Essay by TghostCollege, UndergraduateA-, November 2003

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When we talk about Aboriginal self-government, we are talking about something that is very complex and not well understood. Aboriginal self-government was even the subject of a legal challenge in the case of the landmark treaty that was signed by the Provincial Government of British Columbia, the Federal Government of Canada, and the Nisga'a First Nation. It is clear that this is a complex matter, and that there is a need to understand what it is, how it works, and whether it is a good thing for aboriginal people. These questions will be discussed in this essay, as will an analysis of the newly created territory of Nunavut, which has developed and implemented their own unique form of self-government. Nunavut's lead representatives, processes, and institutions will be analyzed in an effort to gain insight and understanding into this complex matter. An in-depth examination of this trailblazing governance structure will provide insight into the basic question of whether Aboriginal self-government is a success or not.

Aboriginal self-government is the power or right given to the aboriginal people to govern them selves as a nation. Canada has stated that aboriginal self-government, "is the power, granted to aboriginal people within boundaries of Canada, to govern certain activities concerning themselves, within the existing structures of Canadian government, and with accordance to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms"(Hylton 447). The Canadian Constitution Act (April 1982) itself recognizes the inherent right of Aboriginal peoples to self-government. The modern day right to self-government is predicated upon prior occupancy, prior sovereignty, treaties, self-determination, and preservation of minority culture. "A claim of prior occupancy corresponds to a relatively straightforward conception of fairness that suggests that, all other things being equal. A prior occupant of land possesses a stronger claim to that land than subsequent arrivals"(Royal Commission on...