Understanding the Issues

Fee Simple

Fee simple in English law is the ordinary form of private property ownership that homeowners enjoy, for example. When you buy and sell a house, the type of title to the land is fee simple.

The Department of Indian Affairs is currently pushing for a program of converting reserve lands to fee simple. They are doing this in concert with right wing think tanks like the Fraser Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public policy, right wing newspapers, prominent right-wingers like Gordon Gibson and Stephen Harper's mentor Tom Flanagan, and Aboriginal collaborators like Manny Jules (First Nations Tax Commission).

Read more about fee simple here.

The Indian Act

The Indian Act is one of the cornerstones of Canadian colonialism. Some of the main points we need to remember about the Indian Act are:

  • It imposes a foreign system of government on First Nations in which accountability is to colonial masters in Ottawa, not to our people
  • The government controls the disbursement of federal money to band councils and uses this as a means of controlling band councils' political decisions.
  • Through the Indian Act, the government gives itself the power to determine who is an Indian and who is not.
  • The Indian Act was imposed on First Nations without our consent and it has no basis in treaty
  • Its fundamental purpose is not protection, but assimilation and termination of Indigenous Peoples.

Read more about the Indian Act here.

Aboriginal Title

Indigenous Peoples insist that their land ownership comes from their having lived upon and used the land since “when the world was new”, to use Dene elder George Blondin’s phrase. The rights and responsibilities that go with this relation to the land are inherent, though they may be augmented or changed by treaty.

Aboriginal title, by contrast, is a legal concept; the Canadian state says Aboriginal title derives from a set of legal documents like the royal proclamation of 1763.  Aboriginal title is a common law ownership interest in the land that Aboriginal Peoples have. In the Canadian state's view, Aboriginal title derives its legitimacy not from fundamental principles, but from the recognition of the Crown.

Read more about Aboriginal title here.



Canada's Comprehensive Claims Process


Specific Claims

"Specific Claims" have to do with claims against the Crown relating to infringement of existing treaties, the Crown's obligations relating to reserve lands or other assets, and breaches of statutory requirements. The major problems with the specific claims process to date have been: the conflict of interest - the government is both defendant and judge; the extremely slow process - existing claims will take hundreds of years to resolve; the government's unwillingness to settle specific claims through land allocation; and the fact that the government has taken private property off the table in settling specific claims, even when the claims have been verified. Read more about specific claims here.

History of Indigenous Resistance and Organizing


Extractive Industries and Aboriginal and Treaty Rights


Third Party Management


Canada's Agenda for Indigenous Peoples: Assimilation, Termination, Extinguishment


Sovereignty, self-determination, self-government: what's the difference?


Strategies of resistance today: what are the options?