- Discuss—with an example—how dismissing traditional Indigenous governance structure ignores actual history.
Answer: In the case of St Catharines Milling and Lumber Co v. The Queen, Ontario ethnocentrically claimed that Indigenous (or “Indian”) title to land did not exist as Indigenous groups had no rules that could be considered laws. Without recognized regulations for governance (by European standards), they had no title to claimed ancestral lands. Such an ethnocentric assumption ignores the real and demonstrable history that Indigenous nations did have governing structures for their communities. One example would be the Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee. The bias reflected in Ontario’s arguments reflected ideas embedded in colonial literatures.
- Briefly discuss the Commission that conducted a comprehensive examination of the Canadian justice system.
Answer: The Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform was instituted on 15 November 2001. It was chaired by Alberta lawyer, Wilton Littlechild. It released its final report in June of 2004 in which it stated that racism is central to the untrusting attitude that Indigenous Peoples have toward police services. Among the Commission’s many recommendations is the need for more appropriate officers and legal personnel, as well the need for more First Nations’ and Métis officers. It also advocated for alternative approaches to justice rather than incarceration.
- What was Chancellor Boyd’s view of Treaty Three?
Answer: Chancellor of Ontario, John Boyd, in his ruling in the St. Catharines Milling case, held the view that Treaty Three was legally meaningless. For Boyd, without the kind of settlement recognized by Boyd’s ethnocentric assumptions, the most Indigenous groups could do was enter treaty with the Crown to extinguish their Aboriginal right of occupancy. If they did not, the settler society (from which Boyd emerged) could displace Indigenous Peoples as necessary to establish colonization. For Boyd and others, there was no pre-existing Aboriginal title to the land. Further, any land ceded to the Dominion through treaty would revert to the control of the province with the exception of the lands reserved for Indigenous Peoples.