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Indigenous Governance

Know Your Rights & Exercise Them.  

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)

The UNDRIP is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s Calls to Action

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) published its final report detailing the experiences and impacts of the residential school system, creating a historical record of its legacy and consequences.

One outcome of the report was a document detailing 94 Calls to Action across a wide range of areas including child welfare, education, health, justice, language and culture.

The Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms

The Charter protects those basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians that are considered essential to preserving Canada as a free and democratic country. It applies to all governments – federal, provincial and territorial – and includes protection of the following:

  • fundamental freedoms, democratic rights
  • the right to live and seek employment anywhere in Canada
  • legal rights (life, liberty and personal security)
  • equality rights for all
  • the official languages of Canada
  • minority language education rights
  • Canada’s multicultural heritage
  • Indigenous peoples’ rights

The rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute. They can be limited to protect other rights or important national values. For example, freedom of expression may be limited by laws against hate propaganda or child pornography.

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  1. freedom of conscience and religion;
  2. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  3. freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  4. freedom of association.

Canadian Bill of Rights

It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

  • (a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

  • (b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

  • (c) freedom of religion;

  • (d) freedom of speech;

  • (e) freedom of assembly and association; and

  • (f) freedom of the press.

Indigenous Law

“Indigenous law exists as a source of law apart from the common and civil legal traditions in Canada. Importantly, Indigenous laws also exist apart from Aboriginal law, though these sources of law are interconnected. Aboriginal law is a body of law, made by the courts and legislatures, that largely deals with the unique constitutional rights of Aboriginal peoples and the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. Aboriginal law is largely found in colonial instruments (such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982 and the Indian Act) and court decisions, but also includes sources of Indigenous law.

“Indigenous law consists of legal orders which are rooted in Indigenous societies themselves. It arises from communities and First Nation groups across the country, such as Nuu Chah Nulth, Haida, Coast Salish, Tsimshian, Heiltsuk, and may include relationships to the land, the spirit world, creation stories, customs, processes of deliberation and persuasion, codes of conduct, rules, teachings and axioms for living and governing.”

–Estella White (Charleson) – Hee Naih Cha Chist

Specific Claims Tribunal Act

It is in the interests of all Canadians that the specific claims of First Nations be addressed;
– resolving specific claims will promote reconciliation between First Nations and the Crown and the development and self-sufficiency of First Nations;
– there is a need to establish an independent tribunal that can resolve specific claims and is designed to respond to the distinctive task of adjudicating such claims in accordance with law and in a just and timely manner;
– the right of First Nations to choose and have access to a specific claims tribunal will create conditions that are appropriate for resolving valid claims through negotiations;
– the Assembly of First Nations and the Government of Canada have worked together on a legislative proposal from the Government of Canada culminating in the introduction of this Act.

First Nations Land Management Act

WHEREAS Her Majesty in right of Canada and a specific group of first nations concluded the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management on February 12, 1996 in relation to the management by those first nations of their lands;

WHEREAS the ratification of the Agreement by Her Majesty requires the enactment of an Act of Parliament;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Indian Act

The Indian Act is a Canadian federal law that governs in matters pertaining to Indian status, bands, and Indian reserves.  
While the Indian Act has undergone numerous amendments since it was first passed in 1876, today it largely retains its original form.
The Indian Act is administered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), formerly the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). The Indian Act is a part of a long history of assimilation policies that intended to terminate the cultural, social, economic, and political distinctiveness of Aboriginal peoples by absorbing them into mainstream Canadian life and values.

