. And, yes, the BNA Act did dissolve the union of the Canadas by bringing them into a slightly larger Union. But, to suggest that after less than thirty years the Durham Report was “long dead” is absurd. Historian J.M. Bliss has written that the Report was “a giant first step toward eventual independence from Great Britain” Canadian History in Documents, 1763-1996 [Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1996], p. 49). Remember that that independence was finally achieved only thirty years ago with the Constitution Act (1982). “Long dead” in 1867? I think not.

    And a note on my suggestion above that Confederation “put into effect” Lord Durham’s plan. Some, including Wilf, I expect, might argue that the Union of the two Canadas was the full implementation of the Report, but I draw attention to Lord Durham’s words in the Report:

    ‘I believe that no permanent or efficient remedy can be devised for the disorders of Lower Canada, except a fusion of the Government in that of one or more of the surrounding Provinces”[my emphasis]


    “. . . between no parts of any Kingdom or State is the necessity for such an union more obvious than between the whole of these Colonies.”

    Indeed, Durham envisioned a possible union of more than just the two Provinces. Dare I say, a Confederation such as was agreed to in 1867? In fact:

    “. . . With respect to the two smaller Colonies of Prince Edward’s Island and Newfoundland, I am of opinion, that not only would most of the reasons which I have given for an union of the others, apply to them, but that their smallness makes it absolutely necessary”

    Durham’s report was not fully implemented until Newfoundland entered Confederation in 1949!

    No, Wilf, I don’t think the history I present is in any way laughable. I would argue that the suggestion that the Durham Report, published in 1839, had no effect on the British North America Act and Confederation is itself laughable. Again from Bliss’s book:

    “. . .the Report is perhaps the most significant document in Canadian history, as well as a milestone in the history of the British Empire.”

    I don’t know why I even thought to mention it!

    • Regarding Lord Durham, I don’t argue with your conclusion of the end result, I would just like to pose the possibility that he wrote The Durham Report to gain the end he was after while giving the racist and assimilation-minded British Parliament language they would be happy to pass. Remember, he had spoken the exact opposite of the words in the report, so much so that his peers in the House of Commons refused to believe he had written it–although his assistants were if anything, even more on the side of the French and the Natives than Durham. Durham was also the only British diplomat the Tsar of Russia would consider because, as he said, Durham was “the only Englishman who behaved as if the British way was just one of many, and not the Only Way!” The significant point was that he suggested equal weight between French and English in 1839. Had this not been done shortly afterwards, there is no question that the English would have vastly outnumbered the French–and the First Nations–just a few decades later. There is no way the English would have consented to equal weight at that time. There was Durham’s brilliance in protecting and not assimilating the cultures of Canada. And it shows we English settlers haven’t learned much since then; still going against our own interests for short-term gain.

      • Yes, I may have been unfair to Durham the man and for that I apologize to his memory. But the fact remains (as you acknowledge) that the Report is an assimilationist document and it formed the basis of British and Canadian policy up to the Indian Act and beyond. It echoes loudly in the comments following online news stories about Idle No More.

  16. nadinelumley says:

    Repost from Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize winner and former war correspondent for the New York Times) on Canada’s right-wing neocon Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

    Harper is a poster child for corporate malfeasance and corporate power, just sort of dismantling everything that’s good about Canada. So he’s the kind of species that rises to political power and is utterly subservient to corporate interests at the expense of the citizenry.

    Yeah, he’s a pretty venal figure.


  17. Sining brook says:

    Thank you to all of you for the information you have provided. We need more people to post facts and to keep them going. Yes I did say facts we do not need racist comments but good hard facts. Again I thank those of you for the information Megwech.

  18. Well, I’ve posted historical facts as I understand them. But I’ve also posted my interpretation of the meaning and opportunity of those facts. I’m sure many, many will disagree with my interpretations, many will disagree with my understandings and interpretations. I continue to learn.

