injustice in Treaty 9 of 1905

The Injustice of Treaty 9

The filmmaker utilized the title metaphorically to highlight elements of injustice in Treaty 9 of 1905 between Northern Ontario's First Nation representatives and the Canadian Government acting in the name of King Edward VII, which robbed native populations of their lands (Mintz et al. 5). Because they did not understand or speak English, the local leaders who represented the Cree and Ojibway groups were unaware of what they had agreed upon. In reality, the pact was supposed to be a land-sharing agreement between the parties, as community leaders were led to believe, but on paper, they were required to "surrender all their property rights in perpetuity to the king and his descendants" (Mintz et al. 5). At the time, economic activities such as mining, lumbering, trade, immigration, and settlement had gathered momentum in the area, and the king sought to reserve the lands and utilize them to his end (Mintz et al. 6-8). In return, members of the indigenous communities were given a one-off payment of eight United States Dollars, and each chief received a copy of the treaty and the Union Jack flag. Each was entitled to receive an annuity of four United States Dollars (Mintz et al. 6-8).

Unspoken Promises and the Implications

Tens of other promises were made to the people by word of mouth, but they were never documented in the written agreement. For instance, they were allowed to continue with their fishing and hunting activities away from lands that were considered settlements and mines (Mintz et al. 9). They would be curtailed as the leaders pleased. In the context of the occurrences of 1905, this study will provide a detailed analysis of their implications to the two domains of the rule of law. The supremacy of the law concerning precluding arbitrary state powers, and the observance of the positive legal order would be handled (Mintz et al. 10).

Adherence to the Rule of Law

Adherence to the rule of law, a fundamental principle of the Canadian Constitution, has at least two implications. First, the supremacy of the law superseded any officials of the government as well as individual citizens, and it includes the preclusive of the arbitrary power of the state (Mintz et al. 12). The contextual implication of this doctrine is that all are under the law regardless of their status in society. Mintz et al. state that the context of the deal as demonstrated in the film elicited more legal controversies and socio-economic challenges than its initial signatories had imagined (12-18). The challenges are a clear demonstration of the repercussions that may arise when a few individuals in the government decide to take a route that bypasses the rule of law in a quest to quench their interests. Studies done on the little-known diaries of George MacMartin, the only commissioner to the treaty, who did not work for the Indian Affairs Department, revealed the "surrender" clause that appeared fundamental to the agreement (Mintz et al. 19). However, this term lacked clarity in its written format despite the oral assurances the communities were given, allowing them to conduct their economic activities as they please in the lands (Mintz et al. 20).

The Violation of the Rule of Law

Researchers were also able to discover that some of the blinded chiefs of the residents had begun to voice their concerns over the paternal ideology. One of them, Missabay, told Scott, another treaty administrator, that he had fears that his people were slowly being balkanized into reserves and their ability to hunt and fish was getting eroded away (Mintz et al. 21). Considering some past occurrences, especially in the 1880s, the Department of Indian Affairs was already on an onslaught against the indigenous dwellers in other parts of Canada (Mintz et al. 22-25). Communities were already being deprived of the rights of access to their ancestral lands and being restricted to reserves, and a seemingly related occurrence was also taking place in the Cree and Ojibway zones (Mintz et al. 28). The department illegalized hunting for fur, and anyone from the groups who were found trading it would get prosecuted.

The Creation and Maintenance of Real Laws

The second doctrine of the rule of law that was violated by the agreement, according to the movie, is that which requires the creation and maintenance of real and positive laws, which reserve and exemplify the more general code of normative order (Borrows 230). In this respect, the rule of law implies the existence of active public order. Borrows argues that the agreement to share land in Ontario lacked fairness on the part of the residents when he cites the presentation that was done to the people of northern Cree about the purity and the simplicity of the deception they had been subjected to (232). He also refers to one grand chief who was hugely aggrieved by the fact that the oral history of the Cree people was not respected and was required to quote written evidence to prove his point (Borrows 233).

Protests and the Rule of Law

In 2012, the massive protests dubbed Idle No More erupted in Ottawa (Borrows 233). The demonstrations were ignited by Bill C-45, which allowed for the alteration of some laws about the indigenous people and land without making any consultations (Borrows 235). In the footage by Obomsawin, thousands of distressed marchers were seen convening in the city, a move that is equated to a dirge of positivity and pride at the moment of native politicking (Mintz et al. 28). The movement was filled with passionate declamations from people like Shaw Atleo, who formerly headed the assembly of the First Nations, saying that poverty was killing his people (Mintz et al. 28).
The most captivating segment of the protest caught in the film was that of a young lady. She was in a blue dress and shawl, dancing alone in a snowy street behind the demonstrators (Mintz et al. 29). The lady symbolized a people who were tired of an oppressive and retrogressive piece of legislation that failed to achieve order and balance in land ownership (Borrows 236-240). She seemed to know precisely what she wants to be done to uphold the second value of the rule of law.

Progress and Critiques

However, critiques hold that Trick or Treaty has some elements of bias and fails to capture some of the strides that have been made towards observance of the rule of law (Borrows 240-243). There has been a lot of evolution in the understanding of the meaning of what Treaty 9 meant. After the review of some rulings given by the Supreme Court of Canada since 1990, oral promises made by parties during a deal are as much a part of it as any written documents (Borrows 248). Some legal experts feel that translating the theoretical understanding into a workable practice in a court of law may be quite challenging, since it may be difficult to separate the actual setting of oral promises from hearsay (Borrows 250). The end of the documentary also upholds the use of oral promises, where Craft is quoted saying that losing the oral value is equivalent to losing the spiritual connections to the lands (Mintz et al. 30).

Works Cited

Borrows, John. “Questioning Canada’s Title to Land: The Rule of Law, Aboriginal Peoples and Colonialism.” In Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. Print.
Mintz, Eric, Livianna Tossutti, and Christopher Dunn. Democracy, Diversity, and Good Government: An Introduction to Politics in Canada (2nd ed.). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2017. Print.

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