Cover: Witness to the Human Rights Tribunals: How the System Fails Indigenous Peoples, by Bruce Miller. Illustration: The title appears on a white background, with a small graphic of a feather separating the main title from the subtitle.
240 pages, 6 x 9
8 tables
Release Date:01 Nov 2023
Release Date:15 Feb 2023
Release Date:15 Feb 2023
Release Date:15 Feb 2023

Witness to the Human Rights Tribunals

How the System Fails Indigenous Peoples

UBC Press

What happens behind the scenes at a Canadian human rights tribunal? And why aren’t human rights tribunal processes working for Indigenous people?

Witness to the Human Rights Tribunals opens the doors to the tribunal, revealing the interactions of lawyers, tribunal members, expert witnesses, and Indigenous litigants. Bruce Miller provides an in-depth look at the role of anthropological expertise in the courts, and draws on testimony, ethnographic data, and years of tribunal decisions to show how specific cases are fought and how expert testimony about racialization and discrimination is disregarded. His candid analysis reveals the double-edged nature of the tribunal itself, which re-engages with the trauma and violence of discrimination that suffuses social and legal systems while it attempts to protect human rights.

Grounded in expert experience, this important book asks hard questions. Should human rights tribunals be replaced, or paired with an Indigenous-centred system? How can anthropologists support an understanding of the pervasive discrimination that Indigenous people face? It definitively concludes that any reform must consider the problem of symbolic trauma before Indigenous claimants can receive appropriate justice.

An international audience of scholars and students of law, anthropology, the anthropology of law, human rights, and alternative justice will find this comprehensive work invaluable. Advocates, lawyers, and other professionals involved in human rights tribunals and extra-court proceedings will also find it an important addition to their libraries.

This book is a masterful analysis of the ongoing struggle over Indigenous litigation in Canada and the US, written by one of the leading experts on the subject. Daniel L. Boxberger, Western Washington University, BC Studies
engagingly practical instead of theoretical. G. Christensen, Stetson University College of Law, CHOICE Connect
A finely grained methodological tour de force, Witness to the Human Rights Tribunals brilliantly details the distance between Indigenous people’s concerns and the capacity of the judicial system to redress wrongs. Larry Nesper, author of The Walleye War: The Struggle for Ojibwe Spearfishing and Treaty Rights
Miller’s expertise and experience in this area are extremely significant. His insights in this book are invaluable. Reem A. Bahdi, associate professor, Dean of Law, University of Windsor

Bruce Granville Miller is a professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia. He has served as an expert witness in numerous human rights tribunal cases and his work with Indigenous communities in the context of presenting oral history has been particularly instrumental. Among his many publications are Oral History on Trial: Recognizing Aboriginal Narratives in the Courts and “Be of Good Mind”: Essays on the Coast Salish.

Foreword / Sharon Venne-Manyfingers


Part 1: Anthropology and Law

1 My Life in Anthropology and Law

2 Symbolic Violence, Trauma, and Human Rights

3 Thinning the Evidence, Discrediting the Expert Witness

4 Entering Evidence in an Adversarial System

5 Anthropologists versus Lawyers

Part 2: The Tribunal

6 The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal

7 McCue v. University of British Columbia

8 Menzies v. Vancouver Police Department


Caselaw and Legal Materials; References; Index

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