Pikangikum First Nation moves to restore Anishinaabe law after landmark court ruling
Judge says court is obliged to "consult deeply" with Pikangikum about administration of justice
Pikangikum First Nation in northwestern Ontario says Ontario and Canada must act immediately on an October court ruling and negotiate a return to Anishinaabe law in the remote community.
In a ruling about equality rights for women in Pikangikum, Justice David Gibson wrote that it is in the best interest of the Crown "to consult deeply with the community about the administration of justice in Pikangikum."
The First Nation wrote to the federal and provincial attorney generals on Oct. 20 asking for that consultation to begin.
"It is true that in the span of my Grandmother's lifetime we went from a healthy, self-sufficient community to one struggling with mental health, addictions and crime, made worse by the endless obstacles we face in developing our economy," Chief Dean Owen said in a statement released along with the letter.
"This is not news to me. I have seen it. We live and cope with this reality every single day," Owen said. "Colonization has devastated our people and the current challenges are a result."
Owen provided testimony during the court case about the teachings his grandmother had passed on about traditional Anishinaabe laws and governance in Pikangikum.
"Being forced to adopt the ways of others was not what our ancestors intended when they entered into Treaty with the Queen," Owen said.
Reconciliation vs. decolonization
The lawyer who represented Pikangikum as an intervenor in the court case said the decision "has really energized the leadership to get going on this now."
"We speak a lot in this country about reconciliation, but what we don't talk about is decolonization," said Luke Hildebrand. "I think this decision opens that door to start doing that work and reclaiming Anishinaabe systems that served people well for thousands of years, well before settler laws came to govern."
Pikangikum has already identified representatives from the community to work with Ontario and Canada on a "Pikangikum-led" task force to work on a plan to implement changes, Owen said in the letter.
The court ruling "requires immediate attention. We urge you not to turn away from this truth," the chief wrote. "It's an opportunity to renew the Treaty relationship. Let's get to work."
Hildebrand said both governments have acknowledged receipt of the letter but the community has yet to receive a formal reply.