As I said earlier. I stopped at Lyons Lake right on the Ontario and Manitoba border to photograph the lake, the trees, and the autumn. This is a photograph of a mountain maple. It is a lovely little spot. The mountain maples of Manitoba are not as spectacular as the red and sugar maples of Ontario, but I like them. It is a more plain Jane maple, so I gussied up this photograph a bit with a double exposure of the same image in the computer. With some adjustments to each photo I like the effects you can get. Reality in art at least, in the eye of the beholder.
In the documentary film Colonization Road I saw about this area, Professor Jeff Denis explained the Doctrine of Discovery this way in the documentary Colonization Road:
in the 15th century papal decrees of the Roman Catholic Church decreed that the first European nations to discover new lands, uninhabited by civilized people, by which they meant Christian people, or people who were not using the lands in an efficient manner as determined by Europeans, that the European nations who discovered those lands would have first dibs and sovereign ownership.
Really this idea was not that dissimilar from Mennonites and other settlers of the land in Canada, who believed indigenous people were not using the land so they could just take it. Plain and simple. To them the notion of land in the natural state, without subjecting it to cultivation as in the case of grasslands, or draining wetlands, was an anathema. It was their duty to change the land and make it useful. It is part of the European attitude that nature is there for humans to dominate. It has Biblical origins and has had powerful effects on the landscape of North America as a result. That doctrine has led to a lot of ecological harm. The indigenous people of Canada had a very different attitude to nature. I intend to blog about it.
Eventually that doctrine of discovery was disavowed to some extent by the Catholic Church, but that did not diminish its profound influence on European colonialism. It has been cited in numerous court cases in North America. Even though it made no sense.
Here is what the doctrine provided with clear references to the fundamentals of Biblical doctrine in Psalm 72:
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust… Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.”
In the documentary, Professor of History Heidi Bohaker said that this doctrine was “the source of full legal title for Canada after Confederation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada. We may have forgotten in the secular age just how predominantly Christian, overwhelmingly Christian, Canada was.”And some parts of that Christianity Canada inherited was downright ugly. There really is no other way to describe it.
For 4 days on this jaunt, from Manitoba to North-west Ontario, I drove through and photographed this land I love—Canada. It struck me that this doctrine was a pretty wobbly foundation for claiming dominion over the country over the objections of people who inhabited the land before the first Europeans arrived. Later King George III in England claimed a large portion of this land for the English crown in 1763 through a Royal Proclamation, (now called “The Royal Proclamation) but admitted indirectly that the rest of this land, basically all the land west of the Mississippi and outside of land already occupied by Europeans in 1763, belonged to indigenous people. He also said no Europeans could acquire title without acquiring it by way of agreement between the first nations involved and the English crown. All people could then only acquire land from the Crown and were forbidden to buy land directly from indigenous people.
It is also a fundamental principle of English law, inherited by the country of Canada when it became an independent country in 1967, that no one could convey better title to land than he or she had. That has been a fundamental principle of Common law for centuries. So what really is the basis for Canada claiming dominion over this wonderful land? I submit the basis is shaky, except to the extent that title was obtained from the people who owned it by voluntary agreement with them. This is thorny stuff.
Yet as Professor Denis said, “That is really at the root of the Canadian legal system, the American legal system, the Australian legal system, any of those former British colonies.” I taught real estate transactions for 10 years at the Law School, and always felt the legal basis of our title at least when not based on treaties was shaky. Surely just taking it was not enough?
The fact is that Canada realized all along that this root of title in Canada on which it was relying was dubious. It was not a sound basis of developing Canada. Canada needed a firmer legal foundation for its society. Canadian government officials saw how the Americans were struggling with this problem too and basically how they decided to base their claims on power. That is how Americans have traditionally operated. Canadians saw how that led to Indian wars in the United States. They saw how at one time that country was spending 25% of its annual revenue on these Indian wars. Canada thought it could not afford to spend so much as its wealthier neighbour to the south could spend. So, Canada sought a better way. They decided to negotiate treaties with indigenous people as a sounder and firmer foundation for title to the land. Frankly, this made a lot of sense, but there were problems with this approach as well.
The land I drove through on this trip was subject to Treaty No. 1 and Treaty No. 3 the first and third treaties negotiated by the new government of Canada.