Fact Sheet - A Results-Based Approach to Comprehensive Land Claim and Self-government Negotiations

In response to calls for change to the comprehensive land claim and self-government negotiations process, Canada is moving to a results-based approach that will focus resources on productive negotiating tables so that agreements can be reached sooner.

As part of this approach, Canada is exploring other tools to address Aboriginal rights in advance of a final treaty or self-government agreement and is also looking at ways to streamline government processes.

Canada announced its results-based approach to negotiations in September 2012 and engaged with its negotiating partners on this approach later that fall. 

The Need for Change

Negotiations are ongoing at about 100 comprehensive land claim and self-government tables across the country. Many of these negotiations have been ongoing for decades. Delays in reaching the finish line have increased frustration from all parties.

"It's never been easy. But we've got to get on with this. We've got to get the certainty that these treaties provide."

- The Honourable Gerry St. Germain, former Senator for Langley-Pemberton-Whistler

"Treaties are one of the best ways society has of providing greater certainty on the land base, stimulating economic investment and providing a vehicle for reconciliation with First Nations... MABC joins First Nations in calling on the federal government to recommit to this effort."

- Pierre Gratton, Mining Association of British Columbia

"That's enough! Thirty-three years of negotiation is unacceptable,"

- [translation] Chief Christian Awashish, Atikamekw Nation

"We're pushing 20 years now and the Summit is very concerned now about a lack of substantial progress. We expect action to be taken at this point."

- Chief Douglas White III (Kwulasultun), Snuneymuxw First Nation and Summit Task Group

It can take up to 30 years to conclude an agreement. Right now, the average negotiating time is 15 years. Figure 1 shows the average duration of current negotiations.

Extensive negotiations create financial liabilities for First Nations and have allowed an expensive negotiation industry to develop, with little incentive for timely resolution to negotiations.

Many of these concerns and calls for renewed approaches to expedite progress were echoed in a past report by the Auditor General of Canada, as well as a report from the BC Treaty Commissioner and a recent Senate report on the British Columbia treaty process.

A Results-Based Approach

To respond to past calls from Aboriginal peoples, the provinces and the private sector for change and to build on new opportunities, Canada is moving to a results-based approach to its participation in comprehensive land claim and self-government negotiations.

Canada's work with partners to accelerate progress and achieve faster results is based on three key elements.

Results-Based Negotiations to Achieve Results with Partners

Canada wants to focus its resources and efforts on negotiating tables with the greatest potential for success and adjust its participation at tables that are using up valuable resources with little prospect for an agreement. Progress at individual negotiation tables will be assessed annually through discussions with partners as part of the annual work planning process to help keep the focus on achieving timely results.

Considering Other Tools to Address Aboriginal Rights and Promote Economic Development and Self-sufficiency

Canada is also considering options to improve access to other tools to address Aboriginal rights and promote Aboriginal economic development and self-sufficiency in advance of a final treaty or self-government agreement. This could include, for example, the development of consultation protocols with Aboriginal groups and provincial or territorial partners or the implementation of incremental treaty arrangements, or interim steps toward self-government, such as participation in the First Nations Land Management Act.

Speeding up Internal Processes

In addition, Canada is looking at ways to speed up its internal mandating and approval processes in response to concerns over the length of time this takes. Canada agrees that its current processes can be improved and streamlined to make them more efficient, and is looking at options to achieve internal efficiencies.

Engagement with Negotiating Partners

During the fall of 2012, Canada engaged its Aboriginal and provincial/territorial partners at negotiating tables across the country. The focus was to discuss the results-based approach, and whether there was enough common ground to conclude agreements in a timely manner. Key issues identified with partners during the engagement process as potential impediments to progress included shared territories or overlap claims and certainty. Consideration was also given to other options and tools for addressing Aboriginal rights and promoting economic development and self-sufficiency. Discussions took place at about 90 negotiating tables, five treaty discussion tables, at the regional level with Aboriginal organizations and with provincial/territorial governments.

Looking Ahead

Canada is continuing to work with its negotiating partners at all active tables across the country.

Going forward, progress at individual negotiation tables will be assessed annually through discussions with partners as part of the annual work planning process. This will help keep all parties focused on achieving timely results. In British Columbia, the British Columbia Treaty Commission will play its important role.

Canada is committed to ensuring that federal negotiation policies reflect the principles of recognition and affirmation mandated by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and that they advance certainty, expeditious resolution and self-sufficiency, as committed to in the Crown - First Nation Gathering Outcome Statement. Canada is working at improving its policies and processes in the area of comprehensive land claims and self-government negotiations. The input gathered during the fall 2012 engagement process is providing valuable input to support this ongoing work.

While this broader work is ongoing, Canada will continue to work with its negotiating partners to achieve results in comprehensive land claim and self-government negotiations.

Find out more about recent progress achieved with partners at negotiating tables across the country.

Quick Facts: The Benefits of Negotiated Agreements

  • Learn more about the economic benefits of comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements. View videos highlighting agreements concluded in the Yukon and with Westbank and Nisga'a First Nations in BC.
  • Preliminary research found that that in 2006, the unemployment rate in self-governing communities was 28 per cent lower than non-self-governing communities and the average family income for beneficiaries of a treaty appears to be double that of non-beneficiaries.

Negotiating Tables: Key Facts

The statistics included below relate to treaty and self-government tables and are current as of March 2014. Learn more about the stages in the negotiation process or consult the map at the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights Information System showing the location of individual negotiating tables across the country.

Figure 1: Approximate Duration of Current Tables in the Negotiations Process (%)
Duration of Current Tables

Note: The duration of negotiations represents how many years ago the group's claim was accepted by Canada and includes the number of years the Aboriginal group may have participated in treaty or self-government related processes as part of another Aboriginal aggregate.

Figure 2: By Stage
Negotiations by stage
Figure 3: By Region
Negotiations by region
Figure 4: By Type
Negotiations by type