The Duty to Consult
The Royal Proclamation 0f 1763 recognizes the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations’ rights to our lands. The Crown has taken extraordinary steps to gain our support on the basis that the policy as set down in the Royal Proclamation would govern Crown-First Nations relations.
In the summer of 1764, at the request of the Crown, more than 2,000 First Nations chiefs representing some twenty-two First Nations, including chiefs from the Chippewa Nation, attended a Grand Council at Niagara.
The meeting at Niagara and the Treaty of Niagara were watershed events in Crown-First Nations relations. The Treaty established friendly relations with many First Nations and gave treaty recognition to the nation-to-nation relationship between the First Nations and the British Crown, Indian rights in their lands and the process to be followed when Indian lands were surrendered.
The First Nations chiefs prepared an elaborate wampum belt to reflect their understanding of the Treaty of Niagara.
That belt described the relationship between the Crown and the First Nations as being based on peace, friendship and mutual respect. The belt symbolized the Crown’s promise to all of the First Nations who were parties to the Treaty that they would not be molested or disturbed in the possession of their lands.
The Chippewas’ interest in the lands continues to this day, unless extinguished by some constitutionally applicable statute, rule of law, or principle of equity. Chippewas of the Thames First Nation as title holders and as a free and self-determining people have a long history of exercising our rights where settler governments have infringed upon them. Our leaders past and present continue to act as a sovereign people. This determination and commitment to action comes from who we are people. We are Anishinaabek people rich in culture, language, traditional knowledge, governance systems, and our own Indigenous laws.
In common law context, Aboriginal title, Aboriginal rights and treaty rights are doctrines created to recognize our pre-existing title to the land. In a natural law context, these rights are inherent.
They do not stem from a recognition by the Crown and its delegated authorities nor are they defined by the Crown. However, what is understood by constitution recognition is the expectation of the Crown to act honourably in all its dealings with Chippewas of the Thames.
As such we call upon the Crown and proponents to deal with our people in utmost good faith; avoid sharp dealing; cultivate a trust-like, rather than an adversarial, relationship; incorporate Indigenous perspectives in decision-making procedures and outcomes; approach dispute resolution with an eye to reconciliation; learn the Chippewa languages and linguistic perspectives on issues; learn and practice Chipppewa cultural norms; interpret historic events as historic Chippewa groups would have naturally understood them; avoid overly technical interpretations of ideas or events; interpret Chippewa aspirations flexibly to avoid stereotypes; infringe Aboriginal and treaty rights as little as possible; engage in effective consultation with Indigenous groups; reasonably balance Indigenous interests in making calculations of the public good; provide compensation where Indigenous economic interests are diminished.
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