On August 15th, 1963, the then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, The Honourable Guy Favreau had this to say to the Third Annual Conference of the National Indian Advisory Council of Canada, in Winnipeg, in respect to the establishment of an Indian Claims Commission.
“I mentioned earlier that lack of confidence on the part of the Indians remains one of the serious problems affecting Indian administration.
In analyzing the deep causes for this distrust it soon became apparent that a rankling feeling of injustice among the Indians at the lack of action with regard to the adjudication and settlement of their long outstanding claims was one of the roots of this evil.
This understandable sense of grievance among the Indians had made it extremely difficult over the years to obtain the fruitful co-operation between them and the government, which is so necessary in every field of endeavor that may be undertaken to improve their condition.
Two parliamentary committees on the administration of Indian Affairs had recognized this fact and recommended that action be taken by the government to assess and settle all Indian claims and grievances in a just and equitable manner.
The Liberal party, before the last election, had included in its program the appointment of an independent body, with broad terms of reference, to review all matters pertaining to Indian Claims.
In its desire to see justice done, the Government wish that every legitimate Indian claim be given a fair hearing, without undue formality, and settlement made where justified.
Without prejudging the matter, as I am inclined to believe that no claim submitted to the commission should be open to defeat upon narrow or technical grounds.
It is proposed that the commission be authorized to hear all claims referred to it by the government, as well as such claims as may be made before it by Indian bands or other identifiable groups of Indians.”
* Note: this Commission was never struck up, never populated, never happened. Instead, one Dr. Hawthorn and his research team at the University of British Columbia, commissioned by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to prepare an in-depth study of Indian administration in British Columbia, released their report in 1964 and 1965 and advocated assimilation of Indians by integration – as well as, later, the concept of “citizens plus.” In 1968, Pierre Trudeau became leader of the federal government and in 1969 he introduced the “White Paper Policy,” or “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy.” That policy was simply to dissolve the Indian Act and erase any reference to Indian rights in Canada’s constitutional documents. This policy document was prevented from taking full effect by extreme opposition by every Indian organization from coast to coast to coast, and a few years later, the federal government instituted the Comprehensive Claims Policy instead: a process by which Indian communities agree to their own extinguishment in exchange for money. That policy is still in effect and underlines all negotiations between Canada and Indigenous Peoples, including the BC treaty process.
Observations on the promised Indian Claims Commission, 1963, on the election of the Federal Liberal Party:
B.C. Indian Lands Question
- The North American Indian Brotherhood (NAIB) carried out a survey of the Interior Indians by holding meetings at the various Interior towns as to what the Indians wished to pursue at the Senate and Parliamentary Committee hearings on Indian Affairs in the late 1950’s.
- It was unanimously agreed that the BC Indian Land question be pursued. At that time the Indian Land question had been completely abandoned and it was through the NAIB’s efforts after consultation with the Indians that it was revived.
- Through persistence by the NAIB the Liberal party of Canada issued a pamphlet (before their election as a party governing Canada) stating that in 1963 the Liberals promised as follows: a) Liberal policy now is to appoint as soon as possible an Indian Claims Commission, an independent, unbiased unprejudiced body with broad terms of reference, to review all matters pertaining to this issue. b)With the objective of achieving a fair and just settlement of all outstanding claims, it is Liberal policy that the Commission will include qualified authorities on British Constitutional law as it affects aboriginal hereditary and usufructory (sic) rights. c) To assure the objectivity which Indians of Canada have the right to expect after years of procrastination, Commissioners may be appointed from other parts of the Commonwealth such as New Zealand, where achievements in this field are regarded as outstanding. It is Liberal policy that the Commission will be unbiased and independent.
- Appointment of the Indian Claims Commission, as described, is based on the fundamental Liberal policy that Canada’s Native Indians must now achieve full equality without loss of aboriginal, hereditary and usufructory rights. Canada, at this time in our history and today’s war of ideologies, must erase the blot of second and third-class citizenship.
- In 1963 when the Liberals were elected the NAIB sent delegates to the United Nations and to Parliament in Ottawa recommending the Commission be instituted as follows:
The delegates recommend a three-man commission comprised of the following individuals: a) A Commission Chairman, selected by the Secretary General of the United Nations, or an appropriate body of the United Nations, such as the International Court of Justice. b) An international senior anthropologist, who understands the Indian manner of submitting evidence by having direct contact with Indian affairs and through working with natives personally. c) A Canadian legal authority trained in International law and British Constitutional Law.
- The reason for an International Commission in that the commissioners would be trained in International Law is as follows:
- The Commissioners would be trained along International lines rather than Canadian and would bring into their thinking International cases such as the Ghana and Nigerian decisions which gave those native people title to their lands as hereditary nations.
- The Indian tribes in the United States and other countries have been treated in law as nations and Canadian Indians’ position in International Law should be the same.
- If you go hat in hand to government asking for a negotiation as to settlement, Canada, if it does agree to settle, will say we offer you so much and that is it. There will be a position wherein Canada makes the decision and the Indians will have to take it or leave it.
- If a Tribunal with International authorities decide, then world attention will be directed toward the tribunal and Canada will have to make an honourable settlement.
- Canada has already agreed that the Indians have title to British Columbia, otherwise the Indians would not be receiving $100,000 per year by way of the BC Special in lieu of Treaty monies.
- The difference is that at least theoretically the Indians in other parts of Canada agreed to their treaty money by having treaties signed by the Indians.
- But BC Indians never signed treaties, except for small areas regarding the Indian Land question, although Canada sees fit to pay them $100,000 a year for title.
- So that Canada admits the Indians have title to BC by paying them $100,000 per year which the Indians never agreed was enough, as they may have done by signing treaties in other parts of Canada.
- It is therefore essential that the Liberals be held to their promise of 1963 that an independent, unbiased, unprejudiced body with broad terms of reference be appointed to review all matters pertaining to the BC Indian Land question.
- This can only be done by appointment of persons trained in international affairs from outside Canada.
- The Liberal promise of 1963 was adopted by the Federal Liberal Party under then Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and this is a contract, and should be continuously held forth as such, regardless of any position taken by Prime Minister Trudeau or other government officials. This was a contract made with full intent and cannot be broken.
In hand writing at the top of this typed, undated, unsigned document: “This was the position of the Liberals in 1963 and I still maintain that you can hold them to it. –H.C.”