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Harold Monteau: Lessons from Canada in indigenous law and policy

Filed Under: First Nations in Canada | Law | Opinion
More on: harold monteau, metis, religion, self-determination, sovereignty, treaties
     
   

The Métis National Council poses in front of the Supreme Court of Canada on April 14, 2016, the day the historic Daniels v. Canada decision was issued. Photo from Twitter

Métis people in Canada are celebrating a landmark court decision that recognizes their right to be treated as indigenous. In part two of his series, Harold Monteau, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe who is of Metis descent, wonders whether similar developments could help indigenous people in the United States:
The history of the United States and its treatment of American Indians is very similar to Canada’s history in that there was a “necessity”, from the Federal Government’s standpoint, to deal with Indian Tribes for treaties to keep the “Peace” and to gain “Dominion” over Indian lands so that the Federal Government could carry out the theory/doctrine of “Manifest Destiny”. The Spaniards, influenced by the Holy Catholic Church, had engaged in “Ecclesiastic Debates” as to whether the native populations of the Americas were even “human” or something akin to “animals”. If it was the latter, they could be annihilated, exterminated or domesticated to facilitate the colonization of the lands. If it was the former, then the Natives had to be dealt with as Spain was dealing with other nations that it conquered or colonized. While Spain chose the latter, it did so recognizing that it could do the former if the Native Populations resisted becoming Human Christians. The practice of “Treating” with the Indigenous population of the British Colonies and French “Possessions” on the other coast of North America was adopted by the colonizing countries and their successor governments, but also with the same “policy” of submission or death, with annihilation, extermination and removal the practice of the day without the pesky interference of the Church (Catholic or otherwise).

The Daniels Court found that “the federal government has at times assumed that it could legislate over (Métis) as “Indians”. The 1876 Indian Act banned the sale of intoxicating liquor to “Indians”. In 1893 the North-West Mounted Police wrote to the federal government, expressing their difficulty in distinguishing between “Half-breeds and Indians in prosecutions for giving liquor to the latter”. To clarify this issue, the federal government amended the Indian Act in 1894 to broaden the ban on the sale of intoxicating liquor to Indians or any person “who follows the Indian mode of life.”

This is but one example among many of “The Crown” taking responsibility to legislate as to “individual” Indians versus legislating about Tribes or Tribal Nations. Canada merely encoded the “practice” and “processes” of the time which “presumed” that Indians were the responsibility of the Crown and not so much a Provincial or local responsibility.

Get the Story:
Harold Monteau: Non-Status Indians in the U.S., Part 2: Daniels v. Canada/Crown (Indian Country Today 5/22)

Supreme Court of Canada Decision:
Daniels v. Canada (April 14, 2016)

Federal Court of Appeal Decision:
Canada v. Daniels (April 17, 2014)

Related Stories:
Harold Monteau: Lessons from Canada in indigenous law and policy (04/21) Appeals court in Canada rules for Metis in Indian status case (04/17)
Court in Canada rules Metis and non-status Indians are 'Indians' (1/8)

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