A Synopsis of Flanagan’s First Nations Second Thoughts?


Chapter 5: Bands, Tribes, or Nations?

Flanagan extrapolates on word ‘nation’ in history and discusses its semantics in politics. There are conceptual distinctions between definitions of ‘nations’ and the word must be interpreted in its context for meaning. The term ‘nation’ in Quebec has been reworded to mean ‘distinct society’, for example. The nation of Quebec and the nation of Aboriginals threaten Canadian sovereignty. Words like nation and sovereignty must be tactfully used. The Aboriginal ‘Nations’ are referred to in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 yet in the Indian Act of 1876 the ‘band’ not the ‘nation’ is the unit of organization under law. First Nations is symbolic semantics. Is there a Métis nation as Riel espoused? Is there one pan-Arab nation? How can Aboriginals have a nation without the strife of the Arab nations? Flanagan outlines five criteria for a nation that several American theorists use (“and that Canadians could use as well”). 1) Civilization: aboriginals reject the distinction between civilization and savagery. 2) Significance: the group’s size must be substantial in order to achieve international recognition. 3) Territory: aboriginals have reserves but they are dependent on federal transfer payments. 4) Solidarity: collective action and united leadership is not present in the aboriginal community. 5) Sovereignty: the people of Canada will accept a murky concept of aboriginal sovereignty. The majority of Canadians are not willing to endorse a clearly stated theory of aboriginal sovereignty and want to preserve the integrity of the Canadian state. This Aboriginal sovereignty is paradoxical to Quebec nationhood under a certain definition.

The Flanagan Factor: The European concept of nation does not properly describe aboriginal tribal communities. Unless we want to turn Canada into a modern version of the Ottoman Empire, there can be only one political community at the highest level – one nation – in Canada. Subordinate communities, such as provinces, cities, and ethnic or religious groups, cannot be nations.

DISCLAIMER: Professor Nerdster Does NOT Agree With Tom Flanagan’s views in the slightest. It is better to get those views out in the open and understand them, rather than not address the criticism of this influential academic. 

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