The objective of this research was to explore strategic options for alternative boundary dispute resolution (ABDR) mechanisms that improve non-treaty boundary determination for First Nations in Canada by rebalancing the power relationships with government to relieve the comprehensive claims backlog.
The comprehensive claims process concerns the negotiation of modern treaties between First Nations and the Canadian government and includes boundary determination.
Boundary determination needs to balance the land interests of Aboriginal Peoples and government. This is informed by the seminal case, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia,  SCC 44, where the Supreme Court of Canada said that traditional use informed boundary determination and relied on non-treaty boundary determination to grant Aboriginal title within Canada’s cadastre for the first time.
A review of the literature found that a Canadian Alternative Boundary Dispute Resolution (ABDR) mechanism may assist boundary determination in comprehensive claims if it is structured to (i) include expert panels, (ii) apply both common law and Indigenous legal principles, and (iii) innovate by accommodating Aboriginal legal boundary principals. A graduated spectrum of diminishing rights was also described as a framework for Aboriginal traditional use lands within ABDR.
The method of Barry (1999) that coupled induction with a descriptive narrative method was adapted to this research using twenty-two semi-structured interviews of seven First Nations in Canada and fifteen non-Aboriginal Canadians familiar with non-treaty boundary determination. Responses were coded into themes and ranked using an ordinal scale to support interpretation of the interview data and triangulation between the participants.
It was found that a quasi-judicial framework may be established that is only reviewable by superior courts of appeal by developing a novel ABDR mechanism that empanels experts on Aboriginal law and issues who are culturally sensitive to Aboriginal Peoples. It should also utilize land surveyors in the field to walk the boundaries. By induction, it also found that a quasi-judicial ABDR mechanism may be viable within the Surveyor General Branch if this department is moved out of Natural Resources Canada where it could be expected to have greater autonomy and perceived independence by Aboriginal Peoples.