I met Harold Johnson at the former establishment called NORTEP. He unconventionally stood at the middle of us as he presented his information, which can be found in his book, Firewater. His story was very articulate and professional, he seemed to have a great grasp of the problems within our communities. He professed a knowledge that few people can present as he did. While he does not live on reserve, he mentioned the dismay that many of the First Nations people live in, on a regular basis. While this man does not live among the reserves, he has an intimate knowledge of the hardships that are faced on-reserve. What struck me the most was his proclamation that many drinking Indians did not fit the crime that many were convicted of, it was only because they were “drunk” at the time and they were usually the kindest and most well-behaved people. Johnson was very respectful of the class and myself. I tried taking to him for a bit but he seemed a bit too mindful of his presentation to discuss any real issue. I am sure he had many things to express, however, I did not get the impression that he wanted to. Otherwise, he was a nice guy.
In one of my classes at Nortep/Norpac, we have been learning about Indigenous Law and it mainly deals with understanding the concepts of Aboriginal law. It’s a vibrant class with much discussion on current events and the impact on Aboriginals and mainstream society.
We were asked to do a case commentary on Metis or Tsilhqot’in cases from 2014. I chose to do Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia because many of the students had already chosen the Metis decision.
A few weeks earlier, I watched several videos of the case and viewed mainly interviews of First Nations people and how pleased and excited they were over the victory in the Supreme Court of Canada. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4D85H7lQxE
The Tsilhqot’in Nation have title on 1750 square KM of land west of Williams Lake. Good stuff.
I learned many important facts in this class pertaining to Aboriginal law. Studying for the final exam gave me much insight on the issues we face as First Nations people and other aboriginal groups. I enjoyed the many subjects in this class and they provide relevance to many of my other classes.
Here is an example of what was expected on our final exam (I do not provide my answers here):
Chapter 5: Crown Obligations
The Honour of the Crown – 3 distinct branches of Crown obligations: Treaty Obligations, Fiduciary Duty and Duty to Consult
Chapter 7: Metis Rights
The Court identified three broad factors: self-identification, ancestral connection to the historic Métis community, and community acceptance.
The difference between Metis Rights and Treaty Rights
Chapter 8: Federalism/Constitutional Issues
The Implications of the Division of Powers on Aboriginal Peoples.
How to amend the constitution
Chapter 9: Aboriginal Women
What are the ways aboriginal women have been discriminated against by the Canadian Government?
Chapter 10: Child Welfare
Contemporary Realities, Best Interest of the Child, Challenges of Aboriginal Control, Customary Child and Family Relations
Chapter 12: Aboriginal People and the Criminal Justice
The Failure of Criminal Law for Aboriginal Peoples, Aboriginal Traditions and Justice, Reforming the Criminal Justice System, Aboriginal Justice Systems, High incarceration rate
All these subjects are very important in our immediate current events of Aboriginal people. I’m glad I decided to go back to classes because I lost sight of many things regarding our struggles as First Nations people.
We need to learn to move on from the past transgressions and thrive as a people once again. Hate and distain from our past wounds only serves to undermine our progress. However, it is important to know what happened to us and what is happening now to assert ourselves and to get on with our lives.