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Envisioning Reconciliation: Failed Promises/Government Relations

Archival Sources


Contemporary Voices


Source: 1868 (December) Petition of the Whonock Indians in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 171.


“Governor Douglas did send some years ago his men among us to measure our reserve and although they gave us only a small patch of land in comparison to what they allowed to a white man our neighbour... Some days ago came new men who told us by order of their Chief they have to curtail our small Reservation, and so did to our greatest grief; not only they shortened our land but their new paper they set aside the best land, some of our gardens, and gave us in place, some hilly and sandy land, where it is next to impossible to raise any potatoes: our hearts are full of grief day and night, and in fact we have been many days without being able to sleep.”

Source: 1873 Petition to Powell from Lillooet, Lower Fraser and Bute Inlet Indians in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 172.

“We have been anxiously wishing to see you as we have been longing for a Chief, who will truly have at heart our Interests so long neglected for the past. The white men have taken our land and no compensation has been given us, though we have been told many times that the great Queen was so good she would help her distant children the Indians. White men have surrounded our Villages so much as in many instances especially on the Fraser Valley but few acres of Land have been left us. We hope that you will see yourself our wants and our desires, and you will remove that veil of sorrow which is spreading over our hearts.”

Source: 1874 (July) Petition to Superintendent of Indian Affairs in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 173.


“2. That we are fully aware that the Government of Canada has always taken good care of the Indians, and treated them liberally, allowing more than one hundred acre per family; and we have been at a loss to understand the views of the Local Government of British Columbia, in curtailing our land so much as to leave many instances, but few acres of land per family.
4. For many years we have been complaining of land left us being too small. We have laid our complaints before Government officials nearest to us; they sent us to some others; as we had no redress up to the present; and we have felt like men trampled on, and are commencing to believe that the aim of the white men is to exterminate us as soon as they can, although we have always been quiet, obedient, kind, friendly to the whites.”


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Source: 1875 (May) Letter to Mr. Lenihan signed by Alexis, Chief of Cheam, in the name of the other Chiefs of the Lower Fraser in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 173.

“We have come to inform you that we do not wish to celebrate the Queen’s day. She has not been a good mother and Queen to us, she has not watched over us that we should have enough land for the support of our families. She knows that the British Columbia Government has deprived us of our land leaving but few acres and in some cases not even one acre per head; she knows that we have made a petition nearly one year ago praying that eight acres [go] to every family. She ahs not yet said a word in our favour. If she is so great as we have been told, she must be powerful enough to compel the British Columbia Government to extend our present Reserves so that every Indian family will have eighty acres of land.”

“We are very sorry that the Government has stopped giving medicines to our sick people, whilst at the same time we are told that our own doctors are not allowed to practice. When sickness overtakes us, many of our people die because we cannot pay the white man doctor. If the Government would appoint a doctor to care for us, we would be very thankful indeed.”

Source: 1894 (April) Letter to the Indian Superintendent from Various Stó:lō chiefs – presented to the Indian Superintendent on Thursday, April 26th and published in the Chilliwack Progress in 1894 in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 175.


Source: 1910 (July) Petition of the Interior Tribes in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 176.

“2nd. We stand for compensation to us by the British Columbia government for all lands of ours appropriated, or held by them, including all lands pre-empted or bought by settlers, miners, lumbermen, etc.”

Source: 1910 (December) Letter to BC Premier McBride in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 176.
“... Now, we must all admit that the condition of the Indian question in British Columbia is not satisfactory... in the government of British Columbia neglecting to recognize what is known as the Indian Title. In Canada this has always been done, no government, whether provincial or central, has failed to acknowledge that the original title to the lands existed in te Indian tribes and communities that hunted and wandered over them.”  

Source: 1911 (May) Petition of Various BC Tribes to Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 177)

“If we had had nothing, or the British Columbia Government had taken nothing from us, then there would be nothing to settle, but we had lands, and the British Columbia Government has taken them, and we want a settlement for them.”

Source: 1911 (May) Petition of Various BC Tribes to Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 177.

“What we know and are concerned with is the fact that the British Columbia Government has already taken part of our lands without treaty with us, or payment of any compensation, and has disposed of the to settlers and others. The remaining lands of the country, the Government lays claim to as their property, and ignores our title.”

Source: 1912 Petition to Prime Minister Borden in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 179.


