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I am an adjunct professor of anthropology, a long-time advisor for several major First Nations organizations, and a consultant for Industry Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage. I have been interested and concerned about the link between domestic Copyright legislation and aboriginal intangible property rights. These complex issues are well known by several highly informed bureaucrats in the Canadian government, and have been the subject of intense scrutiny at WIPO. In the Canadian context, there is a significant rub between Canada's policy on the inherent right to self-government (which states that Intellectual Property, along with other law-making powers of national interests) must be the sole jurisdiction of Canada, not one that self-determining First Nations may have jurisdictions over. Aboriginal communities from Coast to Coast to Coast, however, have long had a suite of intangible property systems, practices and in some cases laws. These aboriginal intangible property laws, I believe, are the kinds of aboriginal governance rights that s.35 of the constitution refer to.
They are the kind of customary law systems that WIPO IGC has been considering as a critical means for protecting indigenous intangible properties from unwanted exploitation and commercialization. it is imperative that at this unique moment when Canadian copyright legislation is being reformed that a space be made for the continued recognition by Canada of aboriginal intangible property rights. While revisions to the Canadian Copyright Act must not provide highly proscriptive solutions for protecting aboriginal intangible properties, they must provide some broad language that makes a clear legislative space for an opening to aboriginal governance over these matters. The opening can include the possibility of collective aboriginal property rights in distinctly traditional aboriginal works (such as folklore), for which the Copyright system offers aboriginal communities little practical benefit as collective property rights. The details of the governance of these aboriginal intangible property rights can be worked out in the land claims and self-government agreements being negotiated between Canada and the various aboriginal communities asserting their rights to self-government. This opening would, I believe, put Canada in a leading position on continuing to give practical effect to the recognition of aboriginal rights — in this case aboriginal intangible property rights — in the Canadian constitution.
Thank you for considering this submission to the Copyright consultation.