BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Aboriginal Law

Law 12


Aboriginal Law

Big Idea

A society’s laws and legal framework affect many aspects of people’s daily lives.

Essential Question

How have landmark Supreme Court of Canada decisions impacted the lives of Indigenous peoples?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following

  • Canadian legislation concerning First Peoples

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following

  • Assess and compare the significance and impact of legal systems or codes

Core Competencies

I can name three landmark Supreme Court of Canada decisions regarding Indigenous land rights.

I can explain what makes the cases significant.

I can imagine the impact of these cases on future generations.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge.
  • Read aloud each of the statements in Myth or Fact? After each statement have students predict whether it is a myth or fact. Then provide them with the factual explanations to refute the myths.
  • Ask: Which fact(s) surprised you the most? Why?

Part 1: Terminology and Timelines

as it provides clear definition of terms.

Part 2: Landmark Cases

  • Define a landmark case as a court decision that establishes an important new legal principle or concept, or which changes the previous interpretation of current law.
  • Explain that students will be exploring three landmark cases dealing with Aboriginal Law and First Nations Rights.
  • Note that two of the three landmark cases to be explored in this lesson are mentioned in the post from Simon Fraser University: Supreme Court of Canada cases involving Indigenous peoples | SFU Library. Delgamuukw, the landmark case from 1997 and Case #2 in this lesson, mentions a 1888 case which is the Case #1 in this lesson. The students will see how previous court cases can influence future cases. They will have another opportunity to notice this in a later exercise when they are shown the Canadian Legal Information Institute (aka CanLII) database.
  • Distribute the handouts for each of the three landmark cases:
  • Have students work with a partner or in small groups using the websites provided to read about each landmark case and to answer the questions on the handouts.
  • Distribute the handout “Aboriginal Law & Canadian Courts”. Have students work in partners or small groups to read the article and complete the questions in the chart.
  • Provide students with the handout “Looking Ahead”. By answering the questions about each of the articles, students can look ahead to how the future of Indigenous Law could be shaping up.
  • Have students complete their “Indigenous Law KWL Chart”.
  • Explain that the Canadian Legal Information Institute, (aka CanLII) provides additional information pertaining to indexed cases. The five tabs have the following headings. This brief description follows each heading.
  • Document = The Supreme Court of Canada judgment itself.
  • History = Lists previous court case decisions before ending up at the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Cited Documents = Lists the cases used to support the current case.
  • Treatment = Provides a list of how the current case has been ‘treated’ in consequent cases. This list could grow in future years.
  • CanLII Connects = Provides background materials regarding the case. These are written by academics or law firms and are a good source of useful commentary on the case you are researching.
  • Have students visit the CanLll website to explore the various tabs to see how each of the three landmark cases they studied earlier have been ‘treated’ in later cases.

St. Catharines Milling and Lumber Co. v. R., 1887 CanLII 3 (SCC), 13 SCR 577

Document | History (0) | Cited documents (7) | Treatment (114) | CanLII Connects (0)

Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, 1997 CanLII 302 (SCC), [1997] 3 SCR 1010

Document | History (9) | Cited documents (42) | Treatment (1,079) | CanLII Connects (4)

Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2004 SCC 73 (CanLII), [2004] 3 SCR 511

Document | History (5) | Cited documents (32) | Treatment (978) | CanLII Connects (9)

“8 First Nation reserve FAQs.” 2015. Indigenous Corporate Training. https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/8-first-nation-reserve-faqs

“A Brief History of Our Right to Self-Governance: Pre-Contact to Present.” 2021. Centre for First Nations Governance. https://web.archive.org/web/20201214202204/https://fngovernance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/A-Brief-History-of-Inherent-Rights.pdf

Arcand-Paul, B. 2021. “Indigenous laws are a critical part of Canada's legal landscape.” Canadian Bar Association. https://www.nationalmagazine.ca/en-ca/articles/law/rule-of-law/2021/indigenous-laws-a-critical-part-of-canada-s-legal


Banks, K. 2018. “The Rise of Aboriginal Law.” University Affairs. https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/the-rise-of-aboriginal-law/


Belshaw, J., Nickel, S., & Horton, C. [2020?]. “Histories of Indigenous Peoples and Canada.” Thompson Rivers University. https://histindigenouspeoples.pressbooks.tru.ca/


