By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Today, October 7th, is an important moment to reflect on Canada’s long unfulfilled promise to respect the land rights of Indigenous peoples.
Two hundred and fifty years ago today, on October 7th, 1763, King George of England formally proclaimed that even as the British Crown asserted its control over North America, Indigenous peoples’ lands would continue to be protected for their use.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 set out a clear commitment that non-Indigenous peoples’ access to the lands of Indigenous peoples would only take place if the Indigenous nations “should be inclined” to sell or cede their lands to the Crown.
The Proclamation is not merely an historic document.
The Proclamation set a legal standard of mutual agreement that informed the negotiation of the Treaties that followed, from the 1764 Treaty of Niagara to present-day land claims agreements. The Proclamation itself is part of the Canadian Constitution and the protection of Indigenous rights promised in the Proclamation was explicitly affirmed in the 1982 Constitution Act.
Today, across Canada, Amnesty International is standing alongside Indigenous peoples as they assert their rights to make their own decisions about how their lands and resources will be used. The anniversary of Royal Proclamation is a reminder that these demands are neither new nor radical: Indigenous peoples are simply calling on Canada to live up to its own laws and commitments.
In recent years, we have seen the rapid evolution of international legal standards for the protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights, including the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. We often say that it’s time for Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples to move into the 21st Century. Today is a reminder that Canada still needs to uphold the promises of the 18th Century.
Full text of the Royal Proclamation:
Commemoration events and background information:
Take action on the right of free, prior and informed consent: