Fashioning legal authority from power: The crown-native fiduciary relationship

Abstract

The prevailing view in Canada of the Crown-Native fiduciary relationship is that it arose as a consequence of the Crown taking on the role of intermediary between First Nations and British settlers eager to acquire Aboriginal lands. First Nations are sometimes deemed to have surrendered their sovereignty in exchange for Crown protection. The author suggests that the sovereignty-for-protection argument does not supply a compelling account of how Aboriginal peoples lost their sovereignty to the Crown. Furthermore, Aboriginal treaties compel the courts to take seriously Aboriginal peoples' sovereign authority to treat with the Crown. First Nations did not intend to surrender their sovereignty through the treaty process, but courts assume that this is the result. Against this background, the author argues that the Supreme Court of Canada has imposed fiduciary obligations on the Crown in order to legitimise the Crown's assertions of sovereignty over Canada's Aboriginal peoples.

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2009-01-28

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Evan Fox-Decent
McGill University

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