A breathtaking policy of criminalization, assimilation and
extinguishment has been vigorously carried out against Indigenous
Peoples where now there is a Canadian province called British

Present day governments have re-named those programs many times
and continue to manufacture support for them within Indigenous
communities, relying on the element of duress to force change. They
are, to quote the 1948 Genocide Convention, “deliberately inflicting on
the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part." They have not yet succeeded.

Why do the people of BC seek the dissolution of some thirty distinct
Indigenous nations? Why do they cry,“One law for all Canadians" in
answer to Indigenous efforts to exercise their right of self-
determination? Eighty percent of BC's economy today comes directly
from extractive industries using natural resources in lands and waters
that have never been ceded, sold or surrendered to them by the

The ongoing displacement and dispossession of Indigenous Peoples
relies on the settler population's indifference to their human rights.
The interests of resource industries have dominated accounts of
Indigenous Peoples throughout the mainstream media, the academic
presses and the courts: impoverishing their histories and disappearing
their futures.

The indigenous have suffered excruciating losses. But the highest
expression of government reconciliation has this bottom line and none
other: release title to the traditional territories and resources; accept a
small financial, land and program funding settlement; and become a BC

The Colonial Present documents the colonizer's manufacture of a new
mythology to rationalize this ultimatum. This book is an unprecedented
history and chronicle of British Columbians' continuing attempts to
leave the question of Indigenous Peoples' rights in the past, without
ever recognizing them in the present.
The Rule of Ignorance
and the Role of Law
in British Columbia

Kerry Coast

ISBN: 978-0-9860362-3-1 paperback
$26.95  369 pp. 2013
In copublication with Clarity Press, Inc.

E-book: 978-0-9860362-2-4   $20.00

"Kerry Coast lays bare the putrid sophistries through which the Canadian state
purports to legitimate its genocidal expropriation of the indigenous homelands
comprising what is officially known as "British Columbia." This is history as it
should be done."  
-- Ward Churchill, author and activist

"A timely, thorough, and readable exposé of the persistence of colonialism in
British Columbia, the genocidal policies of Canadian settler society, and their
ongoing effects on First Nations peoples.  The Colonial Present integrates
historical context and contemporary political and cultural dynamics into its
compelling assessment of urgent questions affecting indigenous land, natural
resources and sovereignty.  This fascinating study provides a template not only
for understanding but transforming colonial realities throughout North America."
Natsu Taylor Saito, Professor of International Law, Georgia State University, author
Meeting the Enemy: American Exceptionalism and International Law
lands of the Squamish, Líl’wat, St’át’imc,
Secwepemc and Sto:lo. Coast produced
The St’át’imc Runner newspaper and The
BC Treaty Negotiating Times. She
adapted five legends for the stage and
produced them with the Úcwalmicw
Players in Lillooet. She has done
professional research in First Nations
Education. Coast served as the
representative of IHRAAM, an
international NGO, at the United Nations
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
in New York in 2011-2013, and in 2013 at
the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of
Indigenous Peopels (EMRIP)

    Kerry Coast discusses the policy of criminalization, assimilation and land
    rights and sovereignty extinguishment that has been vigorously carried out
    against Canada's indigenous peoples, and how Canadians seem to know so
    little about it. Scroll down to Sept. 4 Discussion.
The legal bankruptcy in which early Governors operated, with which they fathered
the province of British Columbia, has never been remedied. They never made
treaties, nor provision for the indigenous nations to join them. Today, the
province remains in conflict with the foundations of Canada’s Constitution as well
as the most basic international mechanisms for human rights, peace and justice. A
sort of legal and cultural schizophrenia has become entrenched in a place where
genocidal acts are carried out next to re-creations of indigenous artwork, and
traditional cultural visions are fashionably co-opted. The development of legal,
institutional and cultural constructs unique to BC has forced entire indigenous
nations to the brink of destruction.

Gee Eh? Genocide Awareness
Perhaps most British Columbians do not identify with the genocidal effect of their
government, courts and industry. British Columbia's policy has always been --
before and ever since it became clear that the native peoples were not simply
going to die out and disappear as they had calculated --to get title to the land by
any and all means necessary. They have exploited many such means. Present day
examples of each of the five acts which individually constitute genocide, according
to the 1948 Convention on prevention and punishment of this crime, serve as an
entry point for discussing the situation in the province. There is little room for
misunderstanding those actions in light of the many and deeply consequential
Supreme Court of Canada rulings in favour of existing aboriginal title and rights in
BC. A state of war against these indigenous nations is in its 21st decade.

