In 1973, the Canadian federal government established a federal policy for the negotiation and settlement of Aboriginal land claims. This occurred largely in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Calder v Attorney-General of British Columbia which recognised land rights based on Aboriginal title. The policy divides claims into the two broad categories of comprehensive and specific claims. Comprehensive claims are based on the assertion of continuing title to land and resources. The federal Comprehensive Claims Policy was set out in 1981 in a publication entitled In All Fairness. This outlined the aims of the policy which generally sought to exchange claims to undefined Aboriginal rights for a package of clearly defined rights and benefits set out in a settlement agreement. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 also recognised that Aboriginal treaty rights presently exist or may be acquired via land claim agreements. Amendments were made to the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy in 1986 subsequent to the issue of the Coolican Report produced as a result of extensive consultation with Aboriginal and other groups. The 1986 reforms provided for greater flexibility in land tenure, and better definition of subjects for negotiation.
The federal government has subsequently introduced the Inherent Right Policy 1995, whereby self-government arrangements may be negotiated as a part of comprehensive claims agreements. In 1998, the Canadian Government published Gathering Strength wherein it affirmed that treaties will continue to be the basis for the ongoing relationship between Aboriginal people and the Crown.