The North American Experience

By The International Labour Organization
Regional Arrangements:

Consistent with these developments at the national level, Canada and the United States have also begun to include indigenous peoples in the negotiations of regional treaties.

A major step in this direction was taken in 1985, when Canada and the United States concluded the Convention Concerning Pacific Salmon. A join Canada-US commission since 1930, under an earlier treaty, has overseen salmon fishing, on the west coast of North America, but worsening environmental and economic condition in the fishery forced the two countries to try to negotiate a stronger conservation program. Consistent with its treaty obligation to indigenous peoples, recently reaffirmed by its national courts, the US brought representatives of indigenous peoples to the table as part of its negotiating team. As a result, the 1985 Canada-US treaty not only enlarged the authority of the joint commission, but added representatives of indigenous peoples to the membership of the commission. (Note 5)

A second important step was taken in April 1995, when Canada and the US agreed to a protocol amending the Migratory Birds Convention (1916). This convention was originally made to conserve the million of birds – mostly waterfowl – that migrate each year between Canada, the US, and countries farther south. It has been the cause of hundreds of disputes with Canada’s indigenous peoples, many of whom have always relied on hunting these birds for their subsistence. This time it was Canada that raised the issue of respecting indigenous peoples’ rights. Working with representatives of indigenous peoples, Canadian diplomats persuaded the US to agree to exempt subsistence hunting of migratory birds from the conservation rules set out in the convention. Although indigenous peoples were only indirectly involved in these negotiations they were very successful in shaping Canada’s negotiation strategy.

End of Regional Arrangements Next is “Why Communities Negotiate”

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