Calder v. British Columbia

Calder v. British Columbia (Attorney General) 

Year: 1973

Court: Supreme Court of Canada

Citation: [1973] S.C.R 313

Location: BC

TAGS: Aboriginal Title

Aboriginal Title did exist. Has it been extinguished? In 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada was split on this question.  


Frank Calder and others, on behalf of the Nisga’a First Nation, sued the Attorney-General of British Columbia for a declaration of Aboriginal title.

The claim was as follows: WHEREFORE the Plaintiffs claim a declaration that aboriginal title, otherwise known as Indian title, of the Plaintiffs to their ancient tribal territory hereinbefore described, has never been lawfully extinguished. 

Out of seven judges at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), three judges held that although Aboriginal title may have existed, it had been extinguished. Three judges held that Nisga’a First Nation’s Aboriginal title had not been extinguished. The seventh judge dismissed the case on a procedural point. 

Why this Case Matters:

Although the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada were split on whether or not Aboriginal Title had been extinguished, the SCC acknowledged that Aboriginal title did exist at some point. This case led the development of case law surrounding Aboriginal title as it stands today. It also encouraged the federal government to adopt entirely new policy respecting Aboriginal claims, ushering in the federal Comprehensive Claims and Specific Claims policies to facilitate the negotiation of these claims.

Supreme Court Judgment: 

CanLII – Calder et al. v. Attorney-General of British Columbia, 1973 CanLII 4 (SCC), [1973] SCR 313

Go Deeper:

The Canadian Encyclopedia, David A. Cruickshank – Calder Case 

UBC Arts Indigenous Foundations, Tanisha Salomons – Calder Case 

Search All Cases:

Take Action

Leave a Comment

[instagram-feed feed=1]