I’ve heard some “debate” about whether some/all/any of the various numbered and named Treaties between the Crown and those peoples named “Nations” by the Crown in the Royal Proclamation which is part of the Constitution of Canada — whether any of those Nation-to-Nation treaties actually constitute the perpetual ceding of all/some/any aboriginal land rights to the Crown.
What has been bugging me is that, if the Crown has failed to fulfil any single tiny item of what the Crown promised to fulfil for the aboriginal states-signatory and their people, it doesn’t matter what the aboriginal Nations agreed to say, do, give up or paint on the mountains with a blood-dipped Q-tip – none of that matters. If the Crown has not done it’s part, the aboriginal nations are under no obligation to do their parts, including any land cessions promised by the Treaties.
Seriously, these are agreements in which each party promises to perform certain services for the other. The Crown promises to provide the people of the aboriginal nation with certain services and/or concessions in return for certain concessions and/or services from the people of the aboriginal nation. Like when you take your car to a mechanic: you agree to give up in perpetuity a certain amount of you net worth and all future increase in value of that bit of your net worth in return for the repair of your clutch. If the mechanic repairs your clutch, you pay him the agreed amount. If the mechanic replaces your clutch with three used coffee filters and a tomato juice can painted black, you really shouldn’t pay the guy. If you’re really patient, you might let him have another crack at the repair for a reduced price. I can’t imagine waiting centuries and generations for the mechanic and his descendants to actually get the clutch fixed, particularly not if they’d been paid in advance.
But, that’s exactly what’s happened with the Treaties. The Crown came to the aboriginal nations and said “We’ll fix your clutch if you pay us a hundred bucks” and the aboriginal people said “okay, sounds good.” But the aboriginal people are still waiting to get their truck back. If the Queen Victoria had tried to pull that on Kaiser Wilhelm within 30 days the Kaiser would have demanded a full refund, his truck returned (for repair by another country) and punitive damages the size of Wales.
So, to those who say “the Indians have no claim on Canada: they ceded their land claims in the Treaties” I say, be careful what you argue. If the Crown has failed in fulfilling a single clause of a Treaty, the aboriginal Nation signatory has a claim to void the Treaty, including any land rights cession.
Do you really want to go there?
There’s a whole big, huge, educated, proud, empowered generation of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis out there saying that they’re Idle No More. Do you really want to argue that the Crown has upheld in full it’s side of the Treaty relationship?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to finally just fix the bloody clutch?
After all, you’ve been paid in advance!
(For the record, I use a very polite, pleasant and reliable mechanic and he did recently replace the clutch in my truck and I happily paid him the agreed upon amount. All treaty obligations were fulfilled, and a few jokes were exchanged at no extra charge on either side.)