Modern Treaties are concluded with Indigenous Nations, partners, organizations, the Crown, and provincial/territorial governments as signatories. They provide clarity and predictability with respect to land rights, ownership, resource management, and the rights defined in them are constitutionally protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Modern Treaties promote strong and sustainable Indigenous communities while advancing national socio-economic objectives that benefit all Canadians.

Before 2000, Modern Treaties were negotiated in the form of comprehensive land claim agreements, and only a few Modern Treaty partners negotiated self-government agreements separately. Since 2000, all Modern Treaties have included provisions for self-government. Since 1975, when Canada signed the first Modern Treaty, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, 26 Modern Treaties have come into effect. Eighteen of these include provisions for self-government or have accompanying self-government agreements.

Canada’s Collaborative Modern Treaty Implementation Policy

Canada’s Collaborative Modern Treaty Implementation Policy will advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and support the full, effective and timely implementation of all Modern Treaties in Canada.

Leaders from the Land Claims Agreement Coalition met with Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, in February 2022. They called for improvements to Modern Treaty implementation, and a collaborative policy development process began shortly thereafter. In late October 2022, the final draft of Canada’s Collaborative Modern Treaty Implementation Policy was completed.

This policy includes a number of elements that will significantly improve the implementation of Modern Treaties and the relationship between Indigenous Modern Treaty signatories and the Crown.

Modern Treaty Partners and Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) worked under an ambitious schedule to co-develop the Policy and supporting tools that include the following elements:

Key principles to guide Modern Treaty implementation – The policy sets out key principles that will guide federal officials to implement Modern Treaties in a way that reflects their spirit and intent.

Clear direction to deputy heads – The policy directs that deputy heads are responsible for overseeing the full, timely, and effective implementation of modern treaties. This clear direction is intended to improve accountability in achieving the objectives of Modern Treaties and will motivate change at both an individual and systems level.

Legislative, policy, and program design – The policy requires that legislative, policy, and program design take into account and reflect the unique circumstances of each Modern Treaty partner.

Distinctions-based approach The policy recognizes that Modern Treaty partners are a distinct group within distinctions-based approaches. Modern Treaties form part of the constitutional framework of Canada and represent a distinct expression of reconciliation.

Intergovernmental Leaders Forum – The launching of an Intergovernmental Leaders Forum, comprised of the Prime Minister and Modern Treaty and Self-Government leadership, will create the opportunity for leaders to come together to work on shared priorities.

Intergovernmental Policy Circle – The establishment of an Intergovernmental Policy Circle will continue to build relationships and advance matters of importance to all parties. The Circle will provide a space for Modern Treaty partners and federal departments to work collaboratively on cross-cutting implementation challenges, and legislative, policy, and program initiatives.

Independent oversight and accountability Over the next six months, CIRNAC and Modern Treaty Partners will co-develop recommendations for an independent oversight and accountability mechanism. These recommendations will be evaluated to ensure they meet the needs of all partners while addressing the complexities of the new Policy.

Commitments to future work Canada’s Collaborative Modern Treaty Implementation Policy also includes a list of commitments to future work to improve intergovernmental relations and to derive the full benefits of Modern Treaties. This section recognizes that the announcement of the Policy and tools are just the first phase of ongoing work. Canada will continue to engage with Indigenous Modern Treaty partners to co-develop solutions to priority items set out within Section 8 of the Policy. They may also agree to identify other issues to be addressed in the future.

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