For some, the underlying purpose of s. 35 of the Canadian constitution is, “the protection and reconciliation of the interests which arise from the fact that prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America aboriginal peoples lived on the land in distinctive societies, with their own practices, customs and traditions.”
In order for a new Canada to move forward, one in which the pre-existing and continuing sovereignty oof indigenous nations, provinces and federal governments can coexist harmoniously, there must be a clear elaboration and recognition of the rights of indigenous nations.
One of the distinct qualities of the discrimination aboriginal nations, and aboriginal individuals, face, is that the discrimination is not always levelled upon them, but rather upon their ancestors. Our ancestors did not have access to courts; their property rights were not respected, nor were their agreements (treaties). Our rights were regarded not as ‘legal’ rights, where remedy would be required, but only ‘moral’ rights, where remedy would be encouraged, but not required.
This is why simply removing all modern instances of discrimination will not be enough – that will only serve to perpetuate and cover up the injustices of the past. It would not lead to a true reconciliation, but would use the term reconciliation as a euphemism for domination.
Reconciliation cannot occur on a foundation of discrimination and injustice. I believe this is why courts consistently link ‘pre-existing’ occupancy, practices and nations to the concept of reconciliation when describing the purpose of the constitutional provision recognizing and affirming aboriginal rights.
This blog is one avenue for expressing views on the concept of reconciliation. For those who are more action oriented, I invite you to consider a proposal for an Indigenous Rights Center. The concept may be found here: http://www.indigenousrights.ca