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The courts have seen commercial trade in furs and fish, for example, as the product of European contact rather than integral to Indigenous societies prior to contact.Fishing for food, community, or ceremonial purposes is, however, a protected right and may be exercised in a modern way with modern fishing equipment.For many, the concept of Indigenous rights can be summed up as the right to independence through self-determination regarding governance, land, resources and culture.There is no simple definition of Indigenous rights in Canada because of the diversity among Indigenous peoples.In general, however, all Indigenous peoples have rights that may include access to ancestral lands and resources, and the right to self-government.In addition to treaties, which are supposed to enshrine certain rights to land, resources and more, federal law also protects Indigenous rights, namely the Canadian Constitution.Indigenous rights are upheld and challenged at the provincial and local levels as well.Many First Nations have signed land claim agreements with federal and provincial governments.
However, many Indigenous peoples (both Status and Non-Status) refuse to be defined by this federal law.
The courts, and more specifically, the Supreme Court, have clarified and guaranteed rights to land and resource activities as well as other issues.
Since governments could not come to a consensus during constitutional negotiations about Indigenous rights, the issue was consequently left to the courts.
For example, First Nations that have signed treaties with the federal government may enjoy certain privileges (such as annual cash payments) that non-treaty nations do not.
Similarly, Indigenous nations that have won court cases regarding land claims may exercise more control over their lands and populations than others.