UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Kymlicka and the aboriginal right Sandford, Christie


This thesis is concerned with two central questions. The first is theoretical and asks, "Can a direct appeal be made to the foundational principles of liberalism to support collective rights?" The second question is practical and asks: "Would such a defense serve the interests of contemporary Canadian Aboriginal claims to special constitutionally recognized collective rights known as the Aboriginal Right?" I utilize Will Kymlicka's defense of minority rights as the theoretical framework in assessing this first question and in assessing the latter, I refer to various reported Aboriginal conceptions of the so-called Aboriginal Right which have been formalized by Aboriginal people themselves through constitutional addresses, Royal Commission hearings, discussion papers and legal claims. Part I of the thesis involves an enquiry into the nature of the revisions that Kymlicka proposes to make to liberal theory, and asks whether, in making such changes, he is able to retain identification with the so-called "modern" liberals, with whom Kymlicka identifies himself, and consistently defend the kind of group minority rights of the sort actually being claimed in Canadian society today. I conclude that Kymlicka argument fails in two respects: it fails to do the work required of it by modern liberals and it ultimately fails to do the work required by the standards of Kymlicka own theory. In Part II, I argue that even if it were theoretically possible to protect the good of culture in the way that Kymlicka hopes, such a defense of collective rights fails in the most important respect: that is, it cannot do the work required of it by the Aboriginal people for whom it was designed.

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