Above is a picture of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Mr Adam claims he was the victim of police brutality, which is unacceptable. However, although they may be the very devil, I would hesitate to put The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on trial. In my life, they have done what the police is supposed to do: to protect and to serve.
In fact, the killing of George Floyd has led to accusations, resignations, dismissals, or a form of revisionism. Some of these are convincingly justifiable, others, less so. There can be no doubt that there are rotten apples in nearly every basket, but although racism is a serious problem in the United States, I could not extend the term “racist” to every American. Too many Americans oppose racism for me to generalize. Moreover, Barack Obama, an African-American, was elected to the Presidency of the United States and proved one of its finest presidents.
Aboriginals in Canada
- Rupert’s Land
- The Royal Charter of 1670
- Aboriginal title
- What of the Red River Colony?
I nevertheless researched the topic of Aboriginals in Canada and Blacks in Canada. However, this post is about the indigenous people of Canada. It cannot go further. It is about Amerindians after Confederation and the “purchase” of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670. In Wikipedia’s relevant entry, by virtue of the Royal Charter, Rupert’s Land, which was bought by the first four confederated provinces of the future Canada, could not include territory already settled and inhabited by the indigenous people of North America.
However, this did not settle the issue of Aboriginal title over the land. At the time the Royal Charter was granted in 1670, the Crown did not have the authority to give jurisdiction of sovereignty over the territory already settled and inhabited by the indigenous people of North America.
(Rupert’s Land, Wikipedia)
Therefore, it appears that, by virtue of the Royal Charter of 1670, the “purchase” of Rupert’s Land by the first confederated provinces precluded settling land that was settled by the indigenous people of North America.
For that matter, could the first four provinces of the Canadian Confederation resettle the Red River Colony? The Red River Colony was established by the Earl of Selkirk who purchased and settled the Colony to give a home to dispossessed Scottish crofters (See Crofting, Wikipedia). However, the Red River Colony was soon home to retired voyageurs, and to several members of the disbanded Régiment de Meuron and De Watteville Régiment. These were Swiss mercenaries and veterans of the War of 1812. The Red River Colony was multicultural and bilingual. It was also home to English-speaking Métis and French-speaking Métis. It was Louis Riel’s Canada, officially bilingual and bicultural, and eventually described as multicultural. But it wasn’t so until the Official Languages’ Act was passed, in 1969. The Red River Colony was bought and settled land.
There are times when “officials” act too quickly, but under the Royal Charter, could the Red River Colony be part of Rupert’s Land? This is questionable. Yet, after the purchase of Rupert’s Land, descendants of United Empire Loyalists rushed west to get land. But it was not a Wild West.
Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald first began planning a permanent force to patrol the North-West Territories after the Dominion of Canada purchased the territory from the Hudson’s Bay Company.
(See The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Wikipedia.)
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was established in 1873 and was first named the North West Mounted Rifles and renamed the North-West Mounted Police. Although Quebec and Ontario have their own provincial police corps, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is Canada’s national police force, so, as soon as it was appointed, settling west in Canada was policed. But, in a policed Canada Amerindians were nevertheless sent to reservations and French-speaking Canadians had to live in the Province of Quebec because of the Orange Order. Sir John A. MacDonald and three other Prime Ministers of Canada were members of the Orange Order.
In an earlier article, I quoted the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Its members generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior.
(See Orange Order in Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
I will close by stating, once again, that the purchase of Rupert’s Land was not consistent with the Royal Charter. Officials may not have read the details or may have reached an agreement that ignored the Royal Charter. Land was taken that belonged to Amerindians. They were not given a word to say, nor were the Métis. As for the use of French outside Quebec, the Orange Order (Wikipedia), Orange order (The Canadian Encyclopedia) would not allow it. They had no tolerance for the French and despised Catholics. Four Prime Ministers of Canada were Orangemen. Louis Riel’s Canada was born in 1969, when the Official Languages Act was passed, but Amerindians have lived on reservations, and I wonder whether this arrangement was the best. Confederation was followed by sending children to Residential Schools. Canada’s aboriginals were compensated for the harm inflicted on children who attended these schools.
During the years I taught at Saint Francis Xavier University, a young woman came to talk to me. She was taking a course I taught. She told me she was Amerindian and that she would therefore pass the course. I could not understand what she wanted. In the end, I had to tell her that I did not base grades on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc., but on the quality of one’s performance. She could, however, come to see me, if she experienced difficulties with the subject matter. She could also phone me at the office or at home. I would help.
Before closing, I should note that there is confusion concerning the word “race.” In French, race means “breed” and “race.” In l’abbé Lionel Groulx’s L’Appel de la race (The Call of the Race) race is breed or roots. I never included L’Appel de la race as necessary reading in my classes on French-Canadian literature. However, it is central to what is called “la question des écoles,” French-language schools outside Quebec, an issue one cannot remove from the discussion.
A discussion of the War of 1812, is relevant to both the Amerindian and Métis populations. Individual Amerindian chiefs negotiated treaties with the White. The famous Tecumseh opposed these treaties. He favored a centralized body of indigenous people. Tecumseh was killed on 5 October 1813, at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812.
There is/was racism in Canada and there were racial wrongs. Many Chinese died building a rail road across ranges of mountains. Moreover, the Japanese were sent to camps. As for the Indigenous people of Canada, they had a right to their land, and French-speaking Canadians should have been allowed to move west. They faced the school question, la question des écoles, which takes us back to Louis Riel. It is possible that the Royal Charter was amended officially, but I doubt it.
I must read further, but for the time being, I would urge demonstrators to be extremely careful. Covid-19 could kill millions. Demonstrations are very dangerous.
- Aboriginals in North America (page)
- Racism in Canada: Notes (8 June 2020)
- Gabriel Dumont, a Métis Leader (10 May 2018)
- The Métis in Canada (4 June 2015)
- The Red River Settlement (30 May 2015)
- Canada’s Amerindians: Enfranchisement (24 May 2015)
- Residential Schools for Canada’s Amerindians (21 May 2015)
Sources and Resources
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Love to everyone 💕
© Jean-Marc Philippe Duval, studio Spinner, Nancy – SACEM, Paris.
© Micheline Walker
Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, PhD
14 June 2020