Treaties and Land Claims

Island Lake - OMAZINIBII’IGEG (Indigenous Art Collective)

Current Reality

As the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms in Article 28:

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.
  2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

First Nations have less than 0.2 per cent of all their traditional lands as reserve lands, and preserving the integrity of those collective lands has been identified as a priority by many First Nations. The Indian Act also serves to protect—at least to some extent—from interference by the provinces. This is another major concern of First Nations who know that Indian Act abolishment, without other legal protections in place, means that their lands would be under provincial jurisdiction and vulnerable to the provincial governments’ voracious extraction and development appetites.

Pam Palmater, “Abolishing the Indian Act means eliminating First Nations’ Rights. Maclean’s. Oct. 10, 2019

All these laws – C-38, C-45, C-51, C-27 – were not written to respect the recognition of rights and title but are based on the termination of rights and title….In addition to those laws, there has to be a separate and equally important process to change policies that also need to be re-written: the Comprehensive Claims policy, the Specific Claims policy, the Additions to Reserve policy, the Inherent Right to Self-Government policy. All of these are based on termination of rights and title, not recognition of rights and title. There needs to be a process and a plan for that policy work to happen, and it has to be done together.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations, AFN General Assembly, July 25, 2017

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