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Perspectives - Government

Alexander Mackenzie

The Government of Canada and the Courts understand treaties between the Crown and Aboriginal people to be solemn agreements that set out promises, obligations, and benefits for both parties.

From Treaties with Aboriginal People in Canada [Online], Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, July 2003

In 1877, the young Dominion of Canada was going through the growing pains of a new nation. It needed room to grow, and as far as the Dominion Government at the time was concerned, unlimited First Nations presence in the vast Northwest Territories was a hindrance to dreams of expansion. As with all the treaties that came before and after it, in the government’s perspective Treaty 7 was a means of peacefully acquiring the rights for land use from those who were already occupying the land. Moreover, the treaty was a means of defining and establishing the ongoing relationship that the First Nations peoples and the Dominion were to have with each other.

The historical perspective with which the Canadian government entered treaty making with the First Nations Peoples has carried over into present day policy making. The federal government still upholds the numbered treaties as law and still defends them as official legal documents. The government sees the treaties as carrying the weight of obligation and rights for all parties involved, recognizing the rights not only of First Nations People to the land, but also all federal and provincial government bodies and non-Aboriginal citizens of Canada. Treaty 7, along with other treaties, is a document that helps to set boundaries for the socio-political relationship between First Nations People and other Canadians.

The government sees the treaty relationship as an evolving one that is still in the process of being re-examined and redefined. Treaty 7, as with other historic treaties, is seen as a key guide to building an ongoing relationship with First Nations Peoples.  

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