Call to Action # 47

We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

Why “Not Started”

In 2020 alone, the federal government along with 9 provinces – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador – have all initiated actions against the acknowledgement and acceptance of Aboriginal Rights and Title including the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius i.e. Aboriginal Rights and Title and Indigenous laws and traditions are secondary to provincial ownership and control of resource extraction. (See Perspectives: IW Status Updates Nov. 9, 2020 Part 1-Current Problems and Issues)

Not a lot of progress on this C2A within any jurisdiction although the federal government has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius through Minister of Crown Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May, 2017. No formal, legislative repudiation, however, or details on how governments(s) will reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

July 27, 2022: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops asks Vatican to issue statement on the Doctrine of Discovery that they (CCAB) repudiated on March 19, 2016 when they issued “The “Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius: A Catholic Response“. The problem is that the CCAB is not the Vatican and their renunciation has no weight to influence the government’s continued reliance on both concepts to justify Canadian legal jurisdiction over Indigenous lands.  Even the Supreme Court has declared that Aboriginal title existed before Canada existed. A renunciation of both concepts from the Vatican would bring considerably more weight to bear on governments all over the world who have displaced Indigenous people from their lands.

Current Status

December 2, 2022

Not Started

Previous Status

October 16, 2022

Not Started

Latest Updates


Actions and Commitments


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Land Acknowledgement

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Review of Laws and Policies

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Background Content


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Calls for Queen to apologize

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What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

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