Ray Bobb: Treaties are not the way to indigenous self-determination in Canada

By Ray Bobb

In 2007, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand voted against this declaration came as a surprise to many people.

Compared to many countries of the global south that labour under thinly disguised military dictatorships, these four countries are seen as pillars of freedom and democracy. In reality, these countries are imperialist settler states. As oppressor nations, the freedom of these countries is the freedom of wolves and their democracy is the democracy of whites in apartheid South Africa.

The indigenous of these countries have recently been afforded economic reforms the likes of those which had been afforded the working classes of these countries more than 100 years ago. Politically, however, in terms of the colonized status of the indigenous and their legal right to self-determination, they have been subject to constant government attack. In Canada, for instance, the federal government is in the process of forcing the indigenous to renounce their Indian nationality and formally incorporate into Canada.

In 1973, the federal government initiated a treaty process based on the strictly circumscribed Comprehensive Land Claims Policy. The terms of the treaty process separate Canadian Indians into hundreds of reserve-level “First Nations” represented by Indian leaders on the payroll of the Department of Indian Affairs. The federal government has entered into treaty making with these leaders, requiring them, for payment, to remove their bands from the jurisdiction of the Indian Act and formally incorporate them into Canada on the municipal level.

These two requirements of the treaty process contravene Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These two articles of international law state, respectively, that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality” and “All peoples have the right of self-determination.” Today, the indigenous of Canada’s North, including northern Quebec, and many bands in the south have already been swindled into signing treaties.

The federal government heralds the treaty process as the way to a glorious “new relationship” and “self-governance”. In fact, the Canadian government is effecting a policy of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing.

Ray Bobb is a member of the Seabird Island Indian Band, a labourer, and a former Red Power advocate. He currently lives in Vancouver and writes on Native issues.



KM Lawrence

Sep 11, 2009 at 2:24pm

Get a job.

Billy Jack Douthwright

Sep 27, 2009 at 3:07pm

Though it may be true now that some indigenous nations of this continent will have been swindled into 'signing' yet a few more documents designed to serve the colonist's(') shameful interests, it does not really matter in the sense that they will not have been swindled after all, since the Guswentha made by the Haudenosaunee with the colonist's(') forebears defines a supreme precedent on Onowaregeh, that sets the standard of international covenants which all other indigenous nations will therefore always have recourse to citing when they decide to uphold their inherent right of sovereignty according to each their own customs, traditions & cultures!

Scott Clark

Oct 24, 2009 at 12:10am

Totally agree with Ray Bobb, it really is that simple.Canada is sitting at the table with it's employees, "the duly elected Indian Act Chiefs" and between them they are selling out the Indigenous People and the rights to all the resources. Canada is committing ETHNOCIDE...the purposeful elimination of peoples, cultures, languages and so forth, so that they (multi-national corporations) with government support can exploit the resources in a unsustainable process and then get out. Canadian citizens from across this country are complicate in this process as they choose to ignore the neo-colonialism that is taking place right under their noses. There is no point responding to simpletons here, they have their own demons to deal with, and have no interest in a critical perspective. It is the interest of all Canadians (including the simpletons) to see what we have in common interest and work together to defend this land from destructing forces that have no interest in the long term sustainability of this land, resources and people.