Understanding Reconciliation

Understanding Reconciliation: Indigenous Sovereignty & Land Rights

The late Arthur Manuel, Indigenous Leader and Activist from the Secwepemc Nation, wrote in his book The Reconciliation Manifesto that “the term ’reconciliation’ now covers any and all manipulations or diminution of Indigenous rights and title. The government and the Canadian people have fallen in love with reconciliation. They do not really seem to understand the concept but they truly love that word“. (A. Manuel, The Reconciliation Manifesto)

As a growing grassroots community committed to understanding true reconciliation, we must develop our knowledge of Indigenous rights to assist in holding the municipal, provincial and federal government accountable to finally respecting Indigenous land rights, rights to self-determination, and to support Indigenous youth, and Land and Water Defenders in their organizing, activism and continued defense of their rights to sovereignty and self-government.

Below is a list of key information, along with resources, that we suggest all members review. This list is not exhaustive and is intended to be a concise and consolidated reference towards an understanding of the concept of reconciliation as it relates to Indigenous land rights as recognized in Canada and Internationally.

INDIGENOUS MOVEMENTS & GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM RELATED TO LAND

Follow the links for information provided by Indigenous Groups & Leaders

Read:

  • Land back A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper

Watch:

Idle No More

Defenders of the Land

Truth Before Reconciliation

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AS RECOGNIZED IN CANADA
Canadian Constitution & Charter of Rights & Freedoms

Resources

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Quick Reference

  • Section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that no rights protected under the Charter will be used to overrule or diminish rights belonging to Aboriginal people (including land rights and rights under the Royal Proclamation), and recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
  • Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. (1) “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed. (2) In this Act, ‘aboriginal peoples of Canada’ includes the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada
  • Section 37. (1) Canada was committed to holding a conference with Indigenous peoples to define the content of Section 35 rights. This process was never completed by the Canadian government and was abandoned in 1987.

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AS RECOGNIZED INTERNATIONALLY
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)

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Quick Reference (full report linked above)

  • UNDRIP Article 3. Self-Determination - “Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”
  • UNDRIP Article 4. Self-Government - “Indigenous peoples have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs”
  • UNDRIP Article 10. Free, Prior, & Informed Consent (FPIC) – “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return”
  • UNDRIP Article 18. Decision-Making - “Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.”
  • UNDRIP Article 19. Consultation – “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them”
  • UNDRIP Article 26. Land Rights -
    1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.”
    2. “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.”
    3. “States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.”
  • UNDRIP Article 32. Development -
    1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.”
    2. “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”
    3. “States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and 24 appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact”

CANADIAN LAW (BILL C-15) & UNDRIP
Canadian law as it currently aligns with UNDRIP

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Quick Reference

  • Bill C-15 – “This enactment provides that the Government of Canada must take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and must prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration”
  • Issues with Bill C-15 – While C-15 addresses all 46 articles of UNDRIP, the government continues to debate and evade defining ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ (FPIC) in a way that recognizes Indigenous groups' right to “veto” government decisions that affect their land or rights. It is currently more of a vague legal framework and it is not yet clear if it’s a step toward decolonization or just a re-framing of colonial politics which has always aimed to extinguish the right to self-determination of Indigenous people.

“We will know that Canada is finally decolonized when Indigenous peoples are exercising our inherent political and legal powers in our own territories up to the standard recognized by the United Nations, when your (Canadian) government has instituted sweeping policy reform based on Indigenous rights standards and when our future generations can live in sustainable ways on an Indigenous designed and driven economy. (A.Manuel. The Reconciliation Manifesto)”

 

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