Defining Aboriginal Rights to Water in Alberta: Do They Still "Exist"? How Extensive are They?

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Canadian Institute of Resources Law
This report explores some fundamental questions in relation to the water rights of Aboriginal peoples in Alberta. Aboriginal peoples have long asserted that water is essential to life. They view water as the lifeblood of the earth. The perceived threat to the health and integrity of river systems is a threat to their own integrity and survival. They share growing concerns over the future of water supplies in Alberta with non-Aboriginal peoples. They affirm that they have fundamental rights with respect to water, along with responsibilities to ensure that the integrity of waters is protected, responsibilities which they want to share with government and all water users. There is uncertainty concerning the nature and extent of Aboriginal rights to water, both on reserve and off-reserve. The report addresses only some of the questions that arise in connection with this subject, namely the origin, nature and scope of the rights. The main question that we seek to answer is whether Aboriginal peoples in Alberta can claim rights to water, and if so, what is the status of these rights by comparison with other provincially recognized water rights.
This report was prepared as part of a research project on Aboriginal Rights to Water: The Case of the Athabasca River Basin.
Aboriginal water rights, The North-west Irrigation Act
Monique M. Passelac-Ross & Christina M. Smith, Occasional Paper No. 29 (Calgary: Canadian Institute of Resources Law, 2010)