“You know of this question of Indian Rights here in British Columbia. You know the position we take, and the position the British Columbia Government acknowledged our rights, and that King George III guaranteed us our rights in our lands, our game, and fish, etc. To some of our chiefs, George III medals were given a century ago as tokens of good faith and surety that we were under the protection of British sovereignty and British laws. You know how the Indians in the Provinces of Canada have been given their rights, and treaties made with them. We ask you why our tribes here in British Columbia be ignored and the same rights denied to us? We tired to obtain justice and settlement of our claims from the British Columbia Government, but without results. Why should the government here in British Columbia be allowed to oppress us, crush us, and deny us justice. We have asked them to come with us, and settle our differences in Court. Not any court of ours, but in their own, the white man’s court at Ottawa and England, but they wil not consent to this.”

Source: 1922 (February) Testimony of Dennis S. Peters on behalf of Chief Pierre Edward Lorenzetto and Others in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, 186.

“Had all the bands received the reserves promised them by Douglas, there would be no land shortage to-day any where in the Lower Fraser country. Gov. Douglas had full authority at the time he gave them reserves and he recognized the right of the Indians to retain a considerable portion of their tribal territories for their own use. Later the Gov. of BC denied this right to the Indians and broke Gov. Douglas promise by giving the Indians only small portions of land, in many cases insufficient for their present and future need.”

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Source: “Indians Petition to King Edward: Full Text of Appeal Which Will be Laid at Foot of the Throne.” Daily Colonist. Friday, July 6, 1906, page 8. Retrieved from:

“Many years ago Sir James Douglas came to our country, and told us that he had been sent by her majesty – the late Queen Victoria – whom we learned to love as a mother, and for when we continue to mourn, Sir James Douglas told us that large numbers of white people would come to our country, and in order to prevent trouble he designated large tracts of land for our use, and told us that if any white people encroached upon those lands he would remove them, which he did, and that we should receive remuneration for the lands settled upon by the white people; but when we asked for anything we were refused. But when Sir James Douglas was no longer governor other white people settled upon our lands, and titles were issued to them by the British Columbia government. We he have appealed to the Dominion government which is made up of men elected by the white people who are living on our lands, and, of course can get no redress from that quarter. We have no vote, if we had it might be different: but as it is we are at the mercy of those who mercy.”

Source: Ware, Reuben M. Five Issues Five Battlegrounds: An Introduction to the History of Indian Fishing in British Columbia 1850-1930. Coqualeetza Education Training Centre, 1983, 168.


“Chehalis Band, 10 January 1915:
“Andrew Phillips: ... The government do not treat us right. The[y] cheated us, they don’t give us of what was promised to us in the early days, and they intruded in Indian Reserve in many places. Just because God created us in this country, therefore, we claim our rights as sacred. It was not the government nor anybody, that gave us the rights... our title to the whole territory is aboriginal...”

Chamberlin, Robert

Chief Robert Chamberlin is a member of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation. He serves as the elected Chief Councillor of Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and as the Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. He is currently seeking the federal 2019 NDP Candidacy in the federal riding, Nanaimo-Ladysmith. In working towards reconciliation, he has been active in advocating for Indigenous rights and title, and often talks about the implementation of UNDRIP.

Source: TEDx Talks. (2016, May 24). Healing a Nation Through Truth and Reconciliation | Chief Dr Robert Joseph | TEDxEastVan [Video file]. Retrieved from

-“Knowing what we now know, we must respond to the call to reconciliation, because it’s the right thing to do, because it aligns with our Canadian values. And so I have great, deep hope and optimism for this country.” 2:26-2:54
-“So that’s what I want to talk about today, reconciliation. I want you to think, and imagine with me, and dream with me what that looks like 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now. When we are reconciled we will live together peacefully and in harmony. When we are reconciled we will be gentle with each other, we will be caring and compassionate. When we are reconciled justice and equality will prevail. When we are reconciled everybody born here, everybody living here will live with dignity, and purpose, and value.” 4:18-5:21

-“And when we are reconciled with our Aboriginal neighbours, our governments will honour the treaties, they will make new ones. And when we are reconciled, aboriginal people in this country will take their place alongside all of you, expressing their own ethnicity, expressing their own spirituality, expressing freedom from their very souls because they haven’t been there with you. So I want you to see that with me. I want you to walk with me down that pathway to reconciliation.” 5:44-6:40

