Federal-Provincial Meeting of Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Statement of Principles […] (2-3 November 1983)

Document Information

Date: 1983-11-02
By: Manitoba
Citation: Federal-Provincial Meeting of Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Statement of Principles Presented at the Conference of First Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters held in Ottawa on March 15-16, 1983, Doc 830-138/006 (Ottawa: 2-3 November 1983).
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DOCUMENT: 830-138/006


Statement of Principles
Presented at the
Conference of First Ministers
on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters
held in Ottawa
on March l5-l6, 1983


Ottawa, Ontario
November 2-3, 1983



The special status of aboriginal peoples in Canadian
society stems from the fact of their occupation use and
collective ownership of lands in what is now Canada prior
to European settlement and the application of European law.
The aboriginal peoples existed as distinct nations and
exercised self-governing powers over their territory and
over their religious, cultural, social, economic and
political life. They also exercised control over living
and natural resources of the land they inhabited. Although
the treaties and modern agreements have affected the rights
of the aboriginal nations to some extent, such treaties and
agreements cannot be construed as constituting a general
extinguishment of fundamental aboriginal rights.

Over the several centuries which followed the coming of
white settlement many developments have taken place in the
construction of a Canadian political system. Account must
be taken of Canada’s political and constitutional structure
in the process of identifying and defining aboriginal
rights for inclusion in the Constitution of Canada. For
example, the fiscal and trust responsibility of the Federal
Government stems from the devolution of Crown
responsibility (which responsibility is defined in part in
the Royal Proclamation of 1763); and such responsibility
cannot be unilaterally abandoned.


It is also the case that the right of the aboriginal
peoples to self-government (which is hereby recognized and
affirmed) must now be further developed in the context of
the Canadian Constitution.

II. The subscribing parties to this Statement of Principles
recognize the following attributes of aboriginal rights for
the express purpose of providing a basis upon which
the constitutional recognition of those rights shall be
further elaborated within the Constitution of Canada and
reflects a commitment by the Federal and Provincial
Governments of Canada, in the spirit and intent of S.
37(2), to elaborate and secure the rights and freedoms of
the Aboriginal peoples of Canada:

(1) Aboriginal rights and title are based on but are not
confined to the use and occupancy by the original
peoples of land over which they exercised collective
control and governance.

(2) The rights of the aboriginal peoples include:

(a) Aboriginal title and land entitlements, as
modified and secured by treaties and agreements
analogous to treaties, which title and claims are
not subject to arbitrary interference of


(b) The right to have treaties and analogous
agreements constitutionally protected.

(c) The right to self-government subject to the
Canadian Constitution and within the Canadian

(d) The right to preserve and develop their own
distinct aboriginal cultures, languages and
religions free Erom arbitrary interference.

(e) Their historic right to hunt, fish, trap and
gather, and their right to participate in the
protection and enhancement of living resources of
the land for the continued use, benefit and
enjoyment of all Canadians both present and

(3) It is recognized as essential that the aboriginal
peoples have the right to benefit fully from the use
of their lands and renewable and non-renewable
resources as a base for self-sufficiency, and for the
social, economic and political development of their


(4) It is further recognized that a special relationship
of fiscal responsibility exists between the aboriginal
peoples and the Federal Government. Section 9l(24) of
the Constitution Act, 1867 is only one expression of
that relationship as it applies to Indians and the
Inuit. The Federal Government and the Provincial
Governments have special responsibilities to the Metis
as well.

(5) It is further recognized that, when defining and
developing aboriginal institutions of self-government,
it will be essential that adequate fiscal resources be
made available to the aboriginal peoples. Such
resources are required to provide services reasonably
comparable to those available to Canadians generally,
taking into account the special social, cultural and
economic needs of aboriginal peoples.

(6) It is further recognized that, consistent with the
present division of Federal and Provincial
responsibilities for the delivery of programs relating
to health, education, community services and economic
development, and consistent with fiscal responsibility
as above stated, program delivery should be
transferred to the developing institutions of
aboriginal self-government.


(7) It is further recognized that rights to be identified
and defined for inclusion in the Constitution of
Canada shall not derogate from other rights enjoyed by
the aboriginal peoples.

(8) It is further recognized that there should be a clause
in the Constitution expressly providing for the
enforcement of the collective and individual
aboriginal rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

(9) It is further recognized as a matter of principle:

(a) that the aboriginal peoples should have the
right to initiate amendments to those
constitutional provisions which directly and
exclusively affect them, such initiation to take
place through their representative national
organizations; and

(b) that no amendment to the Constitution of Canada
which directly and exclusively affects one or
more of the aboriginal peoples may be made
without the agreement of those aboriginal peoples
so affected. Such agreement can only be given or
withheld by the representative national
organization of those aboriginal peoples.

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