No. 10July 1, 2023
Canada Day 2023
All Out to Build the New!
Canada Day 2023 marks the 156th anniversary of Confederation established by the Royal Proclamation of 1867. It is an occasion to consider what it means when our home is built on Native land and to decry what Canada stands for regarding its relations with Indigenous Peoples since Confederation and before and, most importantly, today. These relations establish an authority over Indigenous Nations which negates their right to their lands, their resources and their way of life, free from the interference of the Anglo-Canadian colonial state constituted in 1867.
A modern constitution for Canada is needed to end the colonial injustice and old arrangements suffocating the Indigenous Peoples. Such a constitution must implement the principle of nation-to-nation relations. If the federation is to be free and equal, it must recognize Quebec’s right to self-determination and the rights of the Métis Nation as well.
It is an occasion to recognize the necessity to establish a constituent assembly on a democratic basis to draft a modern Constitution to replace the one that was used to found Canada under the conditions that prevailed in 1867, and its alleged modernization in 1982. The 1982 incorporation of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms further underscored that a power above the people gets to define the limitations on rights. The limitations advantage narrow private interests and keep the people disempowered. The need to renew the democracy and to renew the nation so that its aim is the well-being of all, not the few, is a historical challenge which must be accomplished in order for Canada to meet the needs of its people and contribute the same to the peoples of the world.
A modern constitution must get rid of the monarchy and abolish the Royal Prerogative on which the present Constitution is based. It must vest sovereignty in the people and get rid of the police powers which maintain privileges in lieu of rights.
A modern constitution would recognize the rights of all human persons by virtue of being human. It would end all notions of superior and inferior cultures and races, rooted in the Eurocentric concept of founding nations and racist divisions. It must provide enabling legislation to guarantee the rights of all and make governments accountable for their negation and violation.
A modern constitution must introduce a political process that guarantees equal membership in the body politic and forms of governance where members of the polity have a say and control on all decisions which affect their lives and the practical means to hold to account those in government.
The renewal of the political process is required so that citizens and residents can directly decide the matters that concern them and participate in solving problems and take up in earnest the humanizing of the social and natural environment.
A modern Canada and a modern Constitution are needed to stop the nation-wrecking of those who have submitted the country to the decision-making power and empire-building of a foreign power and the financial interests and oligopolies in its service, supranational trade arrangements and U.S.-led military alliances and wars. Canada needs independence so Canadians can develop modern human-centred social relations among themselves and with all humanity.
Canada also needs an anti-war government that makes Canada a zone for peace and demands that problems in international relations are solved without violence and war.
History calls on the peoples of Canada and Quebec and the Indigenous Peoples and Métis Nation to establish modern arrangements among themselves based on a free and equal union of sovereign entities. The challenges are great, but the present conditions beckon us all to rise to the task to build a bright future where the rights of all are guaranteed.
Let the working class constitute the nation and vest sovereignty in the people with a modern Constitution that builds Canada on the new historical basis!
All Out to Build the New!
Conception of Rights in Canada’s Constitution
The conception of rights enshrined in the current Constitution of Canada dates back to the days of the British conquest and rebellions against it. It is a conception that enshrines and protects the rights of the Crown with institutions, values, aims and practices established for that purpose. Before that, the French Crown also imposed laws and practices in defence of private property which also contributed to shaping the country’s future.
In order to understand the conception of rights enshrined in the Constitution it is necessary to look at the conditions which prevailed at any particular time, how the ruling elites dealt with them, in whose interests they intervened and the results of the intervention.
For instance, between 1663 and 1673, under the tutelage of King Louis XIV of France, some 800 young women were sent to what was then called New France “to marry, found a home and establish a family to colonize the territory.” They are referred to as Les Filles du Roi – The King’s Daughters. What is often not told is that any of the men of European descent who were joined to Indigenous women and rejected this edict were deprived of their property. Refusing to succumb to unjust laws, French and Scottish fur traders moved west and joined their lives to those of the Cree and Ojibway. Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest. They established distinct Métis communities along the fur trade routes which were also brutally attacked by the British-imposed state to deprive them of their lands and way of life.
The colonial state used racism to divide the peoples from the get-go, declaring the Indigenous way of life as “devil-inspired” and the Indigenous Peoples to be the enemies of the aspirations of the settlers to establish homes, farms and communities. The British policy of divide-and-rule was at the base of the conception of rights which enshrined private property in the service of the interests of the British Empire by putting the decision-making power and the monopoly on the use of force in the hands of the elites who occupied the posts entrusted with enforcing the rule of the Crown. To this day, this elite usurps power for purposes of enriching narrow private interests at the expense of all other interests. So long as the settlers served the purposes of protecting the British North American possessions against their annexation by the U.S. as well as the dispossession of the Indigenous Peoples, well and good, but, no sooner the peoples united against injustice, all have been dealt with brutally no matter who they are.
The republican conception of rights put forward by the Quebec Patriots as well as the reformers and revolutionaries in Upper Canada in the mid-1800s are another case in point. The British opposed this conception which called for vesting sovereignty in the people no matter their national origin. The British brutally suppressed the rebellions and denied any conception of rights which would vest decision-making in the people.
Meanwhile, to understand the conception of rights imposed by the British in the Constitutions of 1840, 1867 and 1982, it is necessary to see what the conditions reveal today. For instance, conditions today show that the incorporation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 into the Constitution 1867 made the Indigenous Peoples wards of the Crown and designated all their lands Crown lands.
We go into the past to enrich our ability to solve problems and open society’s path to progress today. In this regard, CPC(M-L) takes the approach to the study of history and political theory in a manner which deals with the relations people enter into and what kind of society this gives rise to.
