In 1869 the administration of Rupert’s Land and the Northwest-Territory was transferred to Canada. It was recognized that the First Nations held title to these lands. To allow settlement of these territories, the Canadian government chose to sign treaties with the First Nations. The first treaty was signed in 1871 and the last in 1921. In return for the land, First Nations signatories were contracted to receive a number of rights and benefits from the Canadian government. The agreements were to be held for perpetuity.
So, what does this have to do with Guinness?
In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease on a brewery in Dublin for rent of about $65 per year. (A 9000 year lease should be considered perpetuity) This lease INCLUDED fresh water rights. The fresh water rights caused problems with the Dublin Corporation, who wanted to charge a levy. After a standoff and legal battles, Guinness kept their fresh water rights as outlined in the Original lease. (Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/2032158)
It turns out, that in the case of Guinness, a contract must be honoured. Why is it not so for the treaty contracts? It seems that the treaties were signed for economic reasons, and were broken or unfulfilled by Canadian governments for the same reasons. It was expected that the Indian Problem would go away if the government stalled long enough. Today, the Harper government wants to undermine the contracted treaty rights through changes to environmental laws, which include access to fresh water. Sound familiar?
The Guinness example demonstrates an important principal. A contract is a contract and must be upheld by both signatories. In today’s corporate culture, government’s are signing contracts at an ever increasing rates. Governments also want to reassure corporations that the agreements will be upheld for the length of the agreement. This creates a problem for the Harper Government. If the government signs agreements with corporations on lands that have earlier treaties (contracts), the newer contracts must be found invalid in the courts. This constitutes an important reason to settle and honour the earlier agreements before making future agreements.
We must consider a second important fact. Once the contract has been made, it is extremely difficult to change the terms, even when it affects the lives and health of later generations. When our government allows corporations the rights of access to water, future changes may be impossible.
It turns out that though Idlenomore are protesting treaty rights for their people, they are supporting the rights of all Canadians. Through the agreements made by the Government of Canada, were are all treaty signatories. Our government must protect all of our rights for a safe and healthy environment.
What appears to make economic sense to the Harper government today may be totally disastrous to future generations of Canadian citizens, especially if these contracts do not have end dates and regulations of what happens when they do end. Nine thousand years is a very long time and $65 may have seemed to have been a lot of money in 1759, it is a joke in today’s terms. Any economic terms agreed to today by our present government will appear to be just as idiotic to future Canadians. What kind of legacy will this government leave?
We as Canadians must support Idlenomore and become active to protect the future rights of all present and future Canadians.