Fiduciary Relationship as Contemporary Colonialism
Aboriginal rights as inherent rights deriving from Aboriginal peoples’ historical occupation of North America (i.e. sovereignty) are recognized and affirmed in Section 35(1) of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982. Despite the fact that this constitutional protection recognizes the sui generis nature of the Crown-Aboriginal relationship, there is a recent tendency in the Supreme Court of Canada to comprehend Aboriginal rights by characterizing the Crown-Aboriginal relationship as fiduciary. This paper discusses the danger of recognizing Aboriginal rights through the lens of a Crown-Aboriginal fiduciary relationship. This type of recognition entails: (1) authorizing excessive fiduciary discretion by the Crown, as opposed to focusing on its obligations; (2) failing to reflect the Aboriginal perspective on Aboriginal rights, which are derived from Aboriginal sovereignty; (3) fundamentally distorting the nature of Aboriginal rights by creating a myth that Aboriginal rights were created by the Canadian constitution; and (4) as a result, creating vulnerability on the Aboriginal side by making Aboriginal peoples tacitly consent to the Crown’s de facto sovereignty. If the Court’s characterization of the Crown-Aboriginal fiduciary relationship remains as it is now, the gap between the Crown’s understanding of Aboriginal rights and that of Aboriginal peoples may constitute a form of contemporary colonialism.
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University of Victoria