Aboriginal Rights and Title : Specific Claims Policy

Protesters holding a sign: Aboriginal Title is our birthright

In 1973 the Federal government developed the Specific Claims policy that was later published as Outstanding Business: A Native Claims Policy in 1982. Specific Claims were limited to claims about the Federal administration of land. The policy was intended to eliminate some barriers to negotiating cut-off claims and settlements; it was not an apology or an admission of legal liability. According to Specific Claims in Canada Status Report, 1985, final settlements had been reached with 82 to 84 Bands. The McKenna McBride grievances had been important in the shaping of the Specific Claims process, however, since the legislation of 1996, unresolved McKenna McBride claims are considered apart from the Specific Claims process.

Comprehensive Claims

A Federal Comprehensive Claims policy initiating the Comprehensive Claims process was implemented in 1973. The Comprehensive Claims policy was supposed to address Aboriginal people's traditional jurisdiction over land and resources. From the Federal government's standpoint, Comprehensive Claims showed the government's willingness to listen to First Nations' grievances about issues of Aboriginal Title and Rights by negotiating claims based on traditional use and occupancy.

The Provincial government of British Columbia was not initially part of Comprehensive claims discussions. Although British Columbia entered negotiations with the development of the British Columbia Treaty Commission in 1992, the province was not willing to recognize Aboriginal Title until after 1997. The province's approach to Aboriginal Title changed after the 1997 Delgamuuk'w decision.

Protesters holding a sign: Reconciliation not Referendum

An ongoing point of contention in the Comprehensive Claims process is that the Federal and Provincial government will only come to the negotiating tables if Aboriginal communities are willing to extinguish their land Title in treaties. The general response from the Aboriginal communities has been that extinguishments of Title is not an option - that this formula for treaty negotiation would destroy the goals of co-existence by eliminating Aboriginal sovereignty and culture.

While there is general agreement amongst First Nations to protect Aboriginal sovereignty and culture, communities have chosen to deal with the situation in different ways. Some Nations have been willing to enter into negotiations with the government in good faith, while others refuse. In the past eighty years, since the end of the McKenna McBride Commission, trust has yet to be established between First Nations and the Federal/Provincial governments.

Audio Video
Philip Paul on the difference between cut-off land claims and claims based on Aboriginal Title [United Church Conference, ca.1975]
Chief Saul Terry on extinguishment of Aboriginal Title
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Jean Chretien on the land question (Meeting between the UBCIC and the federal government, 18 March 1974)
Speaker on self-government as a response to government demand for extinguishment of Aboriginal Title (UBCIC Special Peoples Assembly 28-30 April 1992)
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Narrator on the continued social and cultural effects of colonialism on First Nations in British Columbia (Meeting between the UBCIC and the federal government, 18 March 1974)

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