It is generally assumed in Canada that native liberty and crown sovereignty are antagonistic and mutually exclusive forces. In this penetrating study, Bruce Clark shows that they are in fact complementary. The British government exercised its sovereignty in the eighteenth century in order to protect the liberty of the natives of Canada to continue governing themselves. Clark argues that this recognition continues to bind federal and provincial governments constitutionally, even though these governments habitually flout the law in practice.
The cornerstone of Clark's argument is the 1763 Royal Proclamation which forbade non-natives under British authority to molest or disturb any tribe or tribal territory in British North America. Clark contends that this proclamation had legislative force and that, since imperial law on this matter has never been repealed, the right to self-government continues to exist for Canadian natives.