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Crown-Indigenous relationship overview


  1. Provide an overview of Indigenous rights and how they pertain to your mandate
  2. Outline departmental initiatives and programs supporting Indigenous rights and relationships

Aboriginal and Treaty rights are the foundation of the Government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples…

“The existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed” -Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982

Aboriginal and treaty rights are:

Note: Government of Canada guidance recommends the use of “Aboriginal” in titles, quotes, official names, legal matters or when referring to matters in the context of Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

… and give rise to duties and responsibilities that must be upheld.

Government is subject to the constitutional duty to consult and accommodate, and the requirement to justify any infringements of rights.

Duty to consult

Where the Crown contemplates conduct that might have an adverse impact on established or potential Aboriginal or treaty rights, it has a legal duty to consult with those Indigenous groups who hold (or potentially hold) those rights, and, where appropriate, accommodate their interests or concerns.

Duty to justify infringements of rights

Where legislation, its implementation or other government action infringes an Aboriginal or treaty right, the infringement must be justified in accordance with the test set out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

DFO and the Coast Guard have an important relationship with Indigenous peoples…

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for:

Fisheries in Canada are…

Spotlight: Coast Guard

The Coast Guard works in partnership with Indigenous coastal communities to ensure marine safety. In particular, some Indigenous communities play a key role in the Coast Guard Auxiliary by responding to emergencies in their local waters.

… that has been shaped by court decisions and treaty obligations.

Court decisions:

See Annex A for more information on foundational court decisions

Treaty obligations:

See Annexes B and C for more information on historic and modern treaties

DFO and Coast Guard’s relationships with Indigenous peoples have changed over time…

From a relationship built on responding to rights recognized through court decisions related to fisheries…

… to proactively building relationships that enable the expression of rights and interests across a wider array of portfolio activities.

… and have a strong regional and operational dimension.





The department has a range of tools to support renewed relationships and partnerships

Indigenous programs

Includes a range of programs such as the Atlantic, Pacific, and Northern Integrated Fisheries Initiatives and the new Indigenous Habitat Protection Program.

Policy and legislation

Encompasses legislative reviews, policy initiatives, and specific decisions that may affect Aboriginal and Treaty rights and interests.

Treaty negotiations

Generally address issues such as Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC); commercial fisheries; and, oceans management.

Non-treaty negotiations

Includes tools such as self-determination discussions and agreements; Incremental Treaty Agreements; and, litigation- related negotiations.

Engagement / Consultation

Touches on fisheries management plans and activities; marine safety and emergency response; science; fisheries and habitat protection; and marine use planning.

Key areas of work moving forward

Spotlight: Indigenous expectations

DFO is seeking to deliver results in the context of high expectations from Indigenous peoples for increased and diversified economic opportunities and a greater role in decision-making and management activities, including:

Annex A: Key foundational court decisions relevant to fisheries

Canadian courts have found key Aboriginal rights related to fisheries.

Right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes

Right to fish for commercial purposes (in specific circumstances)

Annex B: Map of “Historic Treaties” (pre-1975)


Treaties outlined on the map include both Pre-Confederation Treaties and Post-Confederation Treaties.

  • Pre-Confederation Treaties include:
    • Peace and Friendship Treaties – covers the Maritimes and Gaspé region of Quebec
    • Southern Ontario Treaties – area above Lake Ontario, and between Lake Huron and Erie
    • Robinson Treaties – spans Southern Ontario, along the north of Lake Superior and Lake Huron
    • Douglas Treaties – on Vancouver Island
  • Post-Confederation Treaties include:
    • Numbered Treaties – cover the area between the Lake of the Woods (northern Ontario, southern Manitoba) to the Rocky Mountains (northeastern British Columbia and interior Plains of Alberta) to the Beaufort Sea (north of Yukon and the Northwest Territories).
    • Williams Treaties – stretches from northern shore of Lake Ontario to Lake Nipissing

Annex C: Map of Comprehensive Land Claim Agreements and Self-Government Agreements (“Modern Treaties”)


The map shows the boundaries of comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements between First Nations and the Canadian government since 1973. These are:

  • Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2005)
  • Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2008)
  • Nunavut Land Claim Agreement (1993)
  • James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1997) and the Northern Quebec Agreement (1978)
  • Cree Nation Governance Agreement (2018)
  • Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement (2012)
  • Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Self-Government Agreement (2014)
  • Westbank First Nations Self-Government Agreement (2005)
  • Sechelt Indian Band Self-Government Act (1986)
  • Tla’amin Nation Final Agreement (2016)
  • Tsawwassen First Nations Final Agreement (2009)
  • Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement (2011)
  • Nisga’a Final Agreement (2000)
  • Tlicho Agreement (2005)
  • Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1994)
  • Déline - Sahtu Dene and Métis - Self-Government Agreement (2016)
  • Inuvialuit Final Agreement/Western Arctic Claim (1984)
  • Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claims Agreement (1992)
  • Carcross/Tagish First Nations Final Agreement (2006)
  • Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Final Agreement (1995)
  • First Nations of Nacho Nyak Dun Final Agreement (1995)
  • Kluane First Nation Final Agreement (2004)
  • Kwanlin Dun First Nation Final Agreement (2005)
  • Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation Final Agreement (1997)
  • Selkirk First Nation Final Agreement (1997)
  • Ta'an Kwach'an Council Final Agreement (2002)
  • Teslin Tlingit Council Final Agreement (1995)
  • Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Final Agreement (1998)
  • Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Final Agreement (1992)
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