First Nations Fiscal Management Act

Whereas the Government of Canada has adopted a policy recognizing the inherent right of self-government as an Aboriginal right and providing for the negotiation of self-government;

Whereas this Act is not intended to define the nature and scope of any right of self-government or to prejudge the outcome of any self-government negotiation;

Whereas the creation of national Aboriginal institutions will assist First Nations that choose to exercise real property taxation jurisdiction on reserve lands;

Whereas economic development through the application of real property tax revenues and other local revenues to support borrowing on capital markets for the development of public infrastructure is available to other governments in Canada;

Whereas real property taxation regimes on reserves should recognize both the interests of on-reserve taxpayers and the rights of members of First Nations communities;

Whereas First Nations led an initiative that resulted in 1988 in an amendment to the Indian Act so that their jurisdiction over real property taxation on reserve could be exercised and the Indian Taxation Advisory Board was created to assist in the exercise of that jurisdiction;

Whereas, in 1995, the First Nations Finance Authority Inc. was incorporated for the purposes of issuing debentures using real property tax revenues and providing investment opportunities;

Whereas, by 1999, First Nations and the Government of Canada recognized the benefits of establishing statutory institutions as part of a comprehensive fiscal management system.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Money Management Act

An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada.

WHEREAS the White Bear, Blood and Siksika First Nations wish to assume control of oil and gas in their reserve lands and related revenues, and control of current and future moneys that would otherwise be held for them by Canada;

WHEREAS those first nations have, since 1994, entered into a series of agreements with the Government of Canada for the co-management of oil and gas in their reserve lands;

WHEREAS the same first nations have participated with the Government of Canada in the development of proposals for legislation for the transfer of control of oil and gas and of moneys held for them;

AND WHEREAS it is recognized that such legislation could also benefit other first nations if they chose to avail themselves of it.

First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act

The First Nations Goods and Services Tax (FNGST) is a tax that may be imposed by a band council or other governing body of a First Nation, to the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act, on the lands that it governs. FNGST at 5% applies to most supplies of property and services made on these lands.

The GST, or the federal part of the HST, does not apply to sales on these First Nations lands.

The FNGST has the same basic rules as the GST/HST. The same property and services that are taxable under the GST/HSTare taxable under the FNGST. The FNGST does not apply to zero-rated or exempt supplies.

The CRA administers the FNGST for the First Nations.

The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

Whereas it is necessary to address certain family law matters on First Nation reserves since provincial and territorial laws that address those matters are not applicable there and since the Indian Act does not address those matters;
Whereas measures are required to provide spouses or common-law patners with rights and remedies during a conjugal relationship, when that relationship breaks down or on the death of a spouse or common-law partner in respect of the use, occupation and possession of family homes on reserves, including exclusive occupation of those homes in cases of family violence, and
the division of the value of any interests or rights that they hold in or to structures and lands on those reserves;
Whereas it is important that, when spouses or common-law partners exercise those rights and seek those remedies, the decision-maker take into account the best interests of the children, including the interest of any child who is a First Nation member to maintain a connection with that First Nation, and be informed by the First Nation with respect to the cultural, social and legal context in the circumstances.

Inherent Rights Policy

The Government of Canada recognizes the inherent right of self-government as an existing Aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It recognizes, as well, that the inherent right may find expression in treaties, and in the context of the Crown’s relationship with treaty First Nations. Recognition of the inherent right is based on the view that the Aboriginal peoples of Canada have the right to govern themselves in relation to matters that are internal to their communities, integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions, and with respect to their special relationship to their land and their resources.

The Government acknowledges that the inherent right of self-government may be enforceable through the courts and that there are different views about the nature, scope and content of the inherent right. However, litigation over the inherent right would be lengthy, costly and would tend to foster conflict. In any case, the courts are likely to provide general guidance to the parties involved, leaving it to them to work out detailed arrangements.

For these reasons, the Government is convinced that litigation should be a last resort. Negotiations among governments and Aboriginal peoples are clearly preferable as the most practical and effective way to implement the inherent right of self-government.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal People

The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) concerns government policy with respect to the original historical nations of this country. Those nations are important to Canada, and how Canada relates to them defines in large measure its sense of justice and its image in its own eyes and before the world.

The RCAP was established by Order in Council on August 26, 1991, and it submitted its report in October 1996.

Contact Us If You Need Help Exercising Your Rights.