Land Claims

Land Claims

There continues to be outstanding land claims with respect to the Treaties when reserves lands were being set aside. It is important to note that reserve lands are not owned by the First Nations bands, they are lands held in trust by the British Crown. Thus, Canada by signing treaty with the bands on behalf of the Crown; has a fiduciary relationship and obligation to the First Nations whom signed Treaty. This unique relationship between the government and First Nations has been a protracted one due to the land grievances still not settled with some First Nations. The treaties themselves are at the root of most land claims (Price 93). According to the government, there are two types of land claims in Canada: 

Specific Claims

These are claims based on treaties and the administration of Indian lands, assets, and fulfillment of treaties (Price 93). There are three areas of specific claims:

  1. Treaty Land Entitlement – Relates to the fulfillment of land owing to First Nations at the time reserves were being created. It was common to discount people and families, as many were not around at the time when populations were recorded to account for the land as per the Treaty provisions. 
  2. Land Surrender Claims – Illegal surrender of Indian reserve lands.
  3. First Nations Asset Claims – Refers to Indian assets or monies held in trust by the government and were not properly administered.  

Treaty Land Entitlement

Treaty Land Entitlement is a process where the federal and provincial governments are fulfilling Treaty commitments of land made to First Nations. In 1992, Saskatchewan, Canada, and 25 First Nations signed the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement While the Treaty relationship exists exclusively between the federal government and First Nations, Saskatchewan has a legal obligation in TLE through the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA). Under the NRTA, Canada transferred to Saskatchewan all Crown lands, minerals and other natural resources within the Province, subject to a number of conditions. One such condition was that Saskatchewan would provide unoccupied Crown lands should Canada ever require land to fulfil its obligations under Treaties (Government of Saskatchewan).

Since 1992, a number of bands in Saskatchewan have received compensation through TLE, however, there are still many bands whom are in the process of TLE. While status Indians presently comprise around 9% of the people of Saskatchewan, reserve land comprised only about 1% of the provincial land base before the TLE process. Upon completion of the TLE, reserve land will account for just over 2% of the land base (Government of Saskatchewan).

For more information on Treaty Land Entitlement:

The Story of Treaty Land Entitlement

Article: Treaty Land Entitlement

Comprehensive Claims

These claims are based on aboriginal rights, title, and traditional use and occupancy of the land seen with bands that did not negotiate a Treaty and are often referred to as Modern day Treaties and are more likely to include provisions relating to self-government. They are negotiated between the federal, provincial governments and the Aboriginal Claimant group. These treaties usually address land ownership, compensation, wildlife and harvesting rights, participation in land, resource, water, wildlife and environmental management as well as promotion of economic development and protect Aboriginal culture (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada). 

For more information on bands who have Comprehensive Claims: