The PLEA: Treaties and the Law

The PLEA: Treaties and the Law

Reasons for Treaties

Treaties are by their nature voluntary, negotiated agreements. To understand why First Nations and the British, then later the Government of Canada, entered into Treaties it is necessary to consider the reasons why each party entered into this process and what they hoped to get out of it.

First Nations Reasons for Treaties

For First Nations the Treaties are sacred and spiritual agreements, representing an alliance with the Crown that cannot be broken. From the First Nation perspective, the Treaties were entered into on a “nation-to-nation” basis to set out the relationship between the First Nations and the Crown.

To First Nations, the Treaties represented many different things, including a way to:

  • share the land
  • live in peace
  • continue with their way of life
  • assure the future of their children by learning how to survive in the future

While First Nations agreed to respect the laws of the Crown, in return they expected to still be able to govern their own people according to their own laws.

Policy reasons for Treaties

There were a number of very practical reasons why Britain, and later Canada, chose to negotiate Treaties with the First Nations. Early on the Crown recognized the need for support from First Nations if they were to be successful in claiming what is now Canada for their own.

To the Crown, the Treaties represented many different things, including a way to:

  • help ensure that First Nations would continue to be self-sufficient
  • avoid conflict as more people came from Britain and other places
  • secure access to land and resources

One way to gain peace and support from First Nations and at the same time ensure that the First Nations could support themselves was to protect their way of life by Treaty.

Treaty: Myth or Reality

Consider each of the following statements. Explain whether it is a myth or reality.

  1. The history of North America began with the arrival of the Europeans.
  2. Treaties benefit all Canadians.
  3. Treaties are simple land transactions.
  4. Treaties are sacred and solemn agreements.
  5. Treaties have no relevance today.
  6. Treaties only benefit First Nations.

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