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Indigenous Rights and Marine Spaces: Case Comment on Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation – First Peoples Law

November 30, 2023

Despite repeated commitments to advancing meaningful reconciliation, Canadian courts and governments have been hesitant to recognize the full scope of Indigenous rights in relation to marine spaces.

This fall, the Ontario Court of Appeal considered the test for Aboriginal title and submerged lands in Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation v. Canada.  The decision provides important insights into the challenges and possibilities faced by Indigenous groups whose territories include waters and submerged lands.

Aboriginal Title & Dry Lands

Canadian courts recognize Indigenous Peoples’ have a unique property interest in lands they used and occupied prior to colonization and the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty. This interest, referred to as ‘Aboriginal title,’ is recognized and protected under the Constitution Act, 1982.

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