UBC Theses and Dissertations
Canada and U.S. public policy on aboriginal land claims 1960-1988 : Alaska and British Columbia compared Bryant, Michael J.
This thesis provides a comparison of the public policy outcomes in Alaska and B.C. in the area of native land claims. In both Canada and the United States, native land claims are filed by aboriginal groups seeking recognition of aboriginal title, and/or compensation for land taken by the state. The goal of an aboriginal group making a land claim is to achieve settlement with the state. For both nations, settlement has historically meant anything from the trading of beads and blankets for huge tracts of land, through the allocation of millions to billions of dollars to aboriginal peoples, to elaborate profit-sharing schemes between natives and industry. American Indians have been more successful, compared with their Canadian brethren, in achieving fair settlements over time. Alaska and British Columbia provide two contemporary examples of this phenomenon: in Alaska, the native people achieved settlement for their enormous land claim in 1972; in British Columbia, 19 native land claims, filed since 1976, remain stagnant as the governments of Canada and British Columbia refuse to negotiate a settlement with Canadian aboriginals. Why was there settlement in Alaska, while in B.C. there appears no settlement in sight.? The goal of the thesis is to provide an explanation as to why the policy outcomes in British Columbia and Alaska are divergent. The method of investigation involves the testing of a series of "independent variables" -- public opinion, environment, pluralism, statism, and structural marxism -- that explain policy outcomes. Each explanation will be measured for its significance, and will be ranked at the end of the thesis in terms of its importance in explaining the "dependent variable", or policy outcome. The results of the comparison offer a primarily structural marxist argument, with interrelated statist concerns also playing a pivotal role in the final policy outcome. This thesis argues that, in explaining the divergence in Canadian and American policies concerning aboriginal land claims, the interests of business and state actors transcend institutional constraints, as well as non-political and cultural forces. Nonetheless, the significant native population in Alaska, together with the Alaskan native political efforts, serve as important causes of the policy outcome. One finds that state action by governmental actors, together with the state's protection of the capitalist interest, led to the settlement of native land claims in Alaska. These ingredients are absent in British Columbia, thereby explaining the divergent Canadian policy which rejects the settlement of the 19 outstanding B.C. native land claims filed since 1976.
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