Indigenous Environmental Rights in Canada: The Right to Conservation Implicit in Treaty and Aboriginal Rights to Hunt, Fish, and Trap


  • Lynda M. Collins
  • Meghan Murtha



This article is an exploration of Aboriginal and treaty rights strategies for protecting Indigenous environmental rights in Canada. The analysis begins with an outline of the problem, and the shortcomings of the available general law avenues. The authors then argue for the existence of a constitutionalized right to environmental preservation implicit in treaty and Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish, and trap. The article explores the theoretical, historical, and precedential support for this proposition. The central argument is that in securing the right to hunt, fish, and trap, Aboriginal peoples were in fact contracting for the continued existence of their traditional subsistence activities. These practices could not survive without the preservation of the ecosystems on which they depend, and the harvesting rights must therefore be seen to encompass a right to such preservation. Examination of the specific histories of treaty-making in Canada reveals that in many if not most cases, both the Crown and the Aboriginal signatories understood this substantive protection to be a part of the treaty guarantees. The authors then present a brief articulation of the corresponding Aboriginal right to conservation.