The term “First Nations” refers to one of three distinct groups recognized as “Aboriginal” in the Constitution Act of 1982. The other two distinct groups characterized as “Aboriginal” are the Métis and the Inuit.
There are 634 First Nation communities (also known as reserves) in Canada, with First Nation governments. First Nations are part of unique larger linguistic and cultural groups that vary across the country. In fact, there are over 50 distinct nations and language groups across the country.
First Nations have a unique and special relationship with the Crown and the people of Canada as set out in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and manifested in Treaties, the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, Canadian common law and International law and as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This special relationship between First Nations and the Crown is grounded in First Nation inherent and Aboriginal rights and title, Treaties and negotiated agreements with a view toward peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, recognition and the equitable sharing of lands and resources. Many Treaties, reflected in written documents, wampum and oral understanding, were entered into between First Nations and the British Crown (the Government of Canada after Confederation) between 1701 and 1923. Treaty promises and agreements included non-interference, protection of hunting and fishing rights, sharing of lands and resources, health and education benefits, economic tools and benefits for the duration of the Treaty relationship.