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‘I always knew that my public policy research had, at some point, to address the First Peoples’: Courchene

By Thomas Courchene      

The following is an excerpt from Indigenous Nationals Canadian Citizens: From First Contact to Canada 150 and Beyond, by Thomas J. Courchene, which has been shortlisted along with four other books for this year's Donner Prize, the best public policy book of the year by a Canadian. The winner will be announced on May 1 in Toronto.

Thomas Courchene writes, 'The fundamental thesis of Harry Swain’s 2016 paper is that the recent and ongoing pace of events is rapidly passing Ottawa by. The challenges arising from Tsilhqot’in, and Daniels, as well as the UNDRIP principle of free, prior, and informed consent are landing on governments that have little in the way of existing policies or frameworks to accommodate or incorporate them.' Photograph courtesy of Thomas Courchene

One wonders whether the architects of the Constitution Act, 1982, had any premonition of what the interaction among the royal proclamation, the Constitution Act, the Charter, and the original BNA Act would lead to in the hands of the legal system and, in particular, the Supreme Court of Canada. By any definition, the results, as they relate to aboriginal rights and land title claims, have been truly remarkable. While these achievements are in the first instance due to the perseverance and creativity of the First Nations themselves, it is also the case that achieving these goals was aided and abetted by outside forces. For example, on the international front there is the 25-year evolution in the United Nations from the 1982 Working Group on Indigenous Populations through to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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