AuthorGib van Ert
Canada’s achievement of independence in international af‌fairs is a fact
to which Canadian l aw is still reconciling itself. For decades after the
inception of confederation in , and i n the centuries of embryonic
development before that, international relations and the laws that gov-
ern them were no concern of ours. e origin al inhabitants of t hese
lands were, of course, unaware of European conceptions of the law of
nations, though pa rallels existed in their own lega l traditions. e ar-
rival of the colonists did not add much to the stock of internat ional
legal thinking here, for the newcomers mostly ig nored the precepts
of their ow n international laws or, when they did turn t heir minds to
the matter, invoked suc h internat ional l aw doctr ines as occupation
and prescription to their own advantage. Some recognition of the na-
tion-to-nation context of a boriginal-colonial relations can be seen in
the use of the internationa l law term “treaty” to describe agreements
between the indigenous and newcomer populations. Yet as British con-
trol of these lands sol idif‌ied, any suggestion of aborig inal sovereignty,
as that concept was understood in international law, was loudly de-
nied or quietly ignored. A lso rejected for a time were the occasional
colonial cl aims to self-government, partly for fear th at if the imperial
authorities ceded control of the colonies’ domestic a f‌fairs they would
eventually have to grant externa l independence, too. Such fears proved
well-founded. In , Canada f‌inally gained full statehood under inter-
national law. Yet centuries of relative isolation from inter national law
left the Canadian bench and bar unprepared for the duties of statehood
which C anada had now assumed. As late as , one senses incredu-
lity in the banal declaration of the Supreme Court of Ca nada in the

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