Written by: Kenji Tokawa

Last month, treaty rights found a strong advocate in northern Ontario.

On April 26, 2023, ten Treaty 9 nations launched a historic lawsuit to take back jurisdiction over their territories. In their draft statement of claim, to be filed in court this summer, they advocate:

  • the treaty promised protection for their way of life
  • their jurisdiction over lands, waters, and resources was and remains essential to that way of life
  • the nations did not consent to cede, release, or surrender their jurisdiction
  • the Crown needs the nations’ consent to activities and laws that affect Treaty 9 territory, otherwise it breaches the treaty

In the bigger picture, these are not just Treaty 9 issues. Very similar language to Treaty 9 is in:

  • Treaty 3
  • Treaty 4
  • Treaty 5
  • Treaty 6
  • Treaty 7
  • Treaty 8
  • Treaty 10, and
  • Treaty 11.

But for the most part, treaty nations have not yet tested their jurisdiction in court.

In the 1970s, a preliminary challenge to Treaties 8 and 11 exposed that the Indigenous signatories may not have given up their rights over the land either. In that case, federal Crown lawyers refused to even attend the trial. A full airing of the facts and law did not occur, and the matter was not definitively decided.

For each treaty nation, the success of each case will depend on:

  • the kind of historic and other evidence they put before the Crowns and the courts, and
  • the arguments they make to defend their jurisdiction.

That is the expertise of the s 35 Practice Group at Woodward and Company. Along side the courageous clients we work with, we have a proven track record of strategic, precedent-setting success in rights cases and in negotiations. We are proud to say that we:

To find out more about how the Treaty 9 case affects your nation, please contact:

Kate Kempton
Senior Counsel
Tel: 416-571-6775

Kenji Tokawa
Associate Lawyer

Tara McDonald
Associate Lawyer
Lisa Spaven
Legal Assistant
Tel: 236-361-0670