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Indigenous-Settler Reconciliation: Settler Perspectives

"Until the story of life in Canada, as Aboriginal people know it, finds a place in all Canadians' knowledge of their past, the wounds from historical violence and neglect will continue to fester — denied by Canadians at large and, perversely, generating shame in Aboriginal people because they cannot shake off the sense of powerlessness that made them vulnerable to injury in the first place. Violations of solemn promises in the treaties, inhumane conditions in residential schools, the uprooting of whole communities, the denial of rights and respect to patriotic Aboriginal veterans of two world wars, and the great injustices and small indignities inflicted by administration of the Indian Act — all take on mythic power to symbolize present experiences of unrelenting injustice" (7).

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Looking Forward, Looking Back, vol. 1, Canada Communication Group – Publishing, 1996.

"In a very real way, most Canadians exercise a treaty right simply by living where they do. . . . So why is there no more volcanic an issue in Canadian society than treaty rights? . . . [Canadians] live in a political culture in which a certain idea of equality has gained a powerful foothold. . . . Tribal identities are a puzzle, if not an anathema, in liberal societies; they make conflicting demands of well-intentioned people who, with reason, understand the struggle for non-discrimination as a significant one. But surely another part of the reason is the mark left by the myth of terra nullius. Imbued with that myth, Canadians can live more comfortably, forgetfully, with the dirty little secret that the treaties were a one-time land swindle than with the possibility that they might mean something in perpetuity. They do not want to know that aboriginal peoples had their own understandings of treaty-making as a form of sharing" (133).

Epp, Roger. We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays. U of Alberta P, 2008.

"The relations between immigrants and First Nations people must be examined in light of the fact that, regardless of whether we are born into settler states or we are immigrants who choose to occupy Indigenous territories, as settlers we benefit from the usurpation of Indigenous territories and the continuing oppression of Indigenous peoples. Settler entitlement to Native land is advanced on the basis of misinformation and colonial ideology which denies the inherent and collective land rights of Indigenous nations in order to claim Canada as 'our home and native land.' An ongoing commitment to peaceful coexistence between Indigenous people and Canadian settlers requires decolonization, truth telling, and restitution" (46).

Ahluwalia, Seema. “Stolen Generosity and Nurturance of Ignorance: Oh Canada, Our ‘Home’ Is Native Land.” Canadian Issues / Thèmes Canadiens, Summer 2012, pp. 46-52

"If we take the view that we lied, the treaties become worthless pieces of paper and we are back to square one. But if we take the view that we meant what we said, they become transformative, for through them we became permanent partners sharing the land, not thieves stealing it, people who are here to stay not because we had the power to impose our will but because we forged a permanent, unbreakable partnership wth those who were already here when we came. Treaties, then, and not the constitution, are our charter of rights, for they give us what is necessary before any form of self-governance can become legitimate: the legitimacy to be living in a place. . . . But here is a problem. In return for this gift we vowed to keep certain promises in perpetuity. . . . We know full well that we have not kept our word. That is a legacy with which we will have to deal, just as we will have to deal with the fact that we violated the principle of temporal priority and settled on lands without first gaining the consent of those already living on them. It is a matter we will need to address, for we cannot wish it away" (99).

Asch, Michael. On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada. U of Toronto P, 2014.

"If we try to reconcile Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with each other without reconciling our way of life with the living earth, we will fail, because the unsustainable and crisis-ridden relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that we are trying to reconcile has its deepest roots in the unsustainable and crisis-ridden relationship between human beings and the living earth" (84).

Tully, James. "Reconciliation Here on Earth." Resurgence and Reconciliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations and Earth Teachings, edited by Michael Asch et al., U of Toronto P, 2018, pp. 83-129.

"Reconciliation is not a final legal remedy in the usual sense. Rather, it is a process flowing from rights guaranteed by s. 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. This process of reconciliation flows from the Crown's duty of honourable dealing toward Aboriginal peoples, which arises in turn from the Crown's assertion of sovereignty over an Aboriginal people and de facto control of land and resources that were formerly in the control of that people" (par. 32).

Canada. Supreme Court. Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests). 18 Nov. 2004. Supreme Court of Canada.

"Critics of my vision will point to the cost to the taxpayers and say it just cannot happen. To them I say that we, the dominant Canadian society, are here because of people like Sir John A. Macdonald, who built the transcontinental railway and opened the country for settlement by our ancestors. In the process he ignored the treaty promises and did extreme harm to the social and family structure of the Indigenous people. These people are still suffering from the damage done to them by the colonialism of our predecessors. We are still enjoying what was taken from them. We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to repair the damage that was done to them" (136).

Reilly, John. Bad Law: Rethinking Justice for a Postcolonial Canada. Rocky Mountain Books, 2019.

"There are two primary senses of reconciliation. . . . One is a broad sense of reconciliation linked with correcting the mistakes of the past and producing a new, more harmonious relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. . . . [I]n Canada, reconciliation talk in this broad sense produces political legitimation by emphasizing modernist themes and a modern temporality, involving the progressive movement away from the past into an improved future built upon enlightenment values. Reconciliation talk links political legitimacy with the state's ability to recognize and overcome its colonial history, but leaves the exclusionary tendency at the heart of modernity's universalizing pretensions unrecognized. In this respect it produces closure where closure is unwarranted" (622).

Blackburn, Carole. "Producing Legitimacy: Reconciliation and the Negotiation of Aboriginal Rights in Canada." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 13, no. 3, Sept. 2007, pp. 621-38.