Fact Sheet: Aboriginal Self-Government

The long history and rich culture of Aboriginal people in Canada not only help define our national identity but also shape our social and economic well-being. Fostering good government and strong accountability in Aboriginal communities helps to increase investor confidence, support economic partnerships and improve living conditions.

Self-government agreements are one means of building sound governance and institutional capacity that allow Aboriginal communities to contribute to, and participate in, the decisions that affect their lives and carry out effective relationships with other governments. Self-government agreements give Aboriginal groups greater control and law-making authority over a comprehensive range of jurisdictions, including governance, social and economic development, education, health, lands and more.

Lands and resources under the control of these Aboriginal governments are more attractive to investors, and this facilitates partnerships between Aboriginal governments, other governments and the private sector. As a result, greater prosperity for Aboriginal people and a more promising future for all Canadians may be achieved. Learn more about the benefits of self-government.

Concluded Agreements

In collaboration with its negotiation partners, Canada has signed 21 self-government agreements recognizing a wide range of Aboriginal jurisdictions that involve 35 Aboriginal communities across Canada. Of those, 18 are part of a comprehensive land claim agreement (modern treaty). These figures include the Yale Final Agreement, the Tla’amin Final Agreement and the Sioux Valley Final Agreement which have been signed, but are not yet in effect.

In addition to the comprehensive self-government agreements referred to above, other forms of governance or self-government have been negotiated and implemented in Canada. One example is the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, a comprehensive land claim agreement where self-government aspirations are expressed through public government. This self-government is unique due to the fact that the Nunavut government represents all the people residing in the territory.

Another example is the Cree in Quebec. Since the enactment of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act in 1984, the nine Cree communities are not subject to the Indian Act. As such, the Cree community governments and the Cree Regional Authority manage a land regime, participate in an environmental and social protection regime and partner with various entities in economic development opportunities. Currently, negotiations are ongoing with the Cree Regional Authority to finalize a Cree Nation Governance Agreement, which would build upon the current governance arrangements.

Another form of self-government is sectoral negotiations, where only one or two jurisdictions are negotiated with an Aboriginal group. Examples of sectoral education negotiations include the Mi’kmaq Education Partnership in Nova Scotia and ongoing negotiations in British Columbia. A band can use the First Nation Land Management Regime to leave the Indian Act and take control of land management. The Regime accelerates First Nations' ability to manage their lands more effectively and efficiently than under the Indian Act.

Negotiation Tables

Currently there are about 90 self-government negotiation tables across the country. These tables are at various stages of the negotiation process and in most cases are being negotiated in conjunction with comprehensive land claims. Explore this map or consult this list of negotiation tables to learn more about these negotiations.

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.

Canada remains committed to working with its partners to achieve results at negotiating tables for the benefit of all Canadians.

Good Governance

New self-government arrangements support the achievement of "good governance" – governance that is participatory, accountable, responsive, efficient and effective, transparent and that operates by the rule of law. Research, both domestic and international, points to good governance as being a critical component of achieving strong, healthy communities.

For self-government agreements to be effective, they need to address, among other things, the structure of the new government and its relationship with other governments, new fiscal arrangements, the relationship of laws between jurisdictions, program and service delivery, and implementation planning.

Accountability

Self-government agreements establish Aboriginal governments that are primarily responsible to their citizens, as well as establish a framework for intergovernmental relationships between the Aboriginal, federal and, where applicable, provincial governments. Accountability commitments are features of all of these relationships.

Agreements must address the need to strengthen key elements of governance, including fiscal and management regimes. They must also promote governance systems with the capacity, size, resources and legitimacy to provide effective governance, positioning Aboriginal communities to pursue opportunities for economic development.

While much has been done to ensure self-government agreement provisions address these fundamental needs, the Government of Canada acknowledges it must continue to collaborate with its agreement partners to strengthen its approach to treaty implementation.