Remembrance of Things Past: The Significance of Indian Treaties in Modern Canada, by Michael Coyle


The Distinguished Lecture Series was honored to welcome Professor Micheal Coyle, of the University of Western Ontario, London, for a captivating lecture on the significance of Indian treaties in modern Canada and their impact on the current situation of the native population.

Canada has been able to embrace past and present: to preserve the first while adapting it to the latter. It is possible to notice this by looking at its population, where past generations of European immigrants live together with native Canadians and where new immigrants coming from all over the world find their place in the extremely multicultural country that is Canada today.

Nonetheless, according to the 2008 index of living conditions, Canada was ranked 8th for the living conditions of the native peoples, which is scandalously low considering that Canada is one of the leading countries in terms of living conditions for the rest of its population. How has Canada failed to fulfill its commitment to the native peoples? Professor Coyle explains that the issue has deep legal, moral, economic and social roots. The treaties that were made between the native peoples and the British and French colonists were treaties of coexistence and claimed that native peoples should have different laws.Yet, even though these treaties represented a progress judicially speaking, they never truly empowered the native peoples nor they improved their living conditions. This partly depends on power distribution, but it is also due to a lack of knowledge and information of the rest of Canadians. It is necessary to create and encourage a thoughtful debate and dialogue, in order to raise awareness about the conditions in which the native peoples verse.

In other words,  Professor Coyle argues, we should tackle this issue not only from a judicial standpoint but also from a political one. The native peoples are an integral part of the Canadian population and they should be treated as such.


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