COAST SALISH TERRITORIES, BRITISH COLUMBIA and VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 7, 2013) - The First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), First Nations Schools Association (FNSA), Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA), and First Nations Early Childhood Development Council (FNECDC) commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation, 1763.
The Royal Proclamation was issued October 7, 1763, by King George III to, among other things, bring greater peace in relations with the Indigenous peoples of North America. It regulated settlement, trade and land purchases on the western frontier, forbidding settlers to take Indigenous lands.
The Royal Proclamation continues to be of great legal importance and political significance to First Nations in Canada given its recognition of the pre-existing First Nations' sovereignty. A founding constitutional document, it represents the first legal recognition by the British Crown of Aboriginal rights, based on First Nations' prior occupation of the lands. It also serves as an origin for the Crown's duty to act honourably in its relations with First Nations. As affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada: "The obligation of honourable dealing was recognized from the outset by the Crown itself in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 ... in which the British Crown pledged its honour to the protection of Aboriginal peoples from exploitation by non-Aboriginal peoples. The honour of the Crown has since become an important anchor in this area of the law." The Royal Proclamation is enshrined in Section 25 of the Constitution Act, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees that nothing can terminate or diminish the Aboriginal rights outlined in the Proclamation.
On its 250th anniversary, it is important to reflect on the spirit, intent and significance of the Royal Proclamation when examining the Crown's relationship with First Nations in Canada today.
"In BC, First Nations have spent the past two decades building the First Nations Education System - a First Nation-driven system that represents a manifestation of the fundamental tenet of First Nations control of First Nations education," stated Tyrone McNeil, FNESC President. "Following on the heels of the tragic Indian residential school initiative and destructive colonial education policy, the whole purpose of this important endeavour is to assist First Nations communities to regain control of and fully exercise their inherent authority over the education of our children. No one can ignore the dark past that came after the Royal Proclamation, but we can each commit to ensuring that mistakes will not repeated."
"The BC First Nations Education System is supported by tripartite agreements with the Governments of Canada and BC, and supporting legislation," commented Greg Louie, FNSA President. "Consistent with the recognition afforded to First Nations' self-governing authority in the Royal Proclamation, First Nations in BC seek a continued government-to-government commitment to build collaboratively on successes to date, in a responsive manner that fully and genuinely supports and achieves First Nations control of First Nations education." He continued, "This would uphold the minimum standards of Indigenous peoples right of self-determination affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Unilateral initiatives unsupported by First Nations, such as the federal development of national First Nations education legislation, are a practice of days gone by - such practice has no place in honourable reconciliation today."
We remind the governments of the promises of the Crown that were made many years ago and remain relevant today. The expectation is always that the Crown will honour such promises, which form a part of the constitutional fabric of this country.