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Political Science

Indigenous Self-Government and Self-Determination

Indigenous self-government is the formal structure through which Indigenous communities may control the administration of their people, land, resources and related programs and policies, through agreements with ​federal and provincial governments. The forms of self-government, where enacted, are diverse and self-government remains an evolving and contentious issue in Canadian law, policy and public life.

Canada recognizes that Indigenous peoples have an inherent right of self-government guaranteed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. As well the Government of Canada recognizes that Indigenous peoples have the inherent right to self govern and this right can be expressed through treaties, and in the context of the Crown's relationship with treaty First Nations. Recognition of the inherent right is based on the view that Indigenous peoples in Canada have the right to govern themselves in relation to matters that are internal to their communities, integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions, and with respect to their special relationship to their land and their resources. 


To view the Government of Canada's approach to implementation of the inherent right and the negotiation of aboriginal self-government please click on the link below.


Self-determination embodies the right for all Indigenous peoples to determine their own economic, social and cultural development.


Indigenous Governance Systems in British Columbia

There are approximately 200,00 Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, they include First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. There are 198 distinct First Nations in BC, each with their own distinct language, culture, and tradition. 

For a list of First Nations Communities in BC, their location, region, and membership visit

Within British Columbia there are two different Indigenous governance systems Chief and Council and Hereditary Leadership. Each are active in all levels of government and decision making, so what's the difference?

Chief and Council 

Hereditary Leadership 



Treaties and Self-Government in British Columbia

The governments of Canada and British Columbia (BC), and many BC First Nations are negotiating modern treaties under the British Columbia treaty process. Negotiations West represents all Canadians and federal government departments and agencies in the negotiations. By concluding treaties in BC, the Parties seek to build new relationships with First Nations, achieve certainty over ownership and use and management of land and resources, and enhance economic opportunities for First Nations, British Columbians and all Canadians. 

For More information about the BC Treaty Commission please consult

Six Stages of Treaty Negotiation 

  1. Statement of Intent to Negotiate 
  2. Readiness to Negotiate 
  3. Negotiation of a Framework Agreement 
  4. Negotiation of an Agreement in Principle
  5. Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty 
  6. Implementation of the Treaty

This document sets outlines the policies and procedures for stages 1-6 of BC treaty negotiations as coordinated by the BC Treaty Commission. It also outlines the Commissions basic policies on dispute resolution and interim measures

Concluded Treaties and Final Agreement Negotiations 

  • The Nisga'a Final Agreement - came into effect May 11, 2000
  • Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement - came into effect April 3rd, 2009
  • Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement - came into effect April 1st, 2011
  • Yale Final Agreement - effective date has been postponed
  • Tla'amin Final Agreement - came into effect April 5th, 2016 
  • Lheidli T'enneh Final Agreement - the new Treaty was initialled May 2018

To view copies of the agreements, or to see current transition agreements and agreements in principles please visit

Negotiation Updates 

There are 65 self-determining First Nations, representing over half of all Indian Act bands in BC, are participating in, or have completed treaties through, the treaty negotiations process. Active or completed negotiations involve 40 First Nations, representing 76 Indian Act bands, totaling 38% of all Indian Act bands in BC. For more information about what Nations are currently in negotiations, the stage they are in, and an updated negotiations calendar please visit



Indigenous Governance in Canada

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