The sacred sites of indigenous peoples are under increasing threat worldwide as a result of state appropriation of control over ancestral territories, coupled with insatiable demands on lands, waters, and natural resources. Yet because they spiritually anchor indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land, they are crucial to these peoples’ existence, survival, and well-being. Thus, threats to sacred sites are effectively threats to indigenous peoples themselves.
In recent decades, First Nations peoples of Canada, like other indigenous peoples, have faced hard choices. Sometimes, they have chosen to grieve in private over the desecration and even destruction of their sacred sites. At other times, they have mounted public protests, ranging from public information campaigns to on-the-ground resistance. Of late, they have also taken their fight to the courts. First Nations Sacred Sites in Canada’s Courts is the first work to examine how the courts have responded. Informed by elements of a general theory of sacred sites and supported by a thorough analysis of nearly a dozen cases, the book demonstrates not merely that the courts have failed to treat First Nations sacred sites fairly but also why they have failed to do so.
The book does not end on a wholly critical note, however, but suggests practical ways in which courts can improve their handling of the issues. Finally, it shows that Canada too has something profound at stake in the struggle of First Nations peoples for their sacred sites.
This is a provocative book that is well worth assessing by trial lawyers interested in our aboriginal issues.
I know of no other book that even attempts to do what Michael Ross's very careful and intelligent legal analysis accomplishes here. Ross's arguments are logically presented and clear, and he makes an important contribution to the literature.
Introduction: What First Nations Peoples Have at Stake
1 The Outlines of a General Theory of Sacred Sites
2 The Context in Which First Nations Carry Their Fight to the Courts
3 In Canada’s Courts: The Meares Strategy
4 In Canada’s Courts: The Haida Strategy
5 How First Nations Sacred Sites Have Fared in Canada’s Courts
6 Tima Kwetsi- Epilogue
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