Rights and freedoms: Aboriginal rights and Reconciliation with Roméo Saganash

On March 22nd 2018, the Research Chair in Legal Pluralism and Comparative Law will welcome Roméo Saganash, a Cree lawyer and politician, to discuss the meaning and scope of aboriginal rights in Canada in light of the reconciliation process undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 2015, the Commission published a report acknowledging the suffering of those affected directly or indirectly by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system. It also suggested that a nation-to-nation relationship based on rights recognition, respect, cooperation and partnership with Aboriginal peoples be fostered. Saganash will discuss the historical context surrounding the creation of Residential Schools, such as the deficiencies of the school system and its impact on the level of education of survivors, the assimilationist policy with regard to Aboriginal cultures and languages, and the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system. Roméo Saganash will also present the challenges of the reconciliation process as well as the conclusions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Romeo Saganash_1On the occasion of a discussion of the controversial Corbière and Kapp decisions, Saganash will share his experience and his vision of the specific challenges underlying the recognition of aboriginal rights in the Canadian context. In Corbière, a 1999 Supreme Court decision, the Court was deciding whether a provision prohibiting band members living off reserve from voting in band elections was contrary to s.15 of the Canadian Charter. In a split decision, the Court concluded that the prohibition was discriminatory. In Kapp, a 2008 Supreme Court decision, the Court examined whether a governmental program enhancing aboriginal involvement in the commercial fishery was a discriminatory measure against other non-aboriginal commercial fishers. The Court decided that a distinction made for the purpose of combatting discrimination against historically disadvantaged groups was not discriminatory for the purpose of s. 15 of the Charter. The course will also discuss the Miller v. Mohawk Council of Kahnawake case, where the plaintiffs (including Olympian athlete Waneek Horn-Miller) challenge the validity of the “marry out, stay out” Kahnawake law, according to which Aboriginal women who marry non-Aboriginal men must leave the community. This case raises many issues, including the question of whether the laws and regulations of Aboriginal communities should be subjected to the control of Canadian law or whether they should be interpreted within their own framework.

Roméo Saganash is a lawyer, advocate and NDP MP for Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou, in Quebec, since 2011. He acts as Vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the mandate of which includes all areas covered by the federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. In 1985, Saganash created the Cree Nation Youth Council. In 2003, he receives the Prix de reconnaissance de l’UQAM for the significant role he played in reaching an agreement between the Cree Nation and the Quebec government regarding the economic development of the North. In 2017, the C-262 bill—An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—introduced by Roméo Saganash in 2015 and that has the potential to change radically the Canadian legislative landscape—received the support of the Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, who stated that the government would support the bill, which could be enacted as early as June 2018.

Faculty of Law, Fauteux 302, at 1pm.

57 Louis-Pasteur Street
Fauteux Hall
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1N 6N5