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Fall 2024 Seminar

Indigenous rights recognition, reform and retreat

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Almost two decades since the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, we are seeing worrying trends in democracies retreating from the recognition of indigenous rights. This makes advocacy for law reform and change by Indigenous peoples much more difficult.

The referendum loss in Chile, the referendum loss in Australia, the blowback against Maori rights and the proposed winding back of the Treaty of Waitangi, the weakening of the Finnish Sami Parliament Act are a few examples of the ascendency of an anti-Indigenous rights sentiment and rights retreat globally. The examples above demonstrate the defeat of active law reform proposals and current reviews of existing rights animated by global trends of populism, racism, authoritarianism. These agendas often promote formal equality and anti-democratic/democratic legitimacy as reasons for winding back Indigenous rights.

On the other hand, decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada in Reference re An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, 2024 and SCOTUS in Haaland v. Brackeen, 2023 speak to the strong foundation treaties and constitutional recognition provide.

This course will explore some of the current issues in Indigenous peoples rights in democracies globally to animate class discussion and analysis of some of the common approaches to Indigenous rights globally and their strengths and limitations. We will discuss and problematise concepts such as recognition, self-determination, reconciliation and truth-telling. Topics will include:

  1. Indigenous people’s rights and democratic governance.
  2. Aboriginal Sovereignty and the state.
  3. Treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.
  4. The right to self-determination and its limitations.
  5. The pursuit of reconciliation, truth and justice.
  6. Are Truth-telling commissions & transitional justice useful for reconciliation?

Note: This seminar will be taught over six weeks, starting in the second-half of the term, dates TBD.