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WET 219 - Applied Water Law - Indigenous Rights

The Royal Proclamation of 1763

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued by King George III on 7 October 1763. It established the rule of law for governing the British North American territories surrendered by France to Britain in the Treaty of Paris, 1763, following the Seven Years’ War. 

It also set down the legal framework for the negotiation of treaties with the Indigenous inhabitants of large sections of Canada. It is referenced in section 25 of the Constitution Act, 1982; it served as the basis for many treaties between Indigenous nations and people and the British Crown.

The proclamation explicitly stated that Indigenous people maintained control over the use and enjoyment of all lands not ceded by or purchased from them by the Crown.

“And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interest and the Security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians, with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.”

In 1973, Calder v British Columbia found that the basic principles of the Royal Proclamation were generally applicable in British Columbia, where the majority of land remains unceded by treaty. The implications of this decision are that Indigenous land rights are legally enforceable by Indigenous People in British Columbia, and other parts of Canada.

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