NEWS4.htm

THE UNITED NATIONS AND RIEL ON RIGHTS

 

 

LOUIS RIEL: right about rights in 1869

ALL CANADIANS: right about Riel’s exoneration by 2017

Paula K. Sampson

138 years before the United Nations adopted its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples . . . .

146 years before Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended adherence to UNDRIP’s provisions no fewer than 16 times . . . .

147 years before the Supreme Court of Canada’s Daniels decision declared Metis and non-status Indians are "Indians" for the purpose of Canada’s constitutional obligations to them . . . .

MÉTIS LEADER LOUIS RIEL issued a Declaration on behalf of the Provisional Governing Council of the Métis Nation. He followed this a year later with the List and then the Bill of Rights under whose provisions Manitoba became a Canadian Province. His final work, the Revolutionary Bill of Rights, sought to apply in Saskatchewan the same precepts of equality, respect and justice for Indigenous peoples and settlers alike. Riel gave his life for this cause, unjustly executed before his inclusive rights assertions could be realized.

Today, 131 years after his death, in an evolving social and political Canadian and international landscape, it is remarkable to discover in how many ways Louis riel anticipated subsequent developments in Indigenous rights. It is a travesty of Canadian history that his own rights—Indigenous and otherwise—were so violently violated.

A brief review of his prescience is but one more justification for his posthumous right to exoneration from the erroneous charge of treason for which he was executed. Riel was no traitor to Canada; rather, Riel was Canada’s Métis "Father" of Confederation.

A note about context: a direct association between Riel’s wording and UNDRIP’s is, of course, impossible. The 1869 list, for example, has more in common linguistically with the US Declaration of Independence than it does with any 21st century statements. However, neither the passage of time nor the intervening narratives of history negate the similarity of the principles at stake. What follows is neither an exhaustive or tightly argued analysis. It is a general overview based on a broad observation.

Pertinent selections from the 1869 Declaration of the People of Rupert’s Land and the North West

RIEL: "Contrary to the laws of nations, in March, 1869 the government [Hudson’s Bay Company] surrendered and transferred to Canada all the rights which it had or pretended to have in this territory by transactions with which the people were considered unworthy to be made acquainted."

UNDRIP Article 19 : "States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them."

RIEL: "And in case of persistence on the part of the Canadian Government to enforce its obnoxious policy upon us by force of arms, we protest beforehand against such an unjust and unlawful course."

UNDRIP Article 8: "Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories."

RIEL: "We do declare and proclaim in the name of the People of Rupert’s Land and the North West that we have . . . established a Provisional Government and hold it to be the only and lawful authority now in existence in Rupert’s Land and the North West which claims the obedience and respect of the people."

UNDRIP Articles 3 and 4: "Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination." and "Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs . . . . "

Pertinent selections from the 1870 Metis Bill of Rights (later incorporated into the Manitoba Act of 1870)

RIEL et al: "That in view of the present exceptional position of the Northwest, duties upon goods imported into the country shall continue as at present . . . until there be uninterrupted railroad communication between Red River settlement and St. Paul, and also steam communications between Red River settlement and Lake Superior."

UNDRIP Article 23: "Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development."

RIEL et al.: "That during the time this country shall remain in the position of a territory in the Dominion of Canada, all military, civil and other public expenses in connection with the general government of the country, or that have hitherto been borne by the public funds of the settlement beyond the receipt of the above mentioned duties, shall be met by the Dominion of Canada."

UNDRIP Article 39: "Indigenous peoples have the right to have access to financial and technical assistance from States and through international cooperation, for the enjoyment of the rights contained in this Declaration."


RIEL et al: "That while the burden of public expense in this territory is borne by Canada, the country be governed by a Lieutenant governor from Canada and a Legislature, three members of whom being heads of departments of the Government, shall be nominated by the Governor General of Canada."

UNDRIP Article 5: "Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State."

RIEL et al.: "That after the expiration of this exceptional period, the country shall be governed, as regards its local affairs, as the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec are now governed, by a Legislature by the people, and a Ministry responsible to it under a Lieutenant Governor, appointed by the Governor General of Canada."

UNDRIP Article 4: "Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs . . . . "

RIEL et al.: "That there shall be no interference by the dominion Parliament in the local affairs of this territory, other than is allowed in the provinces, and that this territory shall have and enjoy in all respects, the same privileges, advantages and aids in meeting the public expenses of this territory as the provinces have and enjoy."

UNDRIP Article 2: "Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity."

RIEL et al.: "That while the Northwest remains a territory, the Legislature have a right to pass all laws local to the territory, over the veto of the Lieutenant Governor by a two-third vote."

UNDRIP Article 4: see above

RIEL et al.: provisions for a homestead and pre-emption law

UNDRIP Article 26: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."

RIEL et al.: "That the English and French languages be common in the Legislature and Courts, and that all public documents and acts of the Legislature be published in both languages." And "That the Judge of the Supreme Court speak the French and English languages."

UNDRIP Article 13 (2): "States shall take effective measures . . . to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means."

RIEL et al.: "That treaties be concluded between the Dominion and the several Indian tribes of the country as soon as possible."

UNDRIP Article 37: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements."

RIEL et al.: "That, until the population of the country entitles us to more, we have three representatives in the Canadian Parliament, one in the Senate and two in the Legislative Assembly."

UNDRIP Article 18: "Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves . . . . "

RIEL et al.: "That all the properties, rights and privileges as hitherto enjoyed by us be respected, and that the recognition and arrangement of local customs, usages and privileges be made under the control of the Local Legislature."

UNDRIP Article 11: "Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs."

Pertinent selections from The Revolutionary Bill of Rights of Saskatchewan, 1885

RIEL: "That the half-breeds [Métis] of the Northwest Territories be given grants similar to those accorded to the half-breeds of Manitoba by the Act of 1870."

UNDRIP Article 2: "Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals. . . . "

RIEL: "That patents be issued to all half-breed and white settlers who have fairly earned the right of possession on their farms."

UNDRIP Article 26 (2): "Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired."

RIEL: "That the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan be forthwith organized with Legislatures of their own, so that the people may be no longer subject to the despotism of Mr. Dewdney." And "That in these new Provincial Legislatures, while representation according to population shall be the supreme principle, the Métis shall have a fair and reasonable share of representation."

UNDRIP Article 18: "Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, though representatives chosen by themselves . . . ."

RIEL: "That the offices of trust throughout these Provinces be given to residents of the country, as far as practicable, and that we denounce the appointment of disreputable outsiders and repudiate their authority."

UNDRIP Article 4: "Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs . . . ."

RIEL: "That all the lawful customs and usages which obtain among the Métis be respected."

UNDRIP Article 11: "Indigenous peoples have the right to practise can revitalize their cultural traditions and customs."

RIEL: "That the timber regulations be made more liberal and that the settlers be treated as having rights in that country."

UNDRIP Article 23: "Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Friends of Louis Riel Society All rights reserved. Updated April, 2017