Legal scholar says Canada 'absolutely' exists on stolen Indigenous land despite Trudeau sidestepping question

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not provide a clear answer when asked Monday if he believes Canada exists on stolen Indigenous land – but a legal scholar says the answer is obvious.

“Absolutely,” said Sylvia McAdam, a law professor at the University of Windsor who is from nēhīyaw Nation in Saskatchewan. "It wouldn't be to their benefit to admit it outright, though."

CTV News put the question to Trudeau after a group of boisterous singers and drummers chanted “Canada is all Indian land!” as he made his way into the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Powwow Arbour to mark the one year anniversary of the confirmation of 215 suspected unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

"Canada is a country that consists of Indigenous people who've been here for millennia who welcomed in settlers, in some cases, and were overrun by settlers in others,” Trudeau said in his response.

McAdam said Europeans claimed what is now called Canada under the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of decrees from 15th century popes that granted them the right to so-called ‘undiscovered’ lands.

"It's more accurate to call them invaders because they came here specifically looking for land and resources and gold and riches,” she said of early settlers.

One of the 94 Calls to Action that came from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on Canada to “Repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery.”

The United Nations has also called on all nations to reject the Doctrine of Discovery and similar decrees.

"The non-Indigenous people are here to stay. They've developed a human right to be here,” said McAdam. “So that brings the conversation to what is the reparation and compensation for Indigenous peoples."

It’s not clear if that’s a conversation Trudeau or the federal government is willing to have.

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