Defining Parameters: Aboriginal Rights, Treaty Rights, and the Sparrow Justificatory Test


  • Leonard I. Rotman



In the case of R. v. Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada created a justificatory scheme for federal legislation that had the potential to derogate from the rights of the Aboriginal peoples that are protected by s. 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. Since that time, the Sparrow test has been applied to both Aboriginal and treaty rights. The author suggests that the straightforward application of the Sparrow test to treaty rights is inappropriate because of the significant distinctions between Aboriginal and treaty rights. Where there is a need to balance treaty rights with competing rights, any justificatory standard to be applied ought to be consistent with the consensual basis of Crown- Native treaties.