In a 1994 decision known as Howard, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the Aboriginal signatories to the 1923 Williams Treaties had knowingly given up not only their title to off-reserve lands but also their treaty rights to hunt and fish for food. No other First Nations in Canada have ever been found to have willingly surrendered similar rights.
Peggy J. Blair gives the Howard decision considerable context. She examines federal and provincial bickering over "special rights" for Aboriginal peoples and notes how Crown policies toward Indian rights changed as settlement pressures increased. Blair argues that the Canadian courts caused a serious injustice by applying erroneous cultural assumptions in their interpretation of the evidence. In particular, they confused provincial government policy, which has historically favoured public over special rights, with the understanding of the parties at the time.
Blair demonstrates that when American courts applied the same legal principles as their Canadian counterparts to a case involving similar facts, they reached the opposite conclusion. Lament for a First Nation convincingly demonstrates that what the Canadian courts considered to be strong and conclusive proof of surrender was in fact based on almost no evidence at all.
Lament for a First Nation will appeal to scholars and students in legal, historical, and Native studies.
Peggy J. Blair, a lawyer specializing in aboriginal law, has produced an important study of the historical context surrounding both the treaties and what she sees as a misguided response by the Canadian courts. The monograph is part of the University of British Columbia’s growing Law and Society series, edited by W. Wesley Pue. It is highly recommended not only for students of Canadian and First Nations history, but also anyone involved in litigation and advocacy on First Nations issues.
This book should prove a supportive work for trial lawyers working in the land claim field.
Part 1: Historical Background
1 History of the Williams Treaties First Nations
2 Imperial Crown Policy
3 A New Crown Policy
4 Jurisdictional Disputes
5 Bureaucratic Obstacles
Part 2: The Williams Treaties
6 The Push for a New Treaty
7 Differing Perceptions
8 The Howard Case
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