Indigenous Property, the Doctrine of Aboriginal Title, and Transcending Imposed Barriers to Indigenous Economic Growth


Chancellor Day Hall Stephen Scott Seminar Room (OCDH 16), 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism is pleased to welcome Dwight Newman, Professor of Law & Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law, University of Saskatchewan, and a Visiting Fellow, Université de Montréal, Faculté de Droit (Jan-Mar 2017).


Professor Newman will discuss a recent paper of his, where he considers ways in which imposed judicial and imposed statutory forms of Indigenous property have worked against opportunities for Indigenous economic growth and discusses incremental ways of seeking to improve the situation.

On the judicial side, the doctrine of Aboriginal title has seen courts homogenize different systems of Indigenous property to a greater degree than often realized, sometimes overriding cultural values of actual Indigenous communities in favour of the values certain societal sectors would prefer them to have. The statutory side has seen the continued imposition of similar ideas, albeit with some recent changes beginning to show some ways forward in enabling Indigenous communities to access the economic value of their land.

In contributing to thought on ways of transcending underlying public/private law divides and forms of bijuridical legal domination while seeking economic opportunities for Indigenous communities, the paper will show the effective need in a context like Aboriginal law to move nimbly between more abstract theory and detailed consideration of matters like the regulatory component of land registry systems, and it will seek to comment on a number of paths forward in terms of incremental reforms to Indigenous property systems as they are currently entrenched in Canadian law.

About the speaker

Dwight Newman is Professor of Law and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law at the University of Saskatchewan, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.  He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Université de Montréal Faculté de Droit and later this spring will be a Herbert Smith Visiting Fellow at the Cambridge University Faculty of Law, where he is carrying out work related to his current SSHRC grant on “The Post-Tsilhqot’in Doctrine of Aboriginal Title”.  The paper he is presenting also builds to some degree on work he carried out as a recent visitor at the Property and Environment Research Center in Montana and as a recent Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.  Professor Newman has published widely and his writings have been cited in dozens of judicial decisions.