Contemporary Stó:lō Voices Through Recent Interviews

Source: Chamberlin, R. [ChiefBobbyc]. (2019, March 17). [Tweet] Retrieved

“#StephenHarper Gov showed me a disregard for #Reconciliation w/ #FirstNation peoples #HumanRights @JustinTrudeau Gov showed me intentions that tangible actions utterly failed the commitments Both failed @SCC_eng rulings & @undrip Will stick w/ @NDP for Justice & equality”


Joseph, Robert

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph is a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation and is a leader in reconciliation efforts. He is the co-founder of and ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council, and an honourary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is dedicated to bringing people together in peace and working towards harmony and healing, bringing a message of optimism and hope. The vision that he presents for reconciliation is focused on relationship, healing, love, mutual respect, and moving forward in harmony. Many of his ideas are shared on social media through Reconciliation Canada platforms.

Justice, Daniel Heath

An Indigenous Studies scholar and author from the Cherokee Nation. He is a professor at the University of British Columbia and the Acting Director of the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. He is critical of “reconciliation”, seeing it as an instrument used to uphold the status-quo. He emphasizes the necessity of truth and justice.

Source: Justice, D. H. [justicedanielh] (2018, Jan 9). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“One of the most galling aspects of the current "reconciliation" moment is the loud settler insistence that Indigenous people should be grateful for any modicum of positive attention. It's the determination of our nations, not newfound settler goodwill, we should be grateful for.”

Source: Kinew, W. [WabKinew]. (2016, July 17). [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“reconciliation means the consent of Indigenous peoples should be respected, incl. when consent is withdrawn”


Source: Justice, D. H. [justicedanielh] (2019, Jan 17). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“The Reconciliation Tango: settler governments apologize for past abuses against Indigenous peoples while pursuing current policies that actively harm Indigenous peoples, which future settler governments will apologize for while pursuing policies that harm Indigenous peoples...”

Source: Justice, D. H. [justicedanielh] (2017, Nov 2). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“So, settler Canada, hows that whole “reconciliation” thing working out? Same exploitative system—same exploitative results. Typical.”


Kinew, Wab

Leader of the Manitoba NDP Party, Honourary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and author of The Reason You Walk. He is from the Onigaming First Nation, in Northwestern Ontario. Kinew is an influential figure on social media in regards to the conversation on reconciliation in Canada. He speaks about reconciliation as a personal process as well as the reification of Indigenous nationhood and equality for Indigenous communities.

Source: Pathways to Reconciliation. (2016, June 23). Wab Kinew - Understanding Reconciliation: Mere co-existence, New Foundation, or Mutual Celebration? [Video file]. Retrieved from

“I think that’s been a powerful catalyst to engage non-indigenous Canada in a conversation about what needs to take place, and the calls to action absolutely, 100%, are an excellent road map, and the companion document, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People I think is also a powerful road map in how to improve relationships with indigenous communities, indigenous people, and indigenous nations.” (22:47-23:14)

LaDuke, Winona

Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabe environmental activist, speaker on Indigenous rights, author, and business woman. She is a prominent leader in environmental justice issues and is working towards building a new economy that restores the earth and is kind to people. One of her main projects is a hemp and heritage farm, which aims to build a green source of fiber and nutrition. She is also Executive Director of an organization called Honor the Earth. Her social media presence is largely devoted towards environmental and human justice, focusing on her vision of a new economy.

Source: LaDuke, W. (2018, May 29). [Facebook status update] Retrieved from

“reconciliation means the consent of Indigenous p“[...] As I watch Canada give lip service to reconciliation- spending millions to address Residential School atrocities, it seems that reconciliation is meaningless, really if the Wiindigo economics of Canada's disfunctional vision continues- mining, fracking, pipelines and brutality. Really Canada... you hurt my heart still.”eoples should be respected, incl. when consent is withdrawn”


McCue, D. [duncanmccue] (2018, May 28). [Tweet]. Retrieved from

“Suggestion from @checkupcbc caller: “On my property tax, I wouldn't mind seeing a $50 Aboriginal tax... to come to some sort of reconciliation with Aboriginals and First Nations.” What do you think? @cbcradio @CBCIndigenous”


McMahon, Ryan

An Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media creator and influencer, McMahon is a prominent voice on social media. He has done 3 National comedy specials, records regular podcasts, is building an Indigenous media platform called Indian and Cowboy, and building Makoons Media Group. He makes a lot of criticisms of reconciliation as it is understood in the mainstream, and places emphasis on land.

