Indigenous Land Ownership and Title in Canada: Implications for a Northern Corridor
6 March 2023
The goal of this research paper is to outline the law of Indigenous peoples’ land ownership rights, including proven and asserted title, Crown-Indigenous treaty relations and obligations and Indigenous land claims agreements, and to consider the implications for a large-scale infrastructure project like the Northern Corridor.1 The focus is on the legal and regulatory aspects of Indigenous peoples’. [...] Nor can the land be developed or misused in a way that would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.23 Title is proven by having the Indigenous claimants show that they occupied the land prior to the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty over the relevant territory. [...] This means that although the Crown holds an underlying legal title to the land, the Aboriginal title holders “have the right to the benefits associated with the land — to use it, enjoy it and profit from its economic development.”34 This includes rights of management, the ability to use the land for modern purposes and the ability of the titleholding group to decide how the land should be used. [...] In Tsilhqot’in Nation it affirmed objectives earlier set out in Delgamuukw: the development of agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric power, the general economic development of the interior of British Columbia, protection of the environment or endangered species, the building of infrastructure and the settlement of foreign populations to support those aims.55 Very relevant to the Norther. [...] Thus, the verbal promises made on behalf of the federal government at the times the treaties were concluded are of great significance in their interpretation.70 This reality informs the interpretive approach that looks beyond the written text to include the broader negotiation process to identify the parties’ common intentions in entering into the treaty being interpreted.71 The Court has repeated.