$10 billion - or - the cash of the matter
British Columbians seem to feel that their obligations to indigenous nations, arising
from BC’s assumption of the entirety of their homelands, are being serviced by
welfare payments to the individual citizens of those nations. Federal politicians
have proclaimed loudly and often, over the last decade, that $10 billion is spent
annually on Indian Affairs program funding and the general public can be relied
upon to  graphically voice their objections to such a high price tag for maintaining
"Canada's First Nations". But they have very little grasp of the truth of the
situation. Statistically, indigenous and Inuit people live in conditions that feature
suicide, high school drop-outs, teen pregnancy, diabetes and HIV, poverty,
malnutrition, illiteracy, drug abuse and addiction, homelessness and incarceration
at rates that outstrip the national averages at ten to seventy times. Quite
evidently, welfare is not meeting their needs. It is far from an equitable settlement
for the crimes the indigenous nations have suffered -- if in fact it  were only a fiscal
remedy that they sought -- which it is not. The economy of British Columbia relies
on denying native title and rights of self-determination. This effective subsidy by
denial and criminalization was recognized as such by the World Trade Organization
in 2000.

Studying Indifference
British Columbians harbor truisms of why native land claims are unimportant and
even unnecessary, and remain markedly unaware of the particulars of those
outstanding claims and the people who make them. Indifference is taught and
practised throughout grade schools, universities, and in all popular media streams,
leading to the complete failure of investigation and understanding in all social
forums.  Prevailing racist attitudes are in fact supported by leading academics and
opinion makers. Children in BC are largely unaware that there are people where
they live who have a prior claim to the land, who speak another language, who
historically flourished in their own unique nation. Graduates of high school and
indeed universities will, instead of history, learn a sort of historio-mythology which
allows them to dismiss indigenous peoples. They will be able to elaborately and
incorrectly place the indigenous as belonging to the past. Many creative tools to
deny the indigenous nations' proper present legal claims are deployed; tools
published by their professors.

On Reserve
In the 1960's and 70's, while other British colonies were attaining independence, in
British Columbia the Indians were taking control of their own Indian Agencies and
administration of life on their unconscionably small Reserve lands. The originating
moments of the Indian Reserve system, from the 1858 gold rush and the first wave
of settlers, were followed immediately by half a century of vigorous political, but
non-violent, protest. That era is separated from the present day mostly by a thirty
year period where legal pursuits by Status Indians were literally outlawed. Their
dispossession was ensured over a one hundred year period when registered land
ownership by a Status Indian was prohibited. The innumerable Indian protests at
being limited to "Reserves;" the Reserve Commissioners’ correspondence with the
Colonial Secretary; the early court presentations by dozens of Chiefs unified by
total desperation; the testimonial letters to newspapers and the grave inter-tribal
Memorials to weak political promises; the roadblocks, court cases and
international petitions all show a multi-generational legacy of resistance.
At least half of indigenous people in BC do not live on Reserves today, because of
their crushing poverty, lack of housing, and family politics gone sour under an
imposed system. The elected Chiefs and Councils on Reserves, who are often on
government pay, are answerable to the federal government more than their own
constituents: they are agents in right of Canada.

Assimilation and Criminalization
Any explicit recognition of indigenous identity poses a threat to the assimilation
goals of the majority BC electorate and their government. The government
subsidizes careers and achievements of many aboriginal people who mask and
then advocate assimilation. While their people are either bankrupt, landless or
both, the indigenous salesmen are commissioned provincial heroes. The
alternative to assimilation is, effectively, to be a criminal. Some of these "criminals"
have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Resistance to the colonizer has
informed the most dynamic, vivid and expensive strands of the indigenous story
since contact, although little of it has been generously recorded. Children must
survive against the insidious social agents of the land race, and so "normal people
don't talk about St’át’imc stuff," they say. That is how it was put by one of their
ten year olds.

Extinguishment ... with Consent
An examination of the BC Treaty Commission, facilitator of the “modern day treaty
process” since 1992, reveals predetermined outcomes which include that
indigenous peoples completing negotiations will extinguish their land titles and
waive their right to self determination. In exchange for “self government” as
prescribed by Canada, and a worryingly small parcel of what Canada views as
British Columbia's lands. Testimony from a number of individuals who have
experienced the realization of a modern day treaty in British Columbia is not
ambiguous as to the results and how they were achieved. The elaborate self-
extinguishment process has replaced the governments’ unilateral enforcement of
it, and, although Final Agreements reached under the existing duress can hardly be
described as consensual, they are celebrated by BC and Canada as the pinnacle of
reconciliation between the original and the new peoples.