McCue, Duncan

Duncan McCue is an Anishinaabe journalist and educator who is a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation. He is the host of CBC’s Cross Country Checkup, worked as a reporter for many years, and teaches journalism at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism and Ryerson University. In 2011, McCue launched an organization called Reporting in Indigenous Communities (RIIC) that serves as an educational guide to help journalists reporting in Indigenous Communities. He has a interesting perspective on role that the media has in making reconciliation a reality.

Source: Red Man Laughing - Land [Audio blog interview]. (2016, July 25). Retrieved from

“Programs and services come and go, they’re cut by the next government, they’re increased by the promising government of the future, and the cycle continues. We are not going to program and service our way out of the mess we are in. It’s impossible. It’ll never happen. The colonial state, Canada- yes that’s you, does not want it to happen therefore it never will.” (22:19-22:40)

Source: Vowel, C. [apihtawikosisan] (2016, April 19). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“"Reconciliation" is all about the colonial state. I believe it inevitably allows the colonial state to continue. I reject that.”

Source: Vowel, C. [apihtawikosisan] (2016, April 19). [Tweet] Retrieved from

“If "reconciliation" is going to be anything, it should be creating or deepening relationships fractured by colonialism…”

Lee, Erica Violet

Violet Erica Lee is a Cree activist and graduate student at the University of Toronto in the Social Justice Education program.

McCue, Duncan

Duncan McCue is an Anishinaabe journalist and educator who is a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation. He is the host of CBC’s Cross Country Checkup, worked as a reporter for many years, and teaches journalism at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism and Ryerson University. In 2011, McCue launched an organization called Reporting in Indigenous Communities (RIIC) that serves as an educational guide to help journalists reporting in Indigenous Communities. He has a interesting perspective on role that the media has in making reconciliation a reality.

Vowel, Chelsea (Âpihtawikosisân)

Chelsea Vowel is a Métis legal scholar, writer, and teacher. Her work focuses on resurgence, identity and language. In 2016, Vowel published a book compiled of 31 essays entitled “Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Issues in Canada.” In this work Vowel discusses the the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.

Contemporary Non-Stó:lō Voices from Scholarship

Source: Lee, E. V. (2016, March 1). Reconciling in the Apocalypse. Retrieved from

“By some of the nation’s most progressive, we are looked down upon with a sense of pity, as if reconciliation means it is the duty of Canadians to learn to be kind to Indigenous people.

But it seems that with any idea of reconciliation I’ve heard, there is an unspoken requirement of Indigenous forgiveness and Indigenous consent to continued occupation. Even within our own communities, the onus is on women, Two-Spirit people, and children to forgive those who have harmed us. Healing, we are told, cannot begin to happen until we forgive colonial sins of the past.

The real task of reconciliation, however, is not in Canada waiting around to be forgiven for colonialism so business can carry on as usual; it is for Canadians to end the ongoing colonial violence that still suffocates Indigenous lives.” (para 4-6)

Source: McCue, D. (2016, May 30). Duncan McCue: Mainstream Media and Reconciliation. Retrieved from

“Journalists need to understand that we are not impartial players in the history of relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. The media have played a role in how colonialism evolved. If Canada is ever going to truly reconcile with Indigenous Nations in this country, the media will also play a role in making that reconciliation happen and it’s a critical role.”

Source: Metallic, N. (2016, June 17). Retrieved from

“#reconciliation [Photo of a slide with text “White people, no one is asking you to apologize for your ancestors. We are asking you to dismantle the systems they built and you maintain and benefit from”] [Facebook status update].”

Metallic, Naiomi

Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy and assistant professor at Schulich School of Law where she teaches law, Metallic also held a clerkship with the Supreme Court of Canada. She is from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, on the Gaspé Coast in Quebec. Her approach to reconciliation is from the perspective of law.

