Attorney-General for the Dominion of Canada v. Attorney-General for Ontario

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council – [1897] A.C.

Ontario Lands reserved for IndiansPropertyTreaties

Summary

This case is one of the first Canadian cases concerning the property of lands and the payment of annuities to Indians.

The Privy Council decided that the obligation to pay annuities to Aboriginals stems from the relationship they have with the Crown, and not from the property of the lands.

A distinction must be made between the obligations of an owner and the obligations that stem from legal jurisdiction.

Issue

Between the province and the Dominion, which one is liable for the increased amount of the Indian annuities?


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St. Catherine’s Milling Co. v. The Queen

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council – [1888] 14 A.C. 46

Ontario Aboriginal titleJurisdiction over Indians

Summary

This decision from Canada’s highest court had monumental impacts on the relation between Canada and Aboriginal peoples. It governed Canada’s policy over Indian title for almost a century, until Calder, in 1973.

The Council recognized that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 gave the Indians only a right of occupancy, which encroached on the Province’s title. Once this right is ceded to the Dominion, full proprietary interest reverts to the province.

Issue

When a parcel of land ceased to be part of an Indian reserve, which jurisdiction owns the title: the provincial or the federal government?


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Jones v. Fraser

Supreme Court of Canada – [1886] 13 S.C.R. 342

Quebec Family lawSeigniorial lawSuccession

Summary

The Court considered a customary marriage, but did not decide on it. The 1869 decision in Johnstone v. Connolly remained the reference.

Issue

Was the marriage between Alexander Fraser and Angelique Meadows valid?

Was Alexander Fraser’s will revoke at Marguerite Jones’ death?


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Church v. Fenton

Supreme Court of Canada – [1880] 5 S.C.R. 239

Ontario PropertySurrender

Summary

The Aboriginal title is extinguished at the moment of cession of Aboriginal lands to the Crown.

Issue

Do formerly Indian lands continue to be non-taxable after being sold?


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Johnstone et al. v. Connolly

Quebec Queen’s Bench -- [1869], 17 R.J.R.Q. 266

Quebec Application of laws to AboriginalsFamily law

Summary

This decision recognizes the validity of a Cree marriage, et gives it precedence over a Catholic marriage.

Issue

Can an Aboriginal law be recognized in common law, and if so, is the traditional Cree marriage between William Connolly and Suzanne legal?


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Worcester v. State of Georgia

U.S. Supreme Court -- 31 U.S. 530 (1832)

USA Application of laws to AboriginalsDoctrine of discovery

Summary

This American decision had been used by the Supreme Court of Canada since the very beginning of the development of Canadian Aboriginal law. It is one of the famous decisions rendered by the “Marshall court”.

Historically, Indians were considered as nations by Great Britain. A European nation acquired title to Indian lands only if the occupants decided to cede them.

Issue

Are Georgia’s laws in effect on Cherokee territory?


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Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

Supreme Court of the United States – 30 U.S. 1 (1831)

USA Application of laws to AboriginalsDoctrine of discoveryGovernance (self-determination, self-government)Jurisdiction over Indians

Summary

The Cherokee Nation is subject to the laws of the State of Georgia.

There is no doubt that the Cherokee Nation constitutes a distinct political society. However, the Cherokee Nation cannot be considered “foreign” for the purposes of the US Constitution. As such, it cannot go before the Supreme Court to prevent the State of Georgia from implementing its laws.

Issue

  1. Does the Supreme Court of the U.S. have jurisdiction to hear this case?
  2. If yes, can the state of Georgia be legally restrained from applying its laws on Cherokee territory?


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Johnson & Graham’s Lessees v. M’Intosh

US Supreme Court – 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823)

USA Aboriginal titleDoctrine of discoveryLands reserved for IndiansProperty

Summary

The decisions rendered by the “Marshall court”, including this one, marked the starting point for a judicial discussion about Aboriginals.

According to the doctrine of discovery, which binds the Aboriginals, the discoverer holds a title to the lands and an exclusive right to acquire Indian lands.

Issue

Does an Indian nation have the capacity to cede parcels of the land they occupied to private individuals?


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