Fact Sheet: Comprehensive Land Claims

Comprehensive 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 modern treaties are negotiated between the Aboriginal group, Canada and the province or territory.

These modern treaties are enshrined in legislation and provide a clear, certain and long-lasting definition of land rights for all Canadians. This includes certainty about the ownership, use and management of land and natural 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, 26 comprehensive land claims and 3 stand-alone self-government agreements have been concluded and are being implemented. Of the 26 concluded claims, 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 future 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

Learn more about the economic benefits of modern treaties.

Evolving Legal Landscape

Since 1982, over 40 Supreme Court of Canada decisions have informed the Government of Canada's understanding of the nature of Section 35 of the Constitution Act. The courts have stated that the underlying purpose of s. 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 achieving reconciliation.

Negotiating Tables Across Canada

As of March 2014, there are about 100 active self-government and comprehensive land claim negotiation tables across the country. These tables are at various stages of the negotiation process. Review these key general statistics about negotiating tables. Explore this map or consult this list of negotiation tables to learn more about these negotiations.

It has taken, on average, 15 years to reach a final agreement. Review this graph showing average negotiation times.

To respond to past calls for change and build on new opportunities, Canada plans to work with its negotiating partners on a results-based approach to treaty and self-government negotiations. The goal is to find a more streamlined way to conclude more agreements in less time, for the benefit of all Canadians.

This website also includes information on the British Columbia treaty process, the Atlantic negotiation process, and negotiations and agreements in the Northwest Territories.

Updated: September 2012