Treaty Implementation and Enforcement

AFN Annual Report 2014

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Strategy on Treaty Implementation is guided by Resolution 07/2010, Sacred Treaties – Sacred Trust: Working Together for Treaty Implementation and Advancing our Sovereignty as Nations.

Treaty-making processes of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were undertaken in the spirit of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect by First Nations with the Crown. However, the imposition of the Indian Act and other legislation has directly undermined Treaties, which manifest in nation-to-nation relationships with the Crown. First Nations’ understandings about the nature of Treaties, the significance of the Treaty-making processes and the spirit and intent of Treaties are critical, as are the oral histories and First Nation laws that governed at the time of Treaty-making.

Key Issues and Activities

Treaty Nations and leadership have been frustrated by the lack of progress made in advancing Treaty implementation and finding common ground with the Crown. The work described in the National Strategy on Treaty Implementation, as well as the First Nation Treaty Parties Statement on the Observance and Enforcement of Treaties, builds upon the endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) by Canada in fall 2010. Article 37 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”

The endorsement of the UN Declaration provides a significant coordinating point for a Treaty based dialogue with the Crown and between Treaty holders. The UN Declaration represents minimum human rights standards to guide Treaty implementation, self-determination and the recognition of rights.

On January 11, 2013, the Prime Minister of Canada agreed to create a high level working process for establishing frameworks with the necessary mandates for the implementation of Treaties on a Treaty-by-Treaty basis, between Treaty parties and nation-to-nation. Treaty leadership met on several occasions thereafter to discuss engagement with the Crown through a Senior Oversight Committee / Treaty Working Group process.

In December 2013, Resolution 22/2013, Principles of Conduct in Facilitating Discussions on Treaty Implementation, was passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly calling on the AFN Executive to “eliminate the implementation of Treaty” through this process.

Efforts to foster a follow-up strategy with Treaty nations and leadership are ongoing, as are efforts to support the marking of the 250th anniversary of the Treaty of Niagara.

The Treaty of Niagara is foundational to the relationship between First Nation peoples and Canadians. It recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples and set out rules for the treaty-making process. As such, it is important to acknowledge this unique event that set the stage for the treaty relationship between the Crown and First Nations.

Next Steps - Moving Forward

In accordance with Resolutions 07/2010 and 22/2013, the AFN will work to support Treaty nations and leadership by coordinating the necessary dialogue and facilitating the advocacy efforts lead by each Treaty region, including:

  • Supporting the development of engagement strategies for each Treaty nation that wishes to engage in a process of Treaty implementation with the Crown.
  • Supporting First Nation / Crown public awareness on the importance of the Treaty of Niagara in understanding the Treaty relationship from Indigenous perspectives.

Assembly of First Nations