Land Claims or Treaty Land Entitlement
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 decreed that First Nations
should not be disturbed in their use and enjoyment of the land.
It also declared that only the Crown could acquire land from
Aboriginal peoples, and only through treaty-making. The Royal
Proclamation set the framework for negotiation based on
co-operation rather than conquest.
Treaty making soon became the main mechanism for defining the
relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians. The
last of the historical treaties was signed in 1923. At that
time, the federal government made it a criminal offence for
Aboriginal peoples to hire a lawyer to pursue land claims settlements.
As a result, 100 years after the signing of Treaty 8, there
is a large and ever expanding debate over land, jurisdiction and
borders. Consequently, many issues remain around the
decision-making process that effectively ceded huge amounts of
land to the Crown and, as a result, the issues surrounding the
authority and the upholding of those old agreements tend to
From the Aboriginal peoples perspective, even the semantics
of these debates are important. Many Aboriginal groups prefer to use
the term "Land Entitlement" as opposed to "Land Claims". The
rationale being that the word "claim" infers a desire to take
possession of something that is not of your ownership, and that
the word "entitlement" infers that possession is not a question,
it is a right.
In Canada, the Federal Government negotiates three types of claims. These are:
- Comprehensive Claims
These are claims on land known to have been the
traditional territory of Aboriginal peoples. Traditional land has been
recognized as having Aboriginal Title by Canadian law in a royal
proclamation guaranteeing that such Traditional lands would not be
interfered with by the Crown unless consent of the Aboriginal peoples
involved was first granted. Comprehensive Claims are those negotiated by
the federal government based on Aboriginal Title.
- Specific Claims
These are claims based on cases where the
Provincial of Federal Government allegedly violated a specific legal
obligation to an Aboriginal community set out in a treaty, statute or
common law. These claims are based on illegal expropriation of Aboriginal
lands, breach of trust, fraud committed by government or an agent acting
on its behalf, failure to implement promises made in a treaty or any other
agreement or any other violation of Canadian law.
- Special Claims
These are claims that do not directly fit
into the Specific or Comprehensive claims process' but are still valid
For more information on First Nations Land Claims and Entitlement
issues, please check out some of the websites listed below:
First Peoples on
Schoolnet: An online guide to First Nations resources on the web
including cultural, political, social and educational groups
Aboriginal Claims in Canada:
Online guide to resources available at the University of Alberta
regarding land claims issues, includes searchable database
- Indian Claims Commission:
Independent body set up to help First Nations and the federal government settle
claims. Full of information on how to conduct inquiries into claims when the government has breached an agreement, treaty or statute, such as the Indian Act.
Canada Portal: Guide to Canadian Aboriginal on-line resources, contacts, information, and government programs and services. The portal offers ease of access and navigation to listings of Aboriginal associations, businesses, organizations, bands, communities, groups, news and peoples