Thank you very much, committee, for inviting me here today.
On my flight here yesterday from Vancouver, I was listening to a podcast of somebody you might listen to: “Empire”. I would recommend it. They have started a new series on slavery, and one of things they were talking about was that it's a day of reckoning in Britain. It is a day of reckoning about how the wealth and the power of Britain is built on slavery and colonization.
In some ways, I was thinking— at about 35,000 feet flying over Treaty 4, I think, at the time—about how it's a day of reckoning here in Canada. It needs to be a day of reckoning with regard to the power and wealth that this nation is built on, and it's built on indigenous lands. It's built on the wealth of indigenous lands. It's built on displacing indigenous people from their lands and taking that wealth.
I think it's important to understand that there is no lawful authority for that. Canada likes to talk of itself as a nation of the rule of law, but where is the law that says that colonizers can show up and usurp someone else's land, can take that wealth and make the decisions about that land? That is not the rule of law.
We talk about it in Canada as “assertion of Crown sovereignty”. This is a favourite phrase if you do a search on CanLII for court decisions. From my view, that's a Canadian euphemism for the doctrine of discovery, the principle that colonizers can show up and take someone else's land. You've heard from those people here today, and you'll hear from more of them.
I think what needs to happen is that we need to unpack that. If we're going to talk about reconciliation, what is that about? It can't be reconciliation based on a lie. The beginning has to be truth-telling. Truth-telling is vital.
We heard last month from the Vatican, renouncing that doctrine. From my perspective, there wasn't a lot of truth-telling there. I hope that Canada can do better. I hope that Parliament can do better at having a real, open conversation about whose land it is.
How did the federal and provincial governments get the right to extract the wealth from that land? I am not just talking about non-treaty situations. I work for treaty nations all across the country in similar situations. I had the good fortune last week to be invited out to the Mi’kmaq community of Listuguj, and we talked about this: Whose land is this?
With hundreds of years of colonization, let's move on to some truth-telling. I think, to start, that means really getting at this issue. If we're going to give land back, if we're going to move in that direction, it can't be from these old styles of comprehensive claims, which is what the federal government currently has.
For indigenous people who have entered into those, I can understand why, but at the end of the day, is there really a significant difference between that and what John A. Macdonald was doing with the national policy? It's about removing indigenous people from their lands so that non-indigenous people can exploit them. That's what it's about.
We need to move in a different direction, and the direction is that we need to recognize indigenous title. You don't need to go to court for that. The courts have been saying for years that you can figure this out among yourselves. The federal government needs to move in the direction of recognizing title.
Then how are you going to implement that? It's not through comprehensive claims with exchanges rights. It is through actually recognizing and implementing.
Thank you for your time.
I'm sorry. I'm 10 seconds over my five minutes.