Western Law professor Michael Coyle along with Prof. John Borrows from the University of Minnesota co-chaired a national colloquium on the legal implications of historical treaty making in Canada. The day-long colloquium was sponsored by a grant received by Coyle from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council. The colloquium was held in conjunction with the Indigenous Bar Association conference on October 7-9, “Peace, Friendship & Respect: A Critical Examination of the Honour of the Crown on the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation and the Treaty of Niagara”. One of the main speakers of the IBA conference was Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The event was attended by some 130 scholars, judges, lawyers and students.
The event explored the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the resulting Treaty of Niagara, which is a foundational agreement in Canada’s constitution. The conference focused on various contemporary issues including the appropriate legal remedies for treaty implementation, the role of international law and indigenous legal traditions in relation to the development of treaty lands and resources, and the contemporary legal relationship between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples.
Coyle’s SSHRC research grant work focuses on the Canadian courts’ lack of a coherent set of rules in relation to the ability of treaty signatories to hold each other to account for breaches of treaty promises. His work explores the possible normative foundations of a principled legal framework for the civil enforcement of treaties. In particular, his research examines Aboriginal treaties as examples of a new institution of law intended to govern the interaction of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal governments. The foundational premises of that new institution, Coyle argues, have certain necessary implications for the legal obligations created by treaties as well as the procedural framework within which treaty enforcement may be pursued.
Coyle’s SSHRC grant has allowed him to bring scholars such as John Borrows from the University of Minnesota, Jean Leclair from U of Montreal, Sara Seck from Western Law, Mark Walters from Queens and other leading scholars to discuss how the law might reimagine the remedies for breach of Crown-First Nation treaties.