An indigenous perspective to Canada's 150th birthday.

Author:Hunter, Troy
 
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This year, there are many celebrations for Canada's 150th birthday. What we are really commemorating is the British North America Act 1867 (BNA Act 1867) which established our country's Constitution. The BNA Act 1867 has since been renamed the Constitution Act 1982 after the repatriation of our Constitution from Great Britain.

Ministers' Working Group

One aspect of Canada's 150th birthday is that, this year, the federal government has undertaken a review of laws and policies related to indigenous peoples. A Ministers' Working Group "will examine relevant federal laws, policies, and operational practices to help ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights". There are constitutional rights established in our constitutional documents which the Minister's Working Group might want to have a good look at, which I will highlight later in this article as it pertains to the land question in regards to Canada's indigenous peoples.

Background

It brings me great pride that I was born in the year of Canada's centennial birthday in New Westminster B.C. where I have written this article. Fifty years later, I have made my birthplace my home and practice law in Greater Vancouver. I have ancestral roots that extend to the Ktunaxa territory in southeast B.C. I am a member of the Ktunaxa First Nation, but going beyond that, my ancestral roots can be traced to Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Switzerland, and France. My seventh-generation great-grandfather, Mr. Francois Morigeau, immigrated from around Montreal to the Columbia Valley decades before Canada's confederation in 1867.

My French ancestry can be traced to 1666 in New France, now Quebec, where the Morigeau's originated from. I have an ancestor who was a member of the Carignan Salieres Regiment and he married one of France's "King's daughters", les Filles du Roi. My ancestors, the Morigeaus, stem from Jean Pierre Forgues and Marie Robineau who married 349 years ago at New France in Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral, Quebec City, Quebec Canada, the first parish church in North America.

I had the honour and the privilege to attend the Canadian Constitutional Affairs Conference 2008 which was held in a typical icy cold, January winter in Quebec City at the Plains of Abraham. During that event, an exquisite dinner was held in an ancient church in Old Quebec City. How wonderful it was to be there where the history in 2008 was 400 years old. And for me to be in a place where I have a bloodline connecting me directly to that location was an amazing experience.

As a second-year law student, and member of an indigenous nation, I spoke about the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, free, prior and informed consent, the need for senate reform so as to include Indigenous peoples as a third order of government, and appointing an Indigenous person to the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada. It was at a social get-together afterwards that I was introduced to political scientist Tom Flanagan and you could feel the tension in the room at that moment. It was obvious that neither of us saw eye-to-eye based on our political aspirations and beliefs, but nevertheless, to look Mr. Flanagan directly in the eye and to shake his hand at that conference is a memory that I will always have.

Royal Charter

Royal Charters are established when a monarch grants rights or powers to a person or persons and it is issued as letters patent. Royal Proclamations are similar to Royal Charters. The National Archives of the United Kingdom defines Royal Charters and Letters Patent as...

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