  19. Excellent post John. The value of a document written over 100 years ago is that it sets out guiding principles that continue to govern regardless of the passage of time. Such documents—the Magna Carta springs to mind—are eternal. And when people are pushed hard enough and far enough they will reclaim their rights which never die or go out of style.

  20. There is nothing more hot than an “Old White Hipster” 😉 Especially an Active, Social Activitst on Indigenous rights! Smokin’ work here John!

  21. As I argue in my recent book, Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism, the Indian provisions of the Royal Proclamation were the primary cause of the American Revolution. The issues raised then are coming up again in the failing and massively sabotaged efforts to apply the Royal Proclamation and the rule of law to the transformation of British Columbia. We are bringing these issues out in a case we are dubbing The Queen and Kwitsel Tatel versus The Government of Canada. The next court date is January 14 at the Chilliwack Law Courts. See

  22. Please help us, JR, get the news out about the court case. Google Kwitsel Tatel for starters. All the Best.

    • Earth into Property is on my list, and I’ve already facebooked the court case and tweeted it with an #IdleNoMore hashtag and a request/suggestion for a Chilliwack rally on Jan. 14. By the way, it was a tremendous event in Edmonton today in -20 and wind. Crossing the Walterdale Bridge near the old Ford was numbing. The aboriginal youth, children, toddlers, babies in strollers, parents, grandparents, elders and my new friend Phylis were amazing! So much warmth! So much respect! So much patient and wry wit! Somehow I ended up carrying a Union Jack up the hill below the location of the old Fort, like some sort of strange Red Coat amongst a hoard of Cree, Blood, and Siksika Warriors. But we had no weapons. Only the Truth, non-violence, drums, and some wicked-good speakers (with a sadly inadequate sound system).

      I’m not a protester or a marcher. In half a century, apart fro attending a public reading of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” for a few minutes in my university days, until December 10th, I’d never done this activism thing.

      I highly recommend it.

    • I don’t know if you’re still around, Prof. Hall, but, Earth into Property arrived today! I guess I know what I’m reading this year. It’s big! 🙂 Looking forward to it.
      And, I’m just about to post a reminder about Kwitsel Tatel to the Idle No More facebook page.

  23. […] The two flags she was carrying made it clear she had the same destination I had: the latest Idle No More rally and […]

  24. amanda says:

    im a born and raised canadian however found that what weve learned in school towards this particular part of history is blurred and most likely inaccurate. I’ve been posting and trying to inform myself on the historical facts and am eager to learn the truth to gain more knowledge to better support this issue and “idle no more” cause. however am not sure where to start or what to refereance to find accurate information, as i tend to question the truth behind anything i read as it is all different. any suggestions?

    • Hi amanda!

      I’m born and raised Canadian as well. I was fortunate I see in hindsight that I had a couple of teachers in Junior High who gave me a fairly clear grounding in some of this history. One was a Grade 7 History teacher in Windsor, and Social Studies here in Alberta in grades 8 and 9 gave me some of the constitutional grounding. It’s stuck with me in a way that the names of the teachers have not. Also, growing up in “Northern”, Ontario, i.e. a few hundred miles north of the 401, in the ’60s it seemed the history was everywhere, and, while the First Nations seemed oddly absent from everyday life for us, they were everywhere in the history and the landscape.

      My first recommendation is to continue questioning everything. My next would be to find the documents — they all should be online — and bookmark them to return to again and again. Then I’d say find a few popular histories of the country to read in order to get a handle on the broad strokes. Right now I’m enjoying an old 30 volume set intended for schools from about a hundred years ago. I’m surprised that as far as prejudices these hundred year old voices seem far more sensitive and modern than much of what you see in the internet comments on news stories today.

      I’m quite fond of John Ralston Saul’s “A Fair Country”, and I’ve mentioned Prof. Hall’s work above.

      I could never, and never should, give you my entire reading list relating to these issues over the last number of decades. One book will lead to another. And keep referring back to the original documents.

      Good Luck!

