On the East Coast, Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed with Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy First Nations prior to 1779. Treaties are solemn agreements that set out long-standing promises, mutual obligations and benefits for both parties. The British Crown first began entering into treaties to end hostilities and encourage cooperation between the British and First Nations. As the British and French competed for control of North America, treaties were also strategic alliances which could make the difference between success and failure for European powers.
Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal people of Canada, including the Peace and Friendship Treaties. This means that since 1982 treaty rights are protected by Canada's Constitution.
The following two Maritime Peace and Friendship Treaties contain treaty rights that have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Starting in 1701, in what was to eventually become Canada, the British Crown entered into treaties to encourage peaceful relations between First Nations and non-Aboriginal people. Some treaties, like the Peace and Friendship treaties in the Maritimes, were to end hostilities and encourage cooperation between the British and First Nations.
Others, like the Upper Canada Treaties (1764 to 1862), Vancouver Island (Douglas) Treaties (1850 to 1854) and Numbered Treaties in Ontario, across the Prairies, as well as parts of the Northwest Territories (1871 to 1921), involved First Nations ceding or surrendering their rights to the land in exchange for a variety of benefits. These benefits included such things as reserve lands, farming equipment and animals, annual payments, ammunition, clothing and certain rights to hunt and fish.
Unlike later treaties signed in other parts of Canada, the Peace and Friendship Treaties did not involve First Nations surrendering rights to the lands and resources they had traditionally used and occupied.
The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Mi'kmaq and Maliseet First Nations continue to have treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather towards earning a moderate livelihood. These treaty rights must be implemented. Along with these treaty rights, First Nations maintain that they continue to hold Aboriginal rights and title throughout their traditional territory. This creates a special situation unlike any other found in Canada. There is no model or generic approach to follow on how to proceed in these negotiations. All parties must be prepared to consider how to devise a negotiation process which meets everyone's circumstances, needs and interests.
This will be up to the parties to determine through negotiations. Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights and this includes the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the Maritimes and Gaspé region of Quebec. Negotiations will respect the Peace and Friendship Treaties.
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