[First Nations’ Historical] Lack of Access to Lawyers

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“Another historical obstacle for First Nations who wished to press claims was that they generally did not have access to lawyers who could bring their case to the courts if governments did not act. Until 1860, the British Crown’s appointees, and, after Confederation, the federal government, controlled First Nation spending. Further, until the 1960’s, federal “Indian agents” supervised all significant First Nation activities, including band council meetings. Federal officials regularly declined to approve the hiring of lawyers – apparently to protect First Nations from exaggerated expectations and from the payment of excessive legal fees. Indeed, in 1927, faced with rising pressure from First Nations on land claims, the federal government passed the following amendment to the Indian Act:

Every person who, without the consent of the Superintendent General … receives, solicits or requests from any Indian any payment or contribution … for the prosecution of any claim which the tribe or band of Indians … has … for the recovery of any claim or money for the benefit of the said tribe or band, shall be guilty of an offence.

This prohibition on legal representation for First Nations remained in effect until 1951.”

Word for word from Michael Coyle’s report, Addressing Aboriginal Land and Treaty Rights in Ontario: An Analysis of Past Policies and Options for the Future, page 18. Pulled from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

Lack of Access to First Nation Records

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“Government archives in Ontario are filled with particularized petitions by First Nations for government action to redress violations of their land and treaty rights. Today most of the issues raised in those petitions remain unresolved. One obstacle historically faced by First Nations was that the records relating to their treaties, land transactions, and trust funds were kept by the federal government. Until late in the twentieth century, First Nations had very limited access to these records. First Nation requests for information about their land dealings were often denied. Thus, in the 1830’s when the Mississaugas of New Credit, concerned about encroachments on their lands near Toronto, asked for a formal confirmation of their landholdings in order to enforce their rights, they were refused. Their Chief, an educated Methodist Minister named Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby), went so far as to petition the Queen in England. His request was ultimately denied, on the basis that the Mississaugas were not capable of handling such responsibility.

Even as recently as 1957, when the Musqueam First Nation surrendered part of their land in downtown Vancouver so that it could be leased to a golf club, the First Nation did not learn from the federal government the terms of the lease until 12 years later.”

Word for word from Michael Coyle’s report, Addressing Aboriginal Land and Treaty Rights in Ontario: An Analysis of Past Policies and Options for the Future, page 18. Pulled from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

On Slavery

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Even if we were to suppose that there were this terrible right to kill everyone, I maintain that neither a person enslaved during wartime nor a conquered people bears any obligation whatever toward its master, except to obey him for as long as it is forced to do so. In taking the equivalent of his life, the victor has done him no favor. Instead of killing him unprofitably, he kills him usefully. Hence, far from the victor having acquired any authority over him beyond force, the state of war subsists between them just as before. Their relationship itself is the effect of war, and the usage of the right to war does not suppose any peace treaty. They have made a contract. Fine. But this contract, far from destroying the state of war, presupposes its continuation.

Thus, from every point of view, the right of slavery is null, not simply because it is illegitimate, but because it is absurd and meaningless. These words, slavery and right, are contradictory. They are mutually exclusive. Whether it is the statement of one man to another man, or of one man to a people, the following sort of talk will always be equally nonsensical. “I make an agreement with you that is wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; and, for as long as it pleases me, I will observe it and so will you.”

– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (On Slavery, Chapter 4)

Political Theory, March 26

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I love Marx, and I love Rousseau. I love political philosophy. But I sure am tired of writing papers about “man” and how “he” is alienated from “himself,” because it’s simply not appropriate to use “people” in combination with non-gendered pronouns for the entire paper and lord knows they never once refer to the effects of political ideology or the system’s organization on the female experience of the world.