Negotiations in Atlantic Canada

Canada has a mandate to negotiate issues of Aboriginal and treaty rights and self-government with Mi'kmaq and Maliseet groups in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspé region of Québec.

Progress report on Aboriginal and Treaty Rights negotiations in the Maritimes and the Gaspésie

In the Marshall decision of September 17, 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) found that the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760-61 affirmed the right of certain Aboriginal groups to provide for their own sustenance by taking the products of their hunting, fishing and gathering activities, and trading them in the pursuit of a "moderate livelihood". This decision potentially affects 34 Mi'kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspésie region of Québec.

Under the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760 and 1761 in the Maritimes, the Mi'kmaq and the Maliseet signatories did not surrender rights to lands or resources. Today, the Mi'kmaq and the Maliseet First Nations maintain that they continue to hold Aboriginal rights and title throughout their traditional territory. Also, the Supreme Court ruling in the Marshall decision confirmed that the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet possess a treaty right to hunt, fish, and gather for a moderate livelihood.

Over the years, the courts have recognized the existence and validity of Aboriginal and treaty rights but have only partially defined the nature and scope of these rights. A consistent theme throughout these decisions has been the need for governments and Aboriginal people to resolve their issues and find a fair and equitable solution through negotiation, rather than litigation.

Canada is discussing Aboriginal and treaty rights and self-government with provincial governments and Mi'kmaq and Maliseet groups in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspésie region of Québec. As a result of these discussions, a number of agreements have been signed and the parties are working on strengthening their relationship, broaching issues of mutual concern and making progress towards addressing outstanding Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Nova Scotia

The Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, the Province of Nova Scotia and Canada signed an Umbrella Agreement on June 7, 2002, and a Framework Agreement on February 23, 2007. The Parties have agreed to enter into a negotiation process which provides a constructive and practical way of addressing the treaty and Aboriginal rights and title of the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia. On August 31, 2010, the Parties also signed the Terms of Reference for a Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Consultation Process which established an orderly process for Crown consultation with the Mi'kmaq. Most recently, in May 2012, the Parties signed the National Parks Interim Arrangement.

The Parties are currently negotiating an Agreement-in-Principle and discussions are in progress on issues related to wildlife, lands, governance and fish.

Prince Edward Island

The Mi'kmaq of Prince Edward Island, the Province of Prince Edward Island and Canada signed a Partnership Agreement on December 1, 2007 which strengthens their relationship and establishes a tripartite process to address issues of mutual concern such as education, health, child and family services, justice and economic development.

In August 2012, a Consultation Agreement was signed by all Parties establishing an orderly process for Crown consultations with the Mi'kmaq.

Gaspésie

In September 2008, the Mi'gmaq of Québec, the Province of Québec and Canada signed the Niganita'suatas'gl Ilsutagann Agreement (NI).  The NI is an Umbrella Agreement which establishes a results-oriented process to discuss issues of mutual concern with a view of reaching a Framework Agreement.  In June 2012, the parties signed a Consultation Agreement which establishes a streamlined, one-window process through which federal and provincial governments can consult the Mi'gmaq in Québec.

New Brunswick

The Mi'kmaq and Maliseet of New Brunswick, the Province of New Brunswick and Canada are involved in tripartite exploratory discussions. These discussions are currently focused on setting up a tripartite process that would address issues of mutual concern, including Aboriginal and treaty rights and self-government.

Looking forward

Canada is committed to addressing its treaty obligations and any other potential rights that may continue to exist. Negotiation is the most practical and constructive means to achieve this and help build a new relationship between Government, First Nations people and Atlantic Canadians.

Negotiating treaty rights, at the same time as Aboriginal rights and title, creates a unique situation. There is no model or a generic approach to follow on how to proceed in these negotiations. They take time and can only succeed through understanding, good will and cooperation on all sides.

Together, we have to develop approaches and agreements in each province that provide clarity to Aboriginal and treaty rights and lead to the long-term goal of empowering First Nations, enhancing their capacity to manage their own affairs, and improving their economic outcomes.

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