Implementation Issues

Our land claims agreements were negotiated and entered into in good faith by the Aboriginal signatories with the sincere belief that they would provide for appropriate recognition of their rights and interests in their traditional territories, and deliver a turning point in the difficult socio-economic circumstances of many of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

Over the last three decades, however, such necessary improvements have not occurred. Numerous independent reviewers, including the Auditor General [2003 and 2007 reports], the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples [May 2008] and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people [Mission to Canada, 2004], have confirmed that the Government of Canada is fulfilling neither its obligations in full under these agreements, nor their spirit and intent. Consequently modern treaties are failing to achieve their overall fundamental developmental objectives.

Coalition members face significant ongoing challenges in achieving full implementation of these important agreements. For example, meaningful implementation of Canada’s first modern treaty, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, was commenced only a quarter century after its signing, after numerous court cases and international advocacy by the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee). The Federal government’s refusal to develop mechanisms for full implementation of land claims agreements continues to undermine the fundamental promise of these agreements, and some Coalition members are reluctantly turning to the courts. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Inuit organization that represents the Inuit of Nunavut, is currently suing the Federal government for $1 billion, relating to federal failures to implement fully the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. This could well be a sign of things to come as more Coalition members report significant institutional barriers to the proper and meaningful implementation of their agreements. LCAC members are simply asking that the fundamental law of the land — the terms that the federal government agreed to — be upheld.