Break Point: Fourth World Nation's International Resistance to Canada during Patriation
Keywords:Constitution of Canada, aboriginal rights, Manuel, George, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC)
Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced a “White Paper” in 1969 that his government would unilaterally take Native lands by declaring Canada an independent state with its own Constitution. “I don’t think that we should encourage the Indians to feel that their Treaties (with the United Kingdom) should last forever within Canada.” Just as all of his predecessors proclaimed their intention to do “away with the tribal system” from Canada’s first Prime Minister John Alexander Macdonald in 1887, for the following 87 years Canada’s government worked to dispossess the original nations of their land and to make “Indians disappear.” Trudeau’s unwillingness to engage leaders of First Nations on the basis of mutual respect proved to be the “Break Point.” Grand Chief George Manuel and Band Council leaders from across the land responded to Trudeau’s challenge by organizing the Constitution Express as a wall of resistance to halt Canada’s confiscation of traditionally held territories and resources. The massively organized counter to Trudeau’s government from 1977 well into the 1980s involved local, countrywide and international initiatives to affirm the inherent powers of self-government in the First Nations. This essay tells the untold story of the political and diplomatic actions taken by Indian leaders to push back on Canada’s threat to their existence.