Between Justice and Certainty
Treaty Making in British Columbia
The BC treaty process was established in 1992 with the aim of resolving the outstanding land claims of First Nations in British Columbia. Two discourses have since become prominent within the treaty negotiations between First Nations and the governments of Canada and British Columbia. The first, a discourse of justice, asks how we can remedy the past injustices imposed on BC First Nations through the removal of their lands and forced assimilation. The second, a discourse of certainty, asks whether historical repair can occur in a manner that provides a better future for all British Columbians.
In Between Justice and Certainty, Andrew Woolford examines the interplay between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal visions of justice and certainty in the first decade of the BC treaty process to determine whether there is a space between the two concepts in which modern treaties can be made.
Using interviews, field research, and both archival and modern treaty documents, Woolford argues that the goal of certainty is overriding the demand for justice, and suggests that greater attention to justice is necessary if we are to initiate a process of reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia.
[T]his argument is very well made. Between Justice and Certainty is strongest in its presentation of a sociology of knowledge and meaning. Woolford’s work clearly demonstrates the profound gulf between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parties at the negotiating table – and that these disjunctures are simultaneously masked and intensified by the very procedures that were designed to bridge these distances.
This book is destined to become a standard text for university courses dealing with First Nations issues, but, equally important, it should be required reading for politicians, negotiators, and policy makers involved in the B.C. treaty process. Between Justice and Certainty: Treaty Making in British Columbia will inform all those who seek a deeper understanding of why treaty making and reconciliation must begin with facing our history. For as Woolford argues so persuasively, our failure to do this will create neither certainty nor justice in indigenous-settler relations in British Columbia in the twenty-first century.
This important piece of scholarship provides much fodder for thought among those with a theoretical as well as an “applied” bent – and it certainly helps one understand why the process, which began with such fanfare and promise, seems to be bogging down. In all, Between Justice and Certainty offers a refreshing analysis of a complex situation.
Preface and Acknowledgments
2 Between the Procedure and Substance of Justice
3 The Imposition of Colonial Visions of Justice
4 First Nations Justice Frames
5 The British Columbia Treaty Process
6 Visions of Justice
7 Visions of Certainty
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