Indigenous self-government can take many forms and provides communities with greater control over their land, resources, cultural, social, economic and political affairs. Our firm is involved in negotiating, on a government to government basis, agreements on policing, social services, land management and in the implementation of self-government structures within communities. This requires us to work in collaboration with Aboriginal communities and organizations so they may recover or maintain full control over their cultural and social development, including education, language, health and youth protection.
For example, on the recommendation of the Assembly of First Nations, Peter W. Hutchins acted as Special Advisor to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs on First Nation self-government. This was during the period of the presentation of the Penner Committee on Indian Self-Government in Canada and the preparation of a government response and subsequent legislative response in the form of Bill C-52, An Act relating to self-government for Indian Nations.
We have participated in various legislative initiatives such as developing community laws and drafting federal and provincial legislation that secured land claims and treaties. For example, we worked with the Mi’gmaq community of Listuguj to develop an innovative approach to fisheries, based on community-made rules which would exclude the federal Fisheries Act and regulations. Our lawyers were particularly involved in the conceptualization, drafting, community consultation and implementation of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. This led to our participation in drafting of over thirty pieces of legislation including the Cree-Naskapi Act (of Quebec) which replaced the Indian Act for the James Bay Crees and the Naskapi in 1985. We also acted for the Grand Council of the Crees and the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada in negotiating amendments with the Americans to the 1916 Migratory Birds Convention Act, ensuring appropriate non-derogation language protecting Aboriginal and treaty rights.
We continuously monitor federal and provincial legislation which may affect our clients’ rights such as the new Cannabis Legislation (Canada’s Bill C-45 and Quebec’s Bill 157), and assist in negotiating for the necessary amendments.