Comprehensive land claims deal with the unfinished business of treaty-making in Canada. These claims generally arise in areas of Canada where Aboriginal land rights have not been dealt with by treaty or through other legal means.
In these areas, forward-looking agreements (also called "modern treaties") are negotiated between the Aboriginal group, Canada and the province or territory.
These treaties are implemented through legislation and remain the most comprehensive way of addressing Aboriginal rights and title. Achieving more treaties remains a critical piece in achieving lasting certainty and true reconciliation.
This includes certainty about the ownership, use and management of land and resources for all parties. Some treaties have also included provisions relating to Aboriginal self-government. The rights set out in the treaties receive constitutional protection.
Since 1973, Canada and its negotiation partners have signed 26 comprehensive land claims and three self-government agreements. Of the 26 signed agreements, 18 included provisions related to self-government.
These settlements have provided:
- Aboriginal ownership over 600,000 km² of land (almost the size of Manitoba)
- Capital transfers of over $3.2 billion
- Protection of traditional ways of life
- Access to resource development opportunities
- Participation in land and resources management decisions
- Certainty with respect to Aboriginal land rights in approximately 40 per cent of Canada's land mass
- Associated self-government rights and political recognition
Evolving Legal Landscape
Since 1982, numerous Supreme Court of Canada decisions have informed the Government of Canada's understanding of the nature of Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The courts have stated that the underlying purpose of section 35 is the reconciliation of the pre-existence of Aboriginal societies with the assertion of sovereignty of the Crown, and that negotiation represents the best approach to advancing reconciliation.
Negotiating Tables Across Canada
As of March 2014, there are about 100 comprehensive land claim and self-government negotiation tables across the country. These tables are at various stages of the negotiation process.
Ongoing Work with Partners to Accelerate Progress
To respond to calls for change, Canada is working with partners to accelerate progress in comprehensive land claim and self-government negotiations in a manner that is more equitable, sustainable and that better enables economic development for Aboriginal groups.
This includes ongoing work with partners to improve processes and policies in the area of comprehensive claims and self-government negotiations, along with a renewed focus on results-based negotiations.
The goal is to work together in a more streamlined way, finalize agreements and reach the finish line faster so that Aboriginal communities can have access to and invest their settlement dollars.
Since 2006, Canada and its negotiation partners have signed six comprehensive land claims (modern treaties) agreements and one self-government agreement. Of the six signed comprehensive land claim agreements, four included provisions related to self-government.