Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Seeking Justice

Published: January 6, 2009, Author: JayTaber

If indigenous peoples have the right to exist as equal partners with the rest of humanity, then they have the right to seek resolution of their grievances in international courts where they have a reasonable expectation of justice. International courts established by UN member states, however, are inherently biased by the politics of the judicial systems from which they sprung; First Nations cannot expect a fair hearing in them any more than they can in the supreme courts of Canada or the United States.

Seeking justice for indigenous peoples must thus entail establishing indigenous international courts where human rights, civil rights, and property rights claims of the Fourth World are heard, considered, and treated respectfully. Resolution of these claims can then be negotiated in special forums mutually agreed on between First Nations and modern states.

Establishing indigenous international courts is a natural corollary to establishing self-governance, economic and educational autonomy. Conflicts inevitably arise between philosophically, culturally and spiritually diverse peoples; provision of trustworthy venues and reliable methods for their resolution is essential in preventing the violence that stems from the frustration of justice.

Given the present system of international law favors the states that deliberately deprived indigenous peoples of justice for the last two centuries, it is only logical that First Nations establish a system consistent with their own values. At a time when indigenous peoples still cannot even get a hearing, let alone justice for their claims, it is time for these ancient political entities to appoint indigenous jurists to a body of their own making.

After all, is there any element of legitimacy more essential than that those appointed to serve justice give a fair hearing to the people who come before them?

(Jay Taber is a political analyst and strategist at Public Good Project.)

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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