Background Content

Call to Action # 47: Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation (45-47)

The Doctrine of Discovery: First Peoples Law Report

March 22, 2024

TVO: NDN POV – Check out TVO Today’s video on the Doctrine of Discovery with Bruce McIvor, Pamela Palmater and the Honourable Harry S. LaForme  

What is the Doctrine of Discovery and how does it continue to impact Indigenous peoples today?

From its roots in European settler colonialism to its widespread adoption and application, the Doctrine of Discovery has shaped the course of history. It has been used as a justification for the imposition of colonial laws on Indigenous peoples and the taking of Indigenous lands.

This video digs into the concept’s roots, from its origins as arcane religious law in the papal bulls, to how it continues to influence Canadian law today. NDN POV takes a sharp and unflinching look at key and sometimes controversial issues through the eyes of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:10 The doctrine of discovery is evil
  • 00:29 What is the doctrine of discovery?
  • 01:05 The origin of the doctrine of discovery
  • 01:15 What is a papal bull?
  • 01:37 What is terra nullius?
  • 01:55 How the papal bulls have affected Indigenous peoples
  • 02:12 How did the papal bulls become legal doctrine?
  • 02:34 Johnson v. McIntosh goes before the US supreme court (1823)
  • 03:13 A legal principle between European Nations
  • 03:35 Three constitutional cases in Canada that you need to know about
  • 03:42 St. Catharines Milling and Lumber Co. v. R. (1888)
  • 04:03 Calder et al. v. Attorney-General of British Columbia (1967)
  • 04:28 Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia (2014)
  • 04:44 The Supreme Court denounced terra nullius but that’s not the whole story
  • 05:47 The Catholic Church rescinds the papal bulls
  • 06:40 Is the battle really with the papal bulls?
  • 07:06 Indigenous history ends up being denied and devalued.
  • 07:50 Canada has intentionally chosen to commit acts of genocide