2023 Indigenous Rights Year in Review

By First Peoples Law LLP

In 2023 Indigenous Peoples were once again at the forefront of defending and advancing their rights, laws, and stewardship responsibilities. Check out our annual Indigenous Rights Year in Review countdown below to learn more. 


5. Provincial "Sovereignty" 


In the final month of 2022, the Alberta government passed the so-called “Sovereignty” Act. The Act aims to limit federal power and expand provincial jurisdiction within Alberta. It has been widely denounced by Indigenous groups and legal experts as being both unconstitutional and contrary to the Crown’s treaty promises. Saskatchewan subsequently followed suit with the “Saskatchewan First” Act. 


With recent statements that Alberta intends to use the Act for the first time, we are watching closely for what’s to come. 


Check out Kate and Cody’s blog post to learn more. 


Photo credit: WinterE229 (License)


4. The Doctrine of Discovery 


The Catholic Church’s announcement repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery was met by Indigenous groups as both a welcome and long-overdue development. It remains to be seen whether – and how – Canada will use this announcement to take meaningful action.  


Check out Bruce and Kate’s blog post with suggestions for next steps.   

Check out our reading list to learn more, including the following video introduction to the topic.  


Video credit: Anna Socha (visuals), Bruce McIvor (audio)


3. Aboriginal Title


First Nations across the country continued to defend their Aboriginal title in the courts throughout 2023. The decision in Nuchatlaht v British Columbia raises serious questions about the limits of Aboriginal title as a vehicle for reconciliation. Meanwhile, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation v. Canada provides important insights into the challenges and possibilities faced by Indigenous groups whose territories include waters and submerged lands.  


Check out Kate and Nico’s case comment on the Nuchatlaht decision. 

Check out Kate’s case comment on the Chippewas of Nawash decision. 



2. Indigenous Rights at the Supreme Court 


We were honoured to represent the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, Teme-Augama Anishnabai, Temagami First Nation (collectively, TAA/TFN) and Anishinabek Nation at the Supreme Court of Canada this year. 


Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta intervened in the Jim Shot Both Sides appeal. The Supreme Court’s decision in this appeal will affect the ability of First Nations across the country to seek redress for breaches of the Crown’s treaty obligations.  


TAA/TFN and Anishinabek Nation intervened in the Restoule appeal regarding the Crown’s obligation to increase annuity payments under the Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior treaties. In Restoule, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to confirm the importance of honouring Indigenous parties’ laws and perspectives when interpreting the Crown’s Treaty promises, and to affirm that in all cases, the Crown’s Treaty obligations must be honoured and upheld. 


Check out our blog post on the Jim Shot Both Sides hearing.  

Check out Kate and Cody’s blog post on the Restoule appeal. 



1. Truth Before Reconciliation 


“Speaking the truth, always speaking the truth, carries a power and authority that cuts through the colonizers' constructs, their fictions, their classifications and false promises.” 


Leading up to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Bruce shared his thoughts on how Aboriginal rights have become a tool of colonialism. 


Check out Bruce’s full essay to learn more about the history and future of section 35 of the Constitution. 


Photo Credit: Brett Jordan (License)


First Peoples Law LLP is a law firm dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We work exclusively with Indigenous Peoples to defend their inherent and constitutionally protected title, rights and Treaty rights, uphold their Indigenous laws and governance and ensure economic prosperity for their current and future generations.

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