Source: Metallic, N. (2017, Sept 8). [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from

“This is overdue. The overhaul should have permanence than just changes in policy (i.e., make substantial amendments to Spec Claims Tribunal Act or just create a new act setting forth the whole process). Biggest thing: take INAC out of the role of being both defendant and judge at the same time. There should be an independent commission and tribunal dealing with these claims all the way through. [Link to article titled Ottawa pledges 'complete overhaul' of specific claims to promote reconciliation with Indigenous peoples]”

Contemporary Non-Stó:lō Indigenous Voices From Scholarship

Source: British Columbia. (2018) Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Victoria, BC: Government of British Columbia. Retrieved from

Principle 7: “The Province of British Columbia recognizes that respecting and implementing rights is essential and that any infringement of section 35 rights must by law meet a high threshold of justification which includes Indigenous perspectives and satisfies the Crown’s fiduciary obligations.” Page 5
“This principle reaffirms the central importance of working in partnership to recognize and implement rights and, as such, that any infringement of Aboriginal or treaty rights requires justification in accordance with the highest standards established by Canada’s courts and must be attained in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown and the objective of reconciliation.” Page 5
Principle 9: “The Province of British Columbia recognizes that reconciliation is an ongoing process that occurs in the context of evolving Crown-Indigenous relationships.” Page 6
“Treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements should be capable of evolution over time. Moreover, they should provide predictability for the future as to how provisions may be changed or implemented and in what circumstances. The Province is open to flexibility, innovation, and diversity in the nature, form, and content of agreements and arrangements. The Province also recognizes that it has an active role and responsibility in ensuring the cultural survival of Indigenous peoples as well as in protecting Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Province will collaborate with Indigenous peoples on changes to provincial laws, policies and practices.” Page 6
Principle 10: “The Province of British Columbia recognizes that a distinctions-based approach is needed to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of Indigenous peoples in B.C. are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented.” Page 7
“The work of forming renewed relationships based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership must reflect the unique interests, priorities and circumstances of each people.” Page 7

Source: Lightfoot, Sheryl. “Settler-State Apologies to Indigenous Peoples: A Normative Framework and Comparative Assessment.” Native American and Indigenous Studies. Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 2015), 15-39. Retrieved from:


            Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, an Anishinaabe scholar holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics and is a professor in the Departments of First Nations Studies and Political Science at the University of British Columbia. In this article, Lightfoot argues that official and genuine (measured through the James Criteria) state apologies have the possibility to aid in a meaningful form of reconciliation between Indigenous and state actors. Lightfoot stipulates for this to happen, state apologies must move beyond rhetoric into the realm of action. This would include a reestablishment of the relationship between Indigenous populations and the state that reflects a hierarchical and colonial based structure, but rather one based on mutual respect. For Lightfoot, mutual respect includes “a credible commitment to do things differently [and] make substantial changes in its policy behaviour.”

“Studies of apology and official state apology have largely found them to be helpful in diffusing tensions and, problematically from the perspective of Indigenous peoples, a useful tool of minority group assimilation into a national polity.”page 17 - 18

“In other words, these four state [Canada, Australia, Peru, and Guatemala] efforts to enhance Indigenous reconciliation through apologies and truth commissions failed to transform relationships between these states and Indigenous peoples.”page 18 - 19

“In order to serve a meaningful role in the reconciliation, or the resetting, of Indigenous–state relationships, an apology must also help restore Indigenous peoples’ self-respect and dignity, assure Indigenous peoples that they are safe in the Indigenous–state relationship, repair harms done, and provide an opening for meaningful Indigenous–state dialogues.” Page 20
“A meaningful apology must not only meet the needs of the offender, but it is absolutely essential that it also meet the needs of the victim. Assessing the value of state apologies to Indigenous peoples must, therefore, include not only an evaluation of the “authenticity” of the delivery; it must also include an assessment of how well apologies help move toward a restored and just relationship between states and Indigenous peoples.” Page 21

“Indigenous perspectives on Indigenous–state reconciliation processes tend to emphasize such a holistic and restorative approach, often including a comprehensive and ceremonial ritual of apology by the offender.”page 24

“This means that the state should offer to renegotiate the Indigenous–state relationship on new terms, so that hierarchical, colonial power relations do not continue after the apology but are replaced with a new form of mutually respectful relationship. The Indigenous Apology Continuum below shows this two-stage normative assessment: “authenticity” followed by meaningfulness.” Page 25

