Review of The Reconciliation Manifesto

I have just finished reading The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in Indigenous land rights.

There are many important points in this book. One is that modern treaties are aimed at taking away title to even the 0.2% of Canada’s land area that Indigenous people currently have. Think about that: they’re at least 5% of the population but they have 0.2% of the land. No-one can sustain a living on such a tiny amount of land, and they certainly can’t achieve self-determination on that amount.

That’s why Russ Diablo and others have been sounding the alarm about those treaties for a long time. They are aimed at granting legitimacy to the theft of the land.

It’s also clear that Canada is constantly and massively violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both on the issue of land, and in the way they constantly interfere in Indigenous people’s lives. UNDRIP states, among other things, that every people has the right to self-determination and the right to manage its economic resources.

And despite rulings like Delgamuukw, if Indigenous people fish or hunt outside the tiny amount of land they’ve been allocated, they risk having their catch taken away.

If they protest against pipelines on their own land, they get arrested and imprisoned. Arthur Manuel’s daughter Kanahus was imprisoned for protesting. She is currently protesting against the Kinder Morgan pipeline with the Tiny House Project.

Indigenous children are still being stolen by the government. There are 11,000 kids in care in Manitoba alone; 90% are Indigenous. This is not because the parents are incapable — it’s because they are kept in poverty — the welfare they get is much smaller than the rest of Canadians.

And then (some) Canadians complain when the government makes even the tiniest gesture of reconciliation, such as a proposed program to help restore Indigenous languages. Or the Truth and Reconciliation Program in schools (cut by Doug Ford).

Indigenous people get considerably less money per head from the government than Canadians.

And the government spent millions trying to deny dental surgery to an Indigenous kid (because it’d establish a precedent and they’d have to do it for other Indigenous kids too).

Arthur Manuel sets out a path to real reconciliation — not merely the cosmetic version of reconciliation offered by Justin Trudeau, which is merely colonialist business-as-usual. He shows how Canada could be restructured so that Indigenous peoples would have their fair share of land, and self-determination. He also points out the levers to press to get this to happen (because you can be sure that no colonialist government will do this out of the goodness of its heart).

Before anyone dismisses this as mere dreams, Ecuador recently reorganized itself to give Indigenous peoples there self-determination and a viable land base.

The land and the waters cry out for justice for Indigenous peoples. But the government can’t hear them, which means that people need to make more noise about this.

I highly recommend this book to all interested readers. It is very well written and essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how a path to genuine reconciliation might happen.

12 thoughts on “Review of The Reconciliation Manifesto

  1. We both agree that indigenous people are sucking hind tit, as it were. They have similar issues in the U.S. Having said that, Nunavut is 21% of Canada by area and is essentially an Inuit-run province, I don’t know how big the Nunatsiavut autonomous area is in Newfoundland and Labrador is, but it too is probably larger than the 0.2% number cited. Granted, both areas have a harsh climate, but when a book cites numbers and doesn’t get it right, one has to wonder what else they got wrong.


    • Problem is that if you read the small print of the Nunavut agreement, the Inuit actually only control 15% of that 21%.

      Perhaps he meant the rest of Canada excluding Nunavut. But I’ve seen other people saying 0.28%, so I think he is correct.


      • I think it comes down to how we define control. I did a little (very little admittedly) research, and the number seems to be correct for indigenous reserves, but that is only one classification, apparently. The William decision (affecting un-ceded land) is redefining what land rights are for First Nations, and there will be a lot of wrangling over implementing that. I also found data showing that First Nation reserves are increasing. I guess it is all about defining terms.

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      • I think he was referring to reserves.

        He also points out that in spite of decisions in the courts that Aboriginal title covers all the land they traditionally used, if Indigenous people fish or hunt off-reserve, they risk having their catch taken away.

        So the 0.2% doesn’t include lands where they have title but it isn’t respected on the ground; it refers to land they have undisputed control over.


      • I do see things getting better for First Nations in Canada far faster than for indigenous people in the U.S. or Mexico. So that’s something at least.

        I also find that Canadians are far more tolerant of First Nations protests. There was a time I was driving somewhere in B.C., I forget where, and First Nations had set up a roadblaock as a protest – caused me to have to detour for several hours, the locals seemed to take it in stride. Don’t think hat would have been the same response south of the 49th parallel.


      • That’s great, but the government and industry don’t seem to see it in quite the same way. Look at the number of imprisoned Indigenous protesters.

        Also, Indigenous Peoples in the US are better off than the ones in Canada in some ways, but worse off in others.

        One of the ways they are significantly worse off in Canada is the amount of land that they control.


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