Religion, Land and Democracy in Canadian Indigenous-State Relations
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Many indigenous communities perceive an intimate connection between land and religion, and land has, and continues to remain, at the heart of indigenous-state relations. This dissertation examines how philosophies of land and religion in correlation with histories of dispossession and differentiation contribute to socio-political structures that threaten the religious freedom of Aboriginal peoples and the very existence of indigenous religious traditions, cultures, and sacred sites in Canada today. Through a political-philosophical approach to ethical concerns of justice as fairness, national minorities’ rights, and religious freedom, I examine court decisions, legislation, and official protocols that shape contemporary indigenous-state relations. I identify philosophical and structural issues preventing Canada from protecting the fundamental rights guaranteed to indigenous peoples and all Canadians. More specifically, I examine the historical manifestations of concepts of land and religion in philosophies of colonization, emphasizing their effects in contemporary indigenous-state relations. I analyze the impacts of secularization, socio-economic expansion, and the dispossession of Aboriginal traditional lands on the protection of indigenous cultural rights and off-reserve sacred sites. Based on this analysis, I discuss communicative democratic theory and the potential benefits and limitations of the “Duty to Consult and Accommodate”—the most recent framework for indigenous-state relations—for the protection of indigenous religious traditions and the importance of the inclusion of indigenous peoples in administrative and decision-making processes. Finally, I explore indigenous representation, religious revitalization and the politics of authenticity, authority, diversity and cultural change.