Canada: “The $1.9 billion compensation package for victims of the Residential School policy package included a Common Experience Payment (CEP) for all individuals who could prove that they attended Residential Schools. There was an additional program, the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), for victims of physical and/or sexual abuse at the schools… At the same time, however, the 2008 Canadian apology attempts to isolate historical wrongs, apologizing and seeking reconciliation for only the Residential Schools policy. It is thus seeking forgiveness for only this particular issue.”page 33

“Even so, the Canadian government continues to resist opening the archives to expose the reality of Residential Schools, suggesting that it does not want to admit full guilt for this policy. Furthermore, it has compartmentalized the wrongs against Indigenous peoples, confining the apology to the survivors of Residential Schools while remaining silent on the larger processes of colonization, of which residential schools played only one part.”Page 33


“While apology certainly has the potential to play a meaningful role in reconciliation processes between states and Indigenous peoples, the value of apology in reconciliation projects would be significantly improved if states integrated apologies into a more genuine renegotiation of the Indigenous–state relationship. In addition to being “authentically” delivered, such an apology would also meet the meaningfulness criteria and serve as a foundation for a new Indigenous–state relationship.

 page 34 - 35

“It means that the state must not only make a rhetorical, normative statement of guilt, but also make a credible commitment to change its future power relations and give up a certain degree of real, material, and political power in exchange for a new, renegotiated, more just and legitimate relationship with Indigenous peoples. It means that an apology will not serve as a substitute for, or a deflection of, such ongoing political conversations but will, rather, serve as a normative and symbolic moment of meaningful, fundamental change in state behavior toward a more just and mutually respectful future between states and Indigenous peoples.” page 35 – 36

Source: Borrows, John. “Challenging Historical Frameworks: Aboriginal Rights, Agency and Originalism” (2016) Canadian Historical Review.

            John Borrows, an Anishinaabe/Ojibwe scholar, holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law and teaches at the University of Victoria Law School. In this article, Borrows argues that Canadian judges often use historical evidence to bolster the methodology of “originalism” when considering constitutional rights. This is highly problematic for Borrows due to the restraints inherently embedded within originalism, as it is based solely on rights observed and present during the contact period. As a result, originalism fails to incorporate contemporary concerns such as self-government, education, and economic regulation- to list a few. For Borrows, a remedy for this shortcoming in constitutional law would include the use of “the living tree” methodology, which has been used in non-Indigenous constitutional cases including the Persons Case of 1928. 


Current Issue:
“If an Aboriginal or treaty right does not have a connection to a pre- European practice, it will not receive constitutional protection… Aboriginal constitutional claims would be more broadly conceived if they were framed as human rights – as opposed to historic rights.” Page 115 
“Indigenous peoples have not been able to prove contemporary rights to self-government, child welfare, education, economic regulation, and so on because the courts have found such claims do not have strong historical analogues at the moment of European encounter.” Page 116
“The academic history may be generally sound, but the framework in which it is received is not. It builds on the Crown and the courts’ narrow foundations. It reinforces a search for past examples of Aboriginal practices, rather than empowering present-day Indigenous claims (such claims may be unprecedented in past eras, but they are vital to Aboriginal health and welfare under present circumstances).” Page 116
“Particularly troubling is the Supreme Court of Canada’s and Parliament's failure to recognize rights to meaningful self-government. Decision-making authority for most Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples is constricted.” Page 121
“Originalism is a generally conservative judicial philosophy. It marshals a type of historical understanding of law to limit present-day rights and freedoms... If updates are required, they feel the matter should be democratically addressed through an explicit constitutional amendment. Originalism privileges what judges and politicians considered law to be in an historic, usually less progressive (and even colonial) era... They have confidence that clear guidance about present action can emerge from a historical reading of the law’s drafting and publicly debated acceptance.” Page 124
“Originalism applies to Aboriginal peoples even as the Supreme Court of Canada continues to expand its living tree jurisprudence in all other areas of constitutional law. The application of two distinct constitutional methods is inequality on a grand scale. The Supreme Court of Canada applies originalism for Aboriginal peoples and living tree jurisprudence for everyone else. Under these conditions, the idea of history in Aboriginal rights jurisprudence regenerates colonialism with each originalist decision.” Page 126

