Aboriginal rights in international law and politics : the case of Canada's indigenous peoples


Fraser, Alfred A.




Through a formal resolution passed at the World Council of Indigenous Peoples' Conference by representatives from a majority of the countries where indigenous peoples live, the wish was expressed that aboriginal rights should be recognized as a principle of international law. Our goal, in this thesis, is to examine the implications of this demand with specific reference to Canada. In the absence of extensive scholarly analyses on the subject, and indeed, on account of the general misunderstanding of the concept of aboriginal rights, this thesis provides an analysis which has never been attempted before, and indeed, a new perspective to international human rights. In pursuing this objective, our research method consists of an analysis of existing data on the subject from a variety of sources including published research, historical studies and even primary archival material as well as the results of research surveys of our own. With this method, we focus on the social, economic, cultural, political and legal components of aboriginal rights, which help to identify a model of dualism and conflict in Canada. At the same time, these variables define a Canadian Indigenous Community as a distinct national minority, thus permitting us to relate established concepts of human and minority rights to aboriginal rights as well.

By its very meaning, the term aboriginal rights divides Canadians between descendants of the first inhabitants of the country and others. This initial division establishes cause for other distinguishing characteristics which tend towards further polarization of the groups on account of different cultural perceptions, unequal standards of living, and a different world view. When a separate Indigenous Community has been identified, we examine it further in order to find out the cohesiveness of the group, since particular degrees of cohesion would determine the international rights for which the group would qualify.

A closely knit group may, in fact, possess attributes of nationalism which can be of particular interest to the international community. The existence of power relationships of colonial dominance would also evoke a particular international response. Since the group is identified as a national minority, we are able to examine the problem from the perspective of the rights of national minorities which, already, are well established by international custom. This allows a review of the interests of the United Nations and its organs in that subject, as well as the issue of the rights of indigenous minorities. It permits as well, a close scrutiny of Canada's response to international enquiry about its indigenous minorities.

Our analysis therefore allows some comparisons with conditions of indigenous deprivation in other countries, which resulted in a series of recommendations based upon international experience in these matters, including the issue of decolonization. Conclusions of dualism involving the Indigenous Community of Canada, explain, in the end, various aspects of aboriginal rights, a concept which lies at the roots of the conflict, like a pervading ideology. The term refers to a special relationship with the land as Provider and Creator. It is a reassertion of the right to traditional livelihood patterns, to the cultural integrity, and even the residual sovereignty of Indigenous Canadians. With these assertions, the leaders of this group come into conflict with the social status quo, the imperatives of industrial and economic development, and even the political stability of the Canadian Confederation.


Indigenous Peoples -- Legal status, laws, etc.
Indians Of North America -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Canada
Indians Of North America -- Canada -- Government relations




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Master of Arts: 

Thesis Degree Level: 


Thesis Degree Discipline: 

International Affairs

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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