issues for canadian textbook chapter 4 : To what extent has Canada affirmed collective rights?
Have you ever thought about what makes Canada unique? What makes Canada different than other countries, such as our close neighbour to the south, the United States?
Here’s one thing that makes Canada unique: collective rights. Collective rights belong to groups of people and are entrenched in Canada’s constitution. The purpose of collective rights is to affirm the collective identity of groups in society and to create a society where people of different identities belong.
issues for canadian textbook chapter 4
Collective rights are part of the dynamic relationship between Canada’s government and Canadian citizens. Throughout Canada’s history, laws that affect collective rights, and the promises of the government to uphold them, have created opportunities and challenges for Canadians.
This chapter presents some history about collective rights in Canada. As you read, evaluate how effectively laws have affirmed collective rights over time. Consider what implications this history has for Canadian citizens today.
- What laws recognize the collective rights of First Nations peoples?
- What collective rights do official language groups have under the Charter?
- What laws recognize the collective rights of the Métis?
What are collective rights?
Collective rights are rights held by groups (peoples) in Canadian society that are recognized and protected by Canada’s constitution.
Collective rights are different than individual rights. Every Canadian citizen and permanent resident has individual rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as the right to live anywhere in Canada. Collective rights are rights Canadians hold because they belong to one of several groups in society.
Who holds collective rights in Canada?
- Aboriginal peoples, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
- Francophones and Anglophones.
Why do some peoples have collective rights and not others?
- Collective rights recognize the founding peoples of Canada. Canada would not exist today without the contribution of these peoples.
- Collective rights come from the roots of Aboriginal peoples, Francophones and Anglophones in the land and history of Canada.
What are the Numbered Treaties?
The Numbered Treaties are historic agreements that affect the rights and identity of some First Nations in Canada.
The Numbered Treaties have roots in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Britain made the proclamation at the end of the Seven Years’ War, as it sought to establish control over lands in North America formerly claimed by France. The proclamation recognized First Nations’ rights to land, and established the principle of making treaties with First Nations through peaceful negotiation.
Other laws also affect the collective rights of First Nations, including the Indian Act and section 35 of the constitution. You can read more about the Indian Act on pages 100 and 137, and more about section 35 on pages 134 and 156.
The Numbered Treaties were agreements between the Queen and First Nations.
- First Nations agreed to share their lands and resources in peace. Canada’s government agreed to terms covering First Nations’ education, reserves, annuities and other matters. The terms differ from Treaty to Treaty. (See the chart below.)
- For First Nations, the Numbered Treaties are sacred — nation-tonation agreements, solemnly made, that cannot be changed without their agreement. Treaty rights and citizenship go together for First Nations now, in the past and into the future.
First Nations in the west and Canada negotiated the Numbered Treaties for many reasons.
Canada wanted to build a railway to link the province of British Columbia to the rest of Canada and to open the west to immigration. B.C. joined Confederation on condition that Canada would build the railway. This photo shows railway workers in the 1890s, a few years after the railway was complete.
First Nations and Canada’s government wanted to avoid war. Just to the south, Aboriginal peoples and the United States were fighting wars over territory. This photo shows the graves at the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in what is today Montana, where more than 100 Aboriginal and 250 American soldiers died in 1876.
First Nations wanted to secure their future. They were facing economic and
social upheaval from smallpox epidemics, the eradication of the buffalo, the end of the fur trade, and the pressures of European settlement. This photo shows buffalo bones collected on the Canadian prairies in the 1880s and 1890s.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized the rights of First Nations to their lands in parts of North America claimed by the British. Britain issued the Royal Proclamation after it defeated France in the Seven Years’ War and became the dominant colonial power in North America.
Perspectives play a role in the interpretation of the Treaties.
- Canada’s government believes First Nations gave up their land under the Treaties. Many First Nations disagree, especially since their worldviews do not think of land as something anyone can “own” or “give up.”
- First Nations recorded the Treaties in their oral histories in their own languages. Canada’s government recorded the Treaties in writing in English. The oral and written records disagree on key aspects of the Treaties.
A Perspective from Treaties 6, 7 and 8 The chiefs of Treaties 6, 7 and 8 took out fullpage advertisements in Alberta newspapers to mark the Aboriginal Day of Action on June 29, 2007. The advertisements stated that:
- First Nations negotiated the Treaties to share the land, so that First Nations peoples and non-First Nations peoples could benefit.
- Treaties were, and are, nation-to-nation agreements.
- First Nations were, and are, diverse peoples. The chiefs called on Canadians to lobby the federal government to recognize the true spirit and intent of the Treaties.
What is the Indian Act?
So far, this chapter has explored the collective rights of First Nations in the Numbered Treaties. This exploration mentioned the Indian Act, because the Indian Act demonstrated something important about the way Canada’s government understood Treaty rights. This page and the next examine the Indian Act in more depth.
- The Numbered Treaties confirmed the Canadian government’s duty to protect the collective rights of First Nations. The Indian Act was one way the government attempted to do this. Under the act, the federal government is able to develop specific policies and programs to administer Treaty rights to First Nations.
- The act affirmed the collective rights of First Nations. It also created officials for each reserve — “Indian Agents” — with the power to decide individually how the government would fulfill its duties. This meant there were many interpretations of what Treaty rights meant on a case-by-case basis.
- The Indian Act dates from 1876. At the time, Canada’s government thought it appropriate to make laws for First Nations without consulting them. This connects to Canada’s colonial past, when people of European descent believed their cultures superior to other cultures (ethnocentrism).
- The act defines who may be registered as a “status Indian” with Treaty rights. This means the federal government mostly controls these decisions, not First Nations themselves. The Indian Act was — and is — a way for the government to administer Treaty rights to Treaty peoples.
What are the Charter rights of official language groups?
- Sections 16 to 20 of the Charter establish French and English as official languages of Canada, and the right of Canadian citizens to conduct their affairs with the federal government in either official language.
- These sections also establish New Brunswick as an officially bilingual province.
Minority language education rights:
- Section 23 of the Charter says that a French-speaking or English speaking minority population of sufficient size in any province has the right to publicly funded schools that serve their language community.
How has the Charter affected Francophone education?
- Rights for Francophones and Anglophones are part of what made Confederation, and so Canada, possible.
- Under the British North America Act (BNA Act) in 1867, Confederation established Canada as a bicultural, bilingual country with rights for Francophones and Anglophones.
- It made French and English official languages of Canada’s parliament.
- It guaranteed public schools for the Protestant minority in Québec and the Catholic minorities in the rest of Canada. The “rest of Canada” at that time included Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. These religion-based rights corresponded to English–French language divisions in Canada at the time, since most Protestants spoke English and most Catholics spoke French.
The Charter and Official Language Minority Education Rights
When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sought to patriate Canada’s constitution in 1982, he saw an opportunity to renew Canada’s commitment to official language rights, established in the BNA Act in 1867 and in the Official Languages Act in 1969. He considered section 23, which sets out the education rights of official language minorities, particularly important.
How does the Charter affect Francophone identity in Québec?
In 1977, Québec’s government passed the Charte de la langue française (Charter of the French Language), or Bill 101. Use the evidence on this page to establish the connection of this law to Francophone identity in Québec, and the impact of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the law.
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