Source: Simpson, Audra. “Reconciliation and its Discontents: Settler Governance in an Age of Sorrow.” Public Lecture. University of Saskatchewan, March 22nd, 2016. Retrieved from

            Dr. Audra Simpson is a Mohawk scholar and a professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. In this public lecture Dr. Simpson discusses contention surrounding the discourse of reconciliation within Canada and the United States. Simpson highlights the idea of the spectacular, which is visual imprint embedded within the media that allows for the optics of reconciliation and hope to flourish. This however is problematic for Simpson, as these visual representations of reconciliation are not consistent with reality. For Dr. Simpson, reconciliation is a contractual agreement that serves the interest of the Canadian government and settlers, as they continue to have control over the law and land. Therefore, reconciliation is a form of justice that places a (mainly monetary) value on pain and dispossession, which is no better than colonization.

“Settler sovereignty I’ve argued elsewhere is ... precarious and yet it is hegemonic... it tries to be totalizing through it’s extenuation in law and is being heard and preformed through the reoccurring question of Indigenous rights and... attempted reparations repeatedly in the theatre of the court. It’s in the theatre of the court in part that settler sovereignty sets itself up in an adversarial or bequeathing relationship to Indigenous sovereignty. And in fact it is through settler sovereignty that Indigenous sovereignty in a legal sense, gets it form. And here it is in the performance of a contrite state, a state that says, “I am sorry,” that the movement presumably from one point of history is moved into another. When “we” transition from an injured past to a new present.” (21:09-23:20)

Contemporary Stó:lō Voices Through Recent Interviews

Carrielynn Victor (Cheam First Nation)

[Discussing relationship with the provincial government): “It’s really challenging to be in a place where you’re not supported... but that meeting, they were very clear to say that it was not consultation... The province has learned to say, “This is not consultation.” And they were very clear that they knew they couldn’t separate the people from their nation. [They said], “We want you here but we don’t want you representing your nations but we understand your world view are of your nation and you won’t separate yourself from that.” And I was on this edge of that’s really cool, but what...?” [17:17 – 17:57]
“In working with the province... we don’t have a Xwelítem Relations Department [and] that’s where your problems start... stop saying First Nation issues, just stop saying it. Look at the issue and figure out for yourself if it was our issue or if it is yours. If you impose issues into our way of life, it’s not our issue, it’s yours. But everybody says things like, “First Nations issues, our First Nations, our Native people. Well, we’re not handicapped... and so subtleties that are imbedded into the way that business is done.” [19:59- 21:22]
“When I sit at the table with our counterparts, our local governments through the work that I do I always encourage people to use the term Stó:lō. Go ahead and call us Stó:lō because if you keep saying the local First Nations, you’re not tapping into who we are. Go ahead and learn our names. Come on out to what everything you’re invited to, eat the food you’re given because that makes a huge difference.”
[38:21 – 39:00]

Eddie Gardner (Skwah First Nation)


“So, when you see governments, there is some big word that has been throwing around about reconciliation, about sovereignty, about territorial land claims and all those big issues. Sometimes governments give lip service to it, but that’s it. They use those words so they can get elected. Because they sound nice, they sound good. But once they get into power, then those words don’t mean anything. To me, there is an indigenous reality, there is an indigenous fact here in our territory. And it’s not a myth, isn’t something that you can use for just lip service and for your own benefit. It has to be genuine. It has to be something that people have to really come to terms with it. Sit down with the indigenous people and work out. What kind of activity is going be carried on in our territory here, and what impact is that going to have in seven generations down the road. That’s consultation. That’s meaningful consultation. And we are looking for that big, big, word. What’s that big word? Consent! People, they need to reach a consent with indigenous people. You can’t do that by calling somebody up and saying – let’s have a conversation. Let me hear what your concerns are and write them all down, and saying – thank you! And then go away and do whatever you want anyway? No! It means that you have to comply. You have actually come to an agreement. That you are going to change whatever needs to be changed, so that you can take care of the wellbeing of everyone. Do what is in the greater good of all. That is what reconciliation is all about. That’s a big challenge. That’s the challenge of our days.” [00:34:54]

Ernie Victor (Cheam First Nation)

“To have symbols out there… Why wouldn’t the minister of Indigenous Affairs be Indigenous? Or Indigenous advisors that work for government? And there’s millions and millions of dollars spent on these advisors, most of them are anthropologists, historians, lawyers who are not Indigenous, but yet they give Indigenous advice to the government. And every government has layers and layers of Indigenous advisors who are not indigenous. I mean, that’s a big step. It takes a lot of trust. If I could see that in my lifetime, that would be something.”

