Thursday, April 21, 2016

Historians as expert witnesses

Speaking of the Supreme Court:  historian William Wicken reports at Active History on his experience as an expert witness on the case defining whether Inuit, M√©tis, and non-status people come under the constitutional heading of "Indians" -- the case determined at the Supreme Court of Canada last week.

He advised:
‘In sum, at Confederation, Aboriginals formed a diverse and heterogeneous group. Some were more settled than others, some more nomadic. Some were more integrated into the Hudson’s Bay company trading or post networks than others. Some had intermarried with white traders; some were the descendants of white traders and Indian women. The important point is that the framers believed that the central government, as opposed to the provinces, needed to exercise control over all Aboriginal peoples to ensure that they did not interfere with the government’s broader plans in building a railroad, settling the west and the north, and in expanding the economy from the Atlantic to the Pacific.’
Seems to me he's right to conclude that "Indians" was used to indicate all indigenous peoples within what might be Canada, not just some, though I might have said "to exercise control over all relations with Aboriginal peoples."  I'm not sure the constitution anywhere grants Canada a claim to actual control. That's another litigation, however.
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