Immigration or Escapement
The early colonizing people were leaving the devil they knew for the one they
didn't. The founders of Canada and BC were drifters, unwanted surplus labour,
orphans, criminals, troublesome but wealthy sons, drug runners and bootleggers,
independent opportunists, former Governors of the Falkland Islands or British
Honduras, and occasionally would-be farmers. “A worse set of cut-throats and all-
time scoundrels than those who flocked to Yale from all parts of the world never
assembled anywhere.” They were all driven by desperation or greed, and were
ushered in under the umbrella of Imperial Britain. They made up songs about their
disdain for the colony’s laws and their lust for stolen treasure. They made towns
which were described as “modern sodoms;” they re-sold smallpox infested
blankets once the first native customers died. They plied a trade with Indians in
whiskey mixed with ink, chewing tobacco, and nitric acid. At the behest of Britain
and its laws, the colony was meant to treat honourably with the indigenous
peoples, and first of all buy any land they wished to settle on. Unfortunately, the
citizenry had little personal knowledge of being treated honourably or of the
concept of the rule of law. The new entrepreneurs and settlers stood to gain
everything they came for by denying the indigenous, and they did so. The use of
instruments of governance and law has, for 150 years, been precluded by the
interests and consequent world view of the very people who were supposed to
enforce those rules. The decision to annihilate the indigenous is being made by
individuals who, today and yesterday, lost their own homelands to the same
imperial, industrial cause they champion now in someone else’s territory.

The Role of Law
As it concerns indigenous nations, law in British Columbia has always been only
cosmetic: appearances are kept up by the use of white wigs, black robes and tall
chairs, but the charade is otherwise farcical. From the time of hunting Indians in
gunships or in loose posses with American sheriff’s badges at the front, to the
most recent attempts at getting Indian land - the failed Recognition and
Reconciliation legislation-- BC has been allergic to law. Complicit courts have simply
made up convenient rulings - wildly, as it suited, replacing Constitutional
instructions with their own obviously biased judgments. The steady work of
defining aboriginal rights out of meaningful existence continues incrementally, one
aboriginal rights court action at a time. The colonial courts have frozen indigenous
rights to development at 1842. Since the courts’ requirements to prove aboriginal
title have grown to fortress-like proportions, and government policy has
prevented any of the qualifying activities that prove title, it looks as though the
assessment of terra incognita applies better to indigenous homelands now than
ever before. It may be that no one will ever see aboriginal title land in British
Columbia. Royal Commissions of Inquiry into the condition of aboriginal peoples
have effected nothing more than delay and denial, and in many cases simply
formalized government indifference.

The Rule of Ignorance
"Freedom of the Press" in British Columbia can be better stated as, "a law unto
themselves." The cycle of bias among those who control news publications with
their advertising dollars reliably corrupts the written records in a resource-
extraction-based culture. Will forestry, hydroelectric or mining companies place an
ad in a journal which reports thoroughly on the Indian land question? No – and
thereby the media blackout of aboriginal title issues is accomplished. The
wholesale promotion of reporters and journalists who distort and disqualify
aboriginal title issues to positions such as Director of the Vancouver International
Writers' festival or to host a TV talk show is easily documented. Writers and editors
operate with veritable impunity in their hate literature. A regular column titled
"Aboriginal Concerns" is one example. Articles such as “Are Indians Human?” and
“Indians Are A Health Problem,” reflected the nadir of colonial philosophy. As a
result of uniform media incitement against the indigenous, British Columbians are
presently unable to properly assess their own moral or legal situation as
perpetrators of the worst abuses of human rights.

Testing the New Mythologists
First Nations today are asked to perform the unlikely task of “separating business
from politics,” and thereby to “move forward” with the rest of the global economy.
The myth that indigenous societies have improved under colonial occupation is
perpetuated by scholars, politicians and judges, and popular writers take
extraordinary license blurring fact and fiction. Elaborate legislative schemes to
eradicate aboriginal rights have evolved throughout the colony’s history and
collusion between the province and the federal government in so cutting off the
indigenous future is understood -- by British Columbians --to be a great step
forward, reminiscent of the so-called white man's burden to bring civilization to the
savages. Successful politicians have careers marked by episodes of Indian fighting
and lawyers for the Indians pander to the quick-cash extinguishment schemes in
constant development by governments.

Who Are We Now?
British Columbians take pride in giving flavor to Canadian culture by showing off ill-
gotten indigenous trinkets, stolen booty and icons, as well as promoting old
photos of the natural landscape. The other half of the time they are wreaking
destruction on those same people and places. But actions could be taken to realize
true reconciliation between British Columbians and indigenous peoples today.
Many leaders, native and non-native, have made plausible suggestions concerning
what should be done. Instead, the non-native competitors for the land continue
to ignore the fact that indigenous nations have the internationally recognized right
to determine their course, to continue to be who they are and develop according
to their own worldview.
UN Expert Mechanism on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(EMRIP), July 2013