    • Another thing, Amanda, it that so much of it is lawyer and accountant material. But here’s a good analysis of a current question that cuts through a good deal of the lying that’s been flying about:

  25. URL says:

    … [Trackback]…

    […] Find More Informations here: […]…

  26. shiggs91 says:

    Reblogged this on finding development and commented:
    Wonderful history for anyone wanting to learn more about colonization and the need for #Idlenomore

  27. […] to a general ignorance in the non-aboriginal community of what the legal situation actually is.  The actual legal situation is that First Nations agreed to share their land with the Crown in exchange for certain modest but […]

  28. Great summary – thanks! I’ve posted and shared on Facebook also. Started back to school this fall at Anishnabek Educational Institute at Muncey-Delaware First Nation and taking Traditional Aboriginal Healing Methods program. I’m a white guy, 49 years old and what I’ve learned so far is amazing. Amazing that our education in public school totally failed and lied to us in regards to indigenous people. I’m glad I’m finally getting the proper education! I was at the round dance in Toronto on the 21st and felt great being included with such a positive group of people. I support Idle No More and educate along the way and look forward to working with our First Nation peoples in the future.

  29. What's the Sovereign Status of Attawapiskat? says:

    A notorious person has claimed on Twitter – & was RT’d by an even more notorious person – that: Chief Spence does not actually represent a sovereign nation because Attawapiskat was surrendered to Crown by Treaty 9.

    Treaty 9 can be seen at but although it mentions Attawapiskat I don’t really see it as saying it was surrendered to the Crown.

    Can you or anyone else comment on or clarify this?

    • Thanks for the question, WSSA. My immediate response is that Idle No More is about more than Attawapiskat and Chief Spence and Idle No More started before Chief Spence’s hunger strike, so, even if the accusation is accurate, it is only relevant to Attawapiskat and Chief Spence’s demands for a meeting. It is absolutely irrelevant to Idle No More.

      That having been said, I’ll have a perusal of the English text of the treaty, but I will remind everyone that in R. v. Badger (1996) the Supreme Court of Canada laid out some rules of interpretation for Treaties:

      1 a treaty represents an exchange of solemn promises between the Crown and the various Indian nations.
      2 the honour of the Crown is always at stake; the Crown must be assumed to intend to fulfil its promises.
      3 any ambiguities or doubtful expressions must be resolved in favour of the Indians and any limitations restricting the rights of Indians under treaties must be narrowly construed.
      4 the onus of establishing strict proof of extinguishment of a treaty or aboriginal right lies upon the Crown.

      So, anyone suggesting Attawapiskat was ceded to or purchased by the Crown (the only way the Crown may gain control of Aboriginal lands under the 1763 Royal Proclamation, i.e. the Constitution of Canada) they had better have iron-clad, unequivocal evidence, for example, a Cree text of the Treaty notarized by a Cree-speaking Notary with original signatures or marks of legitimate representatives of Attawapiskat.

      At least, that’s this White layperson’s understanding of the legal issues.

      Now I’ll read that text.

      • Okay. No, the Attawapiskat Band ceded land in exchange for Royal permission to perpetually use *all of that land* for their traditional pursuits, a tract of land as their Reserve (with absurdly onerous privileges over that land preserved to the Crown), and certain other reciprocal rights and obligations. They did not cede their position as a nation and they did not become ordinary old citizens of the Dominion or regular British Subjects (study the “enfranchisement” question). Although agreeing to be bound by the Treaty, they clearly did not extinguish their status and rights as something other than Settler Canadians. Indeed, the Treaties granted them a special, distinct relationship to the Crown not “enjoyed” by any non-aboriginal inhabitants of Canada.

        Whoever the notorious tweep is, s/he is spreading malicious lies and misinformation.

        Hope this helps, but, as always, investigate for yourself. Read, Discuss. Learn. Be Idle No More 🙂

  30. […] In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British C…  […]

  31. […] for gosh sake!  Only by wilfully closing ones ears can one avoid hearing their voices.  And find out about our shared history and our Constitution – all of […]

  32. […] and is the second most popular post of my time blogging.   The most popular continues to be my Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson which pretty much broke the counter two winters […]

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