Contradictory thinking in Canadian treaty-making

2017-06-05

in Canada, History, Law, Politics

In the two decades between the [1857] Gradual Civilization Act and the [1876] Indian Act, only one Indian opted for enfranchisement, and the Indian peoples did not disappear. The Government of Canada continued to negotiate treaties with Indian nations while at the same time appointing Ottawa bureaucrats to run their societies. There was no logic in this: a government does not make treaties with persons it regards as its subjects. But the Canadian federation was formed at the high tide of European imperialism, when white people — and this most certainly included the Fathers of Confederation — believed fervently in their racial superiority and, in the words of Edward Said, “the almost metaphysical obligation to rule subordinate, inferior, less-advanced peoples.” Through its first century, Canada’s policies with respect to native peoples would move along this contradictory path — treaties for getting their lands, imposing white officials as their rulers — with tragic consequences for Indigenous peoples and an enormous legacy of broken promises and distrust.

Russell, Peter. Canada’s Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests. University of Toronto Press, 2017. p. 150

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