Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State

Article excerpt

Alan C. Cairns, Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2000), viii+280pp. Cloth. $29.50. ISBN 0-7748-0767-9.

As a welcome addition to the growing literature on Aboriginal rights, Cairns' work is a well-crafted long essay which addresses critical questions on how Aboriginal peoples are to be accommodated both institutionally and constitutionally in Canada. The contemporary impasse in negotiations between Aboriginal peoples and the state is placed in context by a short clear summary of antecedent events (Chapter 1, 'Empire'), and assimilist policy assumptions of the imperialist era (Chapter 2, 'Assimilation'). In Chapter 2, Cairns declares that the answer to the fundamental question - 'Is our goal a single society with one basic model of belonging, or is the goal a kind of side-by-side relation, or some mixed solution?, has shifted from official endorsement of the single society model to a more complex set of answers - assimilation, parallelism, or something in between' (p. 47). Chapter 3, 'Choice', discusses the options through comparison of paradigms for alternative policies. In Chapter 4, 'The Constitutional Vision of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples', the author stresses that the RCAP qualifies as the most exhaustive analysis ever performed on indigenous peoples in Canada and possibly in the world, and the failure of its 1996 report to induce a fuller response from governments is 'disturbing and astonishing'.

The author examines the key terms of assimilation, wardship, civilising mission, inherent rights, treaty federalism, nation-to-nation, 'citizens plus', partnership, First Nations, sovereignty, citizenship, and the two-row wampum. …

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