What is a Treaty

A Background to Treaty Making in Canada and B.C.

The Purpose of Treaties

Fundamentally, treaties between First Nations, Canada and British Columbia are a means to address issues related to the rights of First Nations, as well as to establish a foundation for building a new relationship between First Nations and non-Aboriginal governments and people. They are also a way in which to provide greater certainty about the rights of non-Aboriginal people and to increase the level of understanding of how people and governments can work together for the future development of all communities.

Articulating Aboriginal Rights

The existence of Aboriginal rights has been clearly and firmly established, and is no longer open to question. Aboriginal people have been consistent in their assertion of their rights, and in their insistence that those rights be recognized, affirmed and protected. Government commissions established to review and make recommendations on policies affecting Aboriginal people have also consistently supported the existence of Aboriginal rights. In addition, the Constitution Act, 1982 acknowledges Aboriginal rights. Section 35 of the Constitution reads “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

Section 35, however, does not define Aboriginal rights, and their nature and extent remains largely unresolved. It is still necessary, then, to specify the scope of Aboriginal rights, to develop mechanisms for making their implementation a reality, and to define the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people — all formidable challenges. These outstanding issues can be clarified through negotiations and the establishment of modern treaties. Of particular importance is the fact that treaty negotiations represent an opportunity to address the land, resource and governance rights of Aboriginal people through a collective process which is consistent with their values and their emphasis on their communities.

Providing for a More Certain Relationship

In articulating specific aspects of Aboriginal rights, treaties will provide a greater sense of certainty an outcome which will be….