The Crown and Indigenous Peoples, a Treaty Relations


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Next year, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 will celebrate its 260th anniversary. Many Indigenous countries and the Crown have historically relied on agreements to ensure mutual recognition and respect. But this relationship between the two has, to date, been little understood, though not clearly established. The natives, who are not members of the Crown, have apologized for the near-ongoing violation of agreements intended to protect them.

Prince Charles and his wife, who traveled to Canada in May, met with several native representatives. During their visit, Rose Anne Archibald, Head of the Assembly of First Nations, apologized for the Crown’s continued failure to honor the treaties. But also that Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of State of Canada and of the Anglican Church, also apologized – after the Pope in April – to the survivors of the boarding schools.

Prince Charles, during a speech at the end of his visit, explained that he wanted new relationships, and said he was dedicated to listening. “We have to find new ways to work with the darkness of the past. It is a process that begins with listening (…). We want to create a new relationship for the future. »

But the Indigenous people lamented the Crown’s silence in the face of the disappearance of Indigenous women, residential schools and the breach of treaties. Some saw hope in choosing Mary Simon as the first Native woman as Governor General. Or, to apologize to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England. However, an apology to the queen, the supreme head of the church, is requested here.

Here again, the agreements concluded with the British Crown would have been rejected according to many Aboriginal rights defenders. The Royal Proclamation states, for example, that “the violent nations in which we have sex and live under our protection, shall not be disturbed or disturbed by the possession of portions of our domains and territories not granted to us., nor do we buy. ”This section of the Proclamation refers to territories and later to the sharing of natural resources.

An old and complicated relationship

The relationship between the Aboriginals and the British Crown is far from simple.

First, as Karine Vanthuyne, Chair of Education at the University of Ottawa, points out, “agreements begin with first contact. These are territorial treaties and treaties of friendship and good understanding. They are also often rejected, so it is clear that there is accumulated anger ”.

Karine Vanthyune, professor and chair of university education. Source: University of Ottawa

This relationship, hundreds of years old, was created in colonial history. As early as 1761, for example, Minavavana, a chief of Ojibway from western Manitoulin presented a view that reflected the view that the First Nation had not been defeated.

He declared: “English, although you have defeated the French, you have not defeated us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these forests and these mountains were left to us by our ancestors. They are our heritage and we will not give them to anyone. (…) Cebuano, your king has never sent us gifts, nor made any treaty with us, so he and we are always at war, and, until he does these things, must we will think we have no other father or friend. among the white man, but the king of France. You are with us, in the hope that we will not attack you. Do not come armed, with the intent to go to war, to go in peace, to do business with us, to provide us with necessities, which we are so deficient in. So we will consider you a brother and you can rest easily, without fear. As a pledge to our friendship, we present to you this smoking pipe. »

This statement is part of the desire for government-to-government, country-to-country relations.

As early as 1763, with the Royal Proclamation and 1764, with the Treaty of Niagara, in much of Canada, relations were established between the Crown and the Aboriginal nations on the basis of collaboration and permanent partnership with the Aboriginal peoples. . Although the autonomy and jurisdiction of the First Nation was unclear, because the Proclamation was created under the control of the colonial power at the time.

The royal proclamation of 7 October 1763 by King George III of England. Credit: Library and Archives Canada / e010778430-v8

For Karine Vanthyune, who works on the memory, identity and defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, “the Proclamation is a colonial document. The royal authority, if you will, decides how it happens. At the same time, the Treaty of Niagara was signed between the Aboriginal nations and the Crown.Through this agreement, we want to continue to work together as co -existing nations.No, in this context of the time, the idea of ​​subjection to a colonial power. We are talking about a relationship with a country. A kind of co-management. »

Sorry in a good relationship

Is it utopian to apologize to the queen? On this question, Karine Vanthyune, thinks that “symbolically apologizing is grateful. It is complicated, however, because the English monarchy represents colonial power, so in a sense, if it apologizes for in this event, it will have to apologize for many other interventions around the world. I’m not sure that’s going to happen. “

In a speech on May 20, Prince Charles announced that he recognized the suffering of the survivors and reiterated his desire to “work to better understand their pain and suffering”.

For the professor, “apologizing allows those who receive them to continue, but apologizing is also acknowledging your mistakes. I doubt the Crown can handle that. Then the other thing is that after apologize, you have to change, but the Crown doesn’t have this power, it can’t.

In addition to the residential school cases, what affected the relationship between the Crown and the Aboriginal peoples was played out by the treaties. “Canadians think of residential school because it’s the most reported crimes, but it’s part of the long list of wrongdoings, which are rights violations and signed agreements,” Ms. added. Vanthyune.

In fact, even if these treaties were signed before the reign of Elizabeth II, the demand of Aboriginal nations remained “that the queen recognized that her successors did not respect the treaties”, the professor pointed out.

A relationship that is equal

During the protest movement Idle No more Between 2012 and 2013, Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation went on a hunger strike after asking for help for her community. As a reminder of the facts, “following overcrowding and housing problems, the population of his community is living in a precarious state. In winter, it’s below -50 degrees there, it’s dangerous, people heat their houses and they burn, because they completely deteriorate. The Red Cross intervened. We are talking about Canada, not a Third World country. In short, he asked for help and he did not get it, because he was accused of not managing the funds, ”Karine Vanthyune explained.

Following this event, the leader asked to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston. He, along with some of his supporters, wrote to Queen Elizabeth II asking her to order the Governor General to attend.

“By making this move,” Ms. Vanthuyne, “he recalled that there was a country-to-country agreement with the British Crown.”

“It shows that for the natives, they have not yet been defeated and it is common – if the Canadian government does not care for the natives – to turn to the Crown. They see themselves as sovereign partners and they want to be recognized. like that. ”

However, the relationship between the two has been subjected to a lot of resentment. In July 2021, after more than 750 unmarked children’s graves were discovered on the site of a former boarding school for Marieval natives. The statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II were demolished in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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