Williams traces the invention of the discourse of the savage with its inherent practices back 3,000 years to Greek and Roman times where the definition consisted of a people who did not plough and plant food. It was through the invention of the savage that the Greeks and Romans structured their societies denying many their human rights to land and resources in the process. This discourse of the savage and subsequent practices is also the foundation of the Doctrine of Discovery which denies people who they are as human beings.
Williams argues the 1763 Royal Proclamation, one of Canada’s founding constitutional documents, embodies this tradition of the savage, and as such the savage tradition remains a part of Canada’s constitutional jurisprudence; it is a part of Canada’s cultural DNA.
Relying on the research he did for his book, Williams then argues that this tradition of the savage extends in very real ways into Canada’s Comprehensive Land Claims process.
Williams further explains that when settlements under the CLC policy do result there is the issue of non-implementation on the part of the provinces and Canada. The Nisga’a Nation, for example, are in the process of suing Canada for failing to implement. In short, Canada does not even have the integrity to honour contemporary settlements once they are established.
Williams also offers his analysis regarding Canada opting not to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples explaining that under the constitution of the United Nations general assembly, once a vote is cast, it is there forever. As such, even if Canada (read the Harper government) claims to have changed their mind on their vote, the bottom line is Canada continually refuses to comport their domestic law within international law which states the Doctrine of Discovery with its tradition of the savage is a racist doctrine from the colonial era that has no place in the 21st century.
Interestingly, Williams ends the lecture arguing he has no confidence in the court process, both domestic or international. He argues it is best to publicize, through advocacy efforts, Indigenous human rights violations as the mechanism to pressure the governments to change their policies. Needed are aggressive human rights campaigns.
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