copyright © 1995 Stephen Samuel, All rights reserved.

One law

Some thoughts on native land claims problems

If the rule of law cannot be said to hold sway in as rich and reasonable a country as Canada, it bodes ill for the future of humanity.

-- Bruce Clark 1994

There is a law in Canada. It is part of our constitution. It gives, to certain people in Canada, a specific right.

So what does this law do???

It gives to the natives of English North America (American law also recognizes the Royal declaration of 1763 as valid) the right to legal protection of their land. It basically says "Their land is their land. It is theirs to do whatever they please with and on. If you want to take it from them, you have to obtain their open and willing agreement to give the land to you. - Anything else id fraudulent and bad.

This is a right which many British Columbians take for granted (CF cries of "One law for all British Columbians".

By the time we reached British Columbia, many whites had come to consider that law a little bit "Cumbersome" and "Inconvenient". Buying land from it's rightful owners was, well, expensive. By the turn of the century we had started to 'forget' about the law. But even without the law, how does one assuage the moral pangs that come from violating another human's rights? It gets a lot easier if we declare them not to be human - without morals, without culture and without laws and without identity.

The same basic process which justified Black slavery in the US and Apartheid in South Africa was used to justify the claiming of land used by another people here. Rpeat a lie often enough you come to believe it. And so do your children - if they don't have a counter-example. Unlike American Blacks, we had a counter-example of Native culture on our doorsteps, so something needed to be done about it.

We needed to bring the declarations into line with reality, so we took on the culture of the people. Knowing how deadly smallpox was for natives, we gave them "presents" of smallpox-inoculated blankets . Between that and the flu, between 90 and 98% of most native bands died in the space of a generation. At that point we could then herd them into small "reserves" where they could be easily controlled. We outlawed their heraldry, and other central aspects of their culture. We separated them from whites by declaring, for a time, they needed a pass to leave their reserves. We made it illegal for them to hire lawyers and denied them the right to vote. If any of them left the reserve and became literate and well off, we declared them non-indian and removed their right to return to the reserve.

When all of that didn't do the job, we separated the children from their parents and grandparents and took them to boarding schools where they were beaten for speaking their language - so badly beaten that, as parents, they refused to teach their children for fear that they would receive the same treatment when they went to school. We taught them violence and child abuse, disrespect for their culture and language and how to become addicts. And when we finally considered them properly "cultured" in this manner, we released them into society at large.

And they learned about the laws. They found out that, for most people, their ancestral heritage is respected and legal and acknowledged. They realized that, for most people, it is illegal to take their land without paying for it. They were probably even surprised to find that most whites had local control over how money was spent in their local communities.

They also ran into a British Columbia that had been taught that their people had been without civilization and culture. That natives had just recently learned about "Society". A British Columbia which had, as it's most obvious examples of native culture, "skid row indians" bereft of the support their own culture and people but did without a place in ours.

In the face of this, they made a big mistake. They started asking that their rights be respected. They wanted a say in the running of their own affairs ("self government"). They began to request a say in the way that we used land which was - technically - still theirs. So we said to them: "Lets talk." We talked to them. We negotiated with them. We said "this will take time" and, when negotiations seemed to be bearing fruit, the government would change and we'd declare "OOPS! We have to start all over again! The new government doesn't like those rules."

In time, some natives started to get a little bit antsy. "Two generations of negotiations and they're still taking our land," some would cry in dismay. "We have an agreement to use this land, but they send police in to drag us off of it!" they would scream in disgust.

"Have you no patience?" we would ask them... "Another few years of negotiation and we'll probably have an agreement. " we'd say. "In the meantime, I think we'll log . . . . . THAT piece of land."

"But that's may grandparents grave!"

"Get out of our way or we'll throw you in jail."

"But your law says it's our land!"

"Get out of our way, you lawless heathens!"

"But it's even in your constitution!"

"I don't care -- I've got an injunction -- Are you going to obey this injunction?"

"Are you going to obey this law?"

"Arrest that man!"

On October 16," that man" (Nuxalk hereditary chief Edward Moody) and 30 other people will be questioning how the convenience of a company and the hoodwinking of a judge intertwines with constitutional law. It is a public trial and you are invited to witness and decide for yourself whether we have "one law for all Canadiens".

Canadien Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982
The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal people of Canada including
any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and
any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

  Biological warfare is now a "crime against humanity".

Stephen Samuel ( .. ph: (604) 876-0426

Forum: Representatives of the Nuxalk people, International Forest Products and the B.C. government debate the relative importance of Commerce, Convenience and Constitutional Law. 10AM October 16, at the BC Supreme Court. Courtroom to be announced.

(date and time still bo be confirmed) home page My Home Page