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It is no accident that Canadian courts often refer to Treaties as the cornerstone of reconciliation.  

By entering into Treaties, Canada (and its predecessors) recognized the sovereignty of the First Nations and Inuit with whom the Treaties (and later modern claims agreements) were made.  Treaties also provide the legal basis for Canada’s sovereignty.  This is why Treaties are part of Canada’s constitution, even independent of the affirmation of treaty rights recognized in section 35 of the Constitution Act.

Canada currently lacks a coherent strategy to implement ‘Peace & Friendship’, ‘numbered’, or ‘modern’ Treaties.  The importance of Treaties to all Canadians mean that the failure to implement them is a matter of importance to everyone.  While many First Nations, Inuit and Canadian governments treat the importance of Treaties and the Treaty relationship as a political matter, the Indigenous Rights Centre treats the Treaty relationship as a legal matter.

As with other aspects of modern aboriginal rights law, the law of treaty rights is heavily focused on specific practices associated with Treaties, rather than with Treaty Governance.  The Indigenous Rights Centre will advocate for Court recognition of Treaty rights to govern lands, territories and natural resources to require provincial and federal governments to respect treaty jurisdiction.

In terms of treaty rights themselves, the IRC will advocate for implementation of a ‘reserved rights’ doctrine in Canadian aboriginal rights law.  This means that any rights not expressly and specifically surrendered in a treaty continue to be held by the indigenous collective.  Such a doctrine allows for the orderly recognition of rights not contemplated by either party at the time of treaty, and respects the nation-to-nation nature of the treaties themselves.

In addition, through its work on Environment and Natural Resources, the IRC will work to expand the ‘reasonably incidental’ doctrine under treaty rights law to include recognition of a right to self-determination over environmental resources.  Through its work on individual and collective identity, the IRC will advocate for development of treaty rights law which respects the rights of both individual and collective treaty beneficiaries.