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The Government of Canada has mandates to negotiate Aboriginal and treaty rights and self-government in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspé region of Québec. Discussions are at various stages in each of these provinces. As a result of these discussions, a number of agreements have been signed and the parties are working on strengthening their relationships, broaching issues of mutual concern and making progress towards addressing outstanding Aboriginal and treaty rights.
Negotiations generally involve three parties: the Government of Canada, the Provincial Government and the First Nations group. Each party is represented by a negotiation team. It's Canada's preference to have one main negotiation table in each province.
Because most lands and resources issues fall under Provincial jurisdiction, the participation of the Provincial Government in the negotiation of Aboriginal and treaty rights is strongly encouraged. Provincial participation is necessary for any negotiations involving areas of provincial jurisdiction.
Canada wants these negotiations to be inclusive and will work with the other parties to ensure that as many potential beneficiaries are represented in these processes as possible to address both Aboriginal and treaty rights. Currently, First Nations are represented at the negotiation tables by Provincial aggregate organizations that work closely with Native Councils in their respective provinces.
There are 34 Mi'kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspé region of Québec who are potentially affected by the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision. The Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed by groups of Mi'kmaq and Maliseet before the concept of "Bands" was introduced by the Indian Act in 1876. Today, Canada views Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Bands as the modern day successors of the original groups that signed the treaties. Canada will continue to encourage First Nations to work with other Aboriginal groups to try to ensure an inclusive process which can address both Aboriginal and treaty rights.
Canada's long-term objective is that the negotiation process will deal with Aboriginal and treaty rights, including Aboriginal title and self-government, and will be designed around the circumstances, needs and interests of the parties involved. While each negotiation process will have its own milestones, broadly speaking, these are the anticipated steps.
As a preliminary stage, Canada believes that exploratory discussions are helpful in that they allow the parties to exchange views and determine if there is enough common ground to proceed. The parties may choose to conclude an Umbrella Agreement at this time to formalize their commitment to work together.
After a possible Umbrella Agreement, the parties begin to set out the basis for negotiations, including subjects to be negotiated, in some sort of framework. Typically, a Framework Agreement is the first formal agreement signed by the parties, though it is not legally binding. It outlines topic areas for the Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) negotiations, which is the stage when substantive negotiations generally occur.
Once substantive negotiations on key areas are complete, the parties sign an AIP, which is not legally binding. An AIP works as a "rough draft" for a Final Agreement as the parties negotiate finer details. Upon reaching consensus, the parties each have a Final Agreement ratified and signed, at which point it becomes a constitutionally-protected document. Depending on the preferences of the involved parties, these steps may be referred to by different names. During the negotiation processes, steps are taken to ensure that third parties, stakeholders, and the general public are informed about the progress of negotiations and that their interests are taken into account.
It is up to the parties to identify the topics for discussion. For example, the Government of Canada can propose subject matters that fall within federal jurisdiction such as fish, National Parks, migratory birds and federal Crown lands.