A Common Hunger: Land Rights in Canada and South Africa

A Common Hunger: Land Rights in Canada and South Africa

A Common Hunger: Land Rights in Canada and South Africa

A Common Hunger: Land Rights in Canada and South Africa

Synopsis

Geographically, demographically, and politically, South Africa and Canada are two countries that are very far apart. What they have in common are indigenous populations, which, because of their historical and ongoing experience of colonization and dispossession, share a hunger for land and human dignity. Based on extensive research carried out in both countries, A Common Hunger is a comparative work on the history of indigenous land rights in Canada and post-apartheid South Africa. Joan Fairweather has constructed a balanced examination of the impact of land dispossession on the lives of indigenous peoples in both countries and their response to centuries of European domination. By reclaiming rights to the land and an equitable share in the wealth-producing resources they contain, the first peoples of Canada and South Africa are taking important steps to confront the legacies of poverty that characterize many of their communities. A Common Hunger provides historical context to the current land claim process in these two former British colonies and examines the efforts of governments and the courts to ensure that justice is done.

Excerpt

This comparative history of two former British colonies – Canada and the Republic of South Africa – focuses on the response of indigenous peoples to their experience of European colonization and domination. While the methods and political objectives of dispossession differed in many important ways, the alienation of land had devastating consequences for the aboriginal peoples of both countries. Today, by reclaiming rights to the land and an equitable share in the wealth-producing resources they contain, the first peoples of Canada and South Africa are taking important steps to confront the legacies of poverty that characterize many of their communities.

On a visit to South Africa in October 2001, I took a journey that led me to the heart of the land rights issue. a community in the Richtersveld, 600 kilometres north of Cape Town, was reclaiming traditional land belonging to the state-owned diamond company, Alexkor Ltd. the case, which was similar to many aboriginal land claims in Canada, was unusual in South Africa. the Richtersveld land claim was based on both racial discrimination and aboriginal rights – the first such case in South Africa’s history. Henk Smith, the community’s lawyer, encouraged me to visit the area and meet some of the people.

As we drove north from Port Nolloth along the tarred coastal road to Alexander Bay (where the Alexkor headquarters are located), the diamond company’s presence was everywhere. Two rows of tall, barbed wire fences had been erected along the road, sealing off the mining operation from intruders. Beyond the tailings dumps we could see hydraulic excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks at work extracting the diamondbearing ore from the beach terraces. On the road inland from Alexander Bay, where the Gariep (formerly Orange) River flows into the sea, the ubiquitous Alexkor fences lined the road on both sides. Along the river valley, irrigation plants produced lush fields of crops and green pastureland; across the road, in stark contrast, penned ostriches grazed on the . . .

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