This includes a militant call to oppose attempts to divide the people for purposes of maintaining the status quo, a practice introduced by the British colonialists and upheld by the Anglo-Canadian colonial state established on the basis of carrying out the genocide of Indigenous Peoples whose lands were expropriated and everything was done to extinguish their way of life.
Despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s verdict that the colonizer’s “Doctrine of Discovery” known as terra nullius (that the land belonged to nobody prior to European assertion of possession) never applied in Canada, “as confirmed by the Royal Proclamation (1763),” the fact remains that what is called “the Crown” did not consider Indigenous Peoples to be human beings. It subsequently made them wards of the state with no names and set a course of cultural genocide to extinguish their way of life. This led to what can only be called crimes against humanity and acts of genocide which carry on to this day. The treatment of the Indigenous Peoples informs the notion of rights contained in Canada’s Constitution. To understand the Constitution requires recognizing the truth of the relations between the racist Anglo-Canadian state and the Indigenous Peoples.
So too the suppression of the Métis Nation striving to declare nationhood in Manitoba which the ruling elite used to give rise to the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP)and then the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The NWMP was specifically established in 1873 to bring the authority of the Crown to the North West Territories (present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan). Its jurisdiction grew to include the Yukon in 1895, the Arctic Coast in 1903 and northern Manitoba in 1912. In 1904 Edward VII added the word Royal to the NWMP which then subsequently became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) fashioned after the ultra reactionary Ulster Constabulary created to crush the struggle of the Irish people against British rule.
An integral part of this history concerns the relations between trappers, voyageurs, fur traders, settlers and Indigenous Peoples and between them and established colonial institutions of rule, including the Catholic Church in Quebec whose main role was to keep the habitants in thrall. It also concerns the relations between the Indigenous Peoples and the patriots in Lower and Upper Canada, as well as help they received from American revolutionaries at the time and enlightenment forces in Europe and the Americas.
The struggle of the Patriots in the mid-1800s espoused the most advanced ideas of the time, as did Louis Riel when founding the Métis Nation in Manitoba. For instance, in Quebec, the patriots based their nation-building project on the anti-colonial cause, the abolition of the feudal seigneurial system, the granting of citizenship rights equally without distinction as to national origin or belief, gender or other consideration, including to the Indigenous Peoples. The Anglo-Canadian state continued to treat Indigenous Peoples as non-persons until the 1960s and continues to treat people of Indigenous origin as second class members of the polity to this day. It does the same with all migrants and workers of all origins under conditions of a so-called global labour market which considers human beings to be disposable.
The Quebec Patriots’ Declaration of Independence issued in 1838 called for the constitution of a republican form of government to enshrine those ideals as the law of the land. This cause was akin to the great wars of independence in Latin America and the Caribbean at that time as well as the national movements in Italy and other countries. Related developments in those days led to the formation of the International Working Men’s Association by Marx and Engels in 1864 and, in 1871, to the Paris Commune.
The Patriots fought for institutions consistent with the needs of the times, especially the demand that decision-making power be vested in the citizens of the new republic, not in the British Crown. For this, their rebellion was crushed by the British through force of arms, the suspension of civil liberties, mass arrests, burning of homes, the hanging of 12 patriots and the forced exile of 64 others.
It should be kept in mind that this was also the era when in the United States the direction was set on the basis of the ideology of Manifest Destiny. It held that “European Americans” – i.e. white people – were “divinely ordained to settle the whole of the North American continent.” The slave state in the hands of white men of property pushed settlers ever further westward towards the Pacific, eventually herding the Indigenous Peoples into reservations while murderous campaigns were held to wipe them out. Today attempts continue to deprive them of their hereditary lands, resources and hereditary rights as well as rights by virtue of being human.
All of this spilled over into what was known as “British North America.”
The result is a conception of rights which are privileges which can be given and taken away by “the Crown” at its sole discretion. It is a medieval remnant incorporated into the Constitution to underscore the division of the polity between those who govern and take all the decisions on the basis of the self-interest of the person of state and those who are governed and are kept separate, in a subservient position.
The conception of rights contained in the Constitution of the country called Canada does not protect anyone from the ongoing assault on the hereditary and human rights of Indigenous Peoples and the global anti-social offensive which treats the peoples of all origins and occupations as “disposable” and those who resist as criminals. This is so because there is no way to sort out conflicting interests in a peaceful manner which advances nation-building.
Societies are under constant attack today. The saying applies, “If injustice is law, resistance is duty.” It is not a matter of laws and rules. It is a matter of a just cause and social responsibility to intervene for justice, for rights. Human agency is intervening to affirm rights. It is pro-active and not primarily a matter of being reactive to laws and rules imposed by the state which to this day is based on the anachronistic definition of rights enshrined in the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights of Freedoms added in 1982.
The need for the political movements of the people to take up the work for a modern Constitution cannot be overemphasized. Only the working people have an interest in enshrining the rights which belong to all by virtue of their being. Establishing cohesion within the body politic around the independent politics of the working class is urgently needed to open a path to progress and avert the dangers which lie ahead as a result of the use of force to impose the will of the Crown in the name of high ideals.
Down with the Colonial Confederation
Letter to the Editor
Our Pledge on Canada Day
More that ever, what we see on Canada Day is warmongering against Russia and how Indigenous land continues to be stolen and thus also Indigenous lives. On the occasion of the celebration of what is called Canada Day, we honour all of the lives lost as a result of government decisions – Indigenous lives, black lives, migrant lives, the lives of women, trans and 2-spirited people and all the working people who are not protected but considered dispensable and disposable. We will use our voices against discrimination, police and government brutality and all the injustices we face. We will honour our connections to each other and to Mother Earth and answer the call of history to renew the democracy with the aim of empowering the people and also making Canada a zone for peace. This is our pledge on Canada Day 2023.
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