Borrows, J. 2005. “Indigenous Legal Traditions in Canada.” Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, 19(1), 13. https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1380&context=law_journal_law_policy

Canada. 2002. “Frequently Asked Questions about Aboriginal Peoples.” Indian and Northern Affairs. https://web.archive.org/web/20220413224302/https://www.iogc-pgic.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER-HQ/STAGING/texte-text/info125_1100100016203_eng.pdf

Canada. 2010. “Backgrounder: Aboriginal Title in Canada's Courts.” Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. http://www.energybc.ca/cache/northerngateway/www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100016311.html


Canada. 2021. “Backgrounder: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.” Justice Department. Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/declaration/about-apropos.html


Canadian Online Legal Dictionary. 2022. Irwin Law. https://irwinlaw.com/cold/


Canada. 2019. “Exploring Indigenous Justice Systems in Canada and Around the World.” Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/aj-ja/eijs-esja/rep-rap.pdf


Gunn, K., & O'Neil, C. 2021. “Indigenous Law & Canadian Courts.” First Peoples Law. https://www.firstpeopleslaw.com/public-education/blog/indigenous-law-canadian-courts


Henderson, W. B., & Bell, C. 2019. “Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/aboriginal-rights


“Indigenous Law.” 2021. Fasken. https://www.fasken.com/en/knowledge/doing-business-canada/2021/10/20-indigenous-law


Joseph, B. 2018. “21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act.” Port Coquitlam, B.C.: Indigenous Relations Press.


Napoleon, V. 2016. “What Is Indigenous Law? A Small Discussion.” University of Victoria. Law. https://www.uvic.ca/law/assets/docs/ilru/What%20is%20Indigenous%20Law%20Oct%2028%202016.pdf


Napoleon, V., & Friedland, H. 2016. “An Inside Job: Engaging with Indigenous Legal Traditions through Stories.” McGill Law Journal, 61:4: 725. https://lawjournal.mcgill.ca/article/an-inside-job-engaging-with-indigenous-legal-traditions-through-stories/


Queen's University Library. 2021. “A Note on Terms.” Aboriginal Law & Indigenous Laws. https://guides.library.queensu.ca/Aboriginal-and-Indigenous-law


Queen's University Library. 2021. “Indigenous Laws and the Canadian Legal System.” Aboriginal Law & Indigenous Laws. https://guides.library.queensu.ca/Aboriginal-and-Indigenous-law/indigenous-laws-and-the-canadian-legal-system


Shutt, S. 2013. “Aboriginal law rising.” Canadian Lawyer. https://www.canadianlawyermag.com/news/general/aboriginal-law-rising/268951


The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission. [n.d.]. “Chapter 3 - An Historical Overview.” Justice System and Aboriginal People. http://www.ajic.mb.ca/volumel/chapter3.html


“The Historic Roots of Canada's Three Legal Systems.” [n.d.]. University of Toronto Libraries. https://exhibits.library.utoronto.ca/exhibits/show/canadianlawandidentity/cdnlegalsystemhistory


University of British Columbia. [n.d.]. “Global Indigenous Issues.” Indigenous Foundations Arts. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/global_indigenous_issues/


University of British Columbia. 2021. “Indigenous Peoples: Language Guidelines.” http://assets.brand.ubc.ca/downloads/ubc_indigenous_peoples_language_guide.pdf


Wilson, K. 2018. “Pulling Together: Foundations Guide.” Victoria, BC: BCcampus: https://opentextbc.ca/indigenizationfoundations/


Woodside, J. 2021. “Canada’s Supreme Court recognizes Wet’suwet’en law. So how is Coastal GasLink moving ahead?” Canada’s National Observer. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/12/02/news/canadas-supreme-court-recognizes-wetsuweten-law-coastal-gaslink?fbclid=IwAR0vn9DgrisAwC6MFq2i0UEPyXc1oBzkmOiwL7ViIyp3IxtWgUV7SbmXCjs


World Law Dictionary. [n.d.]. “Landmark Case meaning - Legal definition.” translegal.com. https://dictionary.translegal.com/en/landmark-case/noun


Yoon-Maxwell, K. 2020. “Indigenous Law and Aboriginal Law: It's Past Time We All Knew the Difference. An Interview with Pivot Board Chair, Stephen Mussell.” Pivot Legal Society. https://www.pivotlegal.org/_indigenous_law_and_aboriginal_law

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Last Reviewed

March 01, 2023

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