Lisa Davidson


“Reconciliation is the government acknowledging and respecting that they screwed up heavily in the past and they need to fix it and I don’t know if it is fixable... Just in my work here in genealogy I have listened to a lot of people that have gone... through residential schools and the sixties scoop. All the government wants to do is throw money at people and it doesn’t help.” [1:22-1:54]


Brenda Morgan (Matsqui First Nation)  


“I think that one thing I often wonder about when it comes to reconciliation is why they’re not putting the land and resources back on the table. When they talk about reconciliation, we should have full authority and jurisdiction over our land and resources and that includes children and family. So when they’re are talking the talk, they aren’t actually walking the walk. You look at everything Trudeau’s promised since he’s been in and the most recent letter we’ve seen come across our desk is there not sending out the money they promised about children and family and that’s one jurisdiction that Matsqui really feels belongs with the grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunties and moms. We really believe that’s where that jurisdiction belongs. And then you talk about land and resources, the fish... It’s not just about fish, it’s about food security and so when you’re talking about reconciliation, shouldn’t that be the first thing you’re talking about, the children and families and then food security? It’s just not adding up.”

Chief Alice McKay (Matsqui First Nation)  

“For reconciliation it’s 50/50, when we’re talking government, it’s 50/50... we are half the government – they don’t tell us, we work with them and we decide things like fish, we decide thing like where we hunt, we decide things about our kids. You know some things we do ourselves, we co-manage not them manage and tell us and look what they’ve done. Look what they’ve done to the fish, right? And look what they’ve done to the land... as a First Nation spokesperson and leader I’d like to be sitting right next [to] and have the same say as the Mayor of a municipality.” [26: 44 -27:44]


Chief Alice MacKay (Matsqui First Nation)

“I think you have to get to a place where nations are managing their own resources within their own communities. It would be nice to have nationhood back at play but I don’t how’d you do that with what we have today in terms of all the infringements that have occurred.”

Haley Cole (Matsqui First Nation)  

“A major problem is that the government, when they talk with us, they need to see it as talking government to government...”


Stan Morgan (Matsqui First Nation)  


“I think the government is trying to pose it as something that can be fixed overnight and that’s completely wrong. They need to really attack what the issue is and I am sitting here with people who have been scorned too many times by the government and by the system. So, are we really the people you should be talking to, to fix the problem or should you be talking to someone below us? Should it be my kids and your kids that you’re going to...”

Murray Ned (Sema:th First Nation) 

“so the Indian Act in itself, I don’t know how you unwind that dependency, I mean years and years of what I call learning from the best, which is the worst in this case, the government, and using the structures that were imposed on nations back in the day. I always see this struggle. I had an Elder tell me the other day... elections are only going to get better once we get out of the Indian Act...”

Non-Stó:lō Voices through Recent Interviews

Nicola Campbell

“... The government keeps coming back and saying ‘how can we achieve reconciliation? What do we need to do to achieve reconciliation?’ And yet here are our chiefs, 80 years, 100 years, 200 years later, they’re still saying the same thing. And then the government is still coming back and saying what do we need to do to achieve reconciliation?” [1:09:15-1:09:36]

Matt McGinity

“... the point of engagement and consultation isn’t checking off boxes... so if it’s just becoming a mechanical turning of gears and this critical, critical element of the whole point of doing this is increasing the Stó:lō voice in decision making, if we don’t hear back from the Crown and how they’ve actually incorporated the Stó:lō voice then it’s all for nothing... and if that is emblematic of reconciliation on a huge scale, and the sort of tokenism, which one of the major faults found in the process is that it’s often tokenistic...”

Matt McGinity (Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre) 

“It’s all well and good to have these mandates coming down from Ottawa and Ontario and Victoria but ensuring education throughout government first and for most of the issues you’re trying to address through reconciliation seems vital. I have found myself in meetings with staff from various ministries and have more than once been shocked by things I’ve heard. Things that aren’t openly hateful remarks but there are ignorant... if you’re working in the Ministry of Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation you really should know.”

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