Indigenous Economic Development and the Law

Course Number
Course Description

This course examines the manner in which Canadian Law both hinders and promotes the economies of Indigenous communities. The goal of this course is to provide students with a basic understanding of legal issues that arise when Indigenous communities engage in economic activity, and to examine possible solutions to overcome those barriers. In light of this goal, this course will begin with a brief historical overview of economic development activities by Indigenous communities, which will include an examination of how law and government policy negatively impacted Indigenous communities’ ability to participate in economic activities from past to present. We will then re-familiarize ourselves with Aboriginal rights, the duty to consult and accommodate, and the Indian Act. We will also consider issues around Indian Act governance and how First Nations enter into contracts. The course will examine the issue of land tenure on reserve, the First Nations Lands Management Act, and urban reserves. We will also consider issues with respect to security and how the provisions of the Indian Act impact the seizing of assets. We will consider the issue of taxation under the Indian Act and its impact on economic development. We will also consider the issue of Impact Benefit Agreements and their relevance to resource development in Canada. We will also address unique government procurement laws and policies aimed at promoting Indigenous businesses.

Teaching Method

This course is taught through lectures and policy discussions. Lectures are used to convey the statutory provisions and case law precedents, as well as the importance of contextual factors to legal analysis. Policy discussions are intended to prompt students to think critically about the policies underlying the legal framework surrounding Indigenous economic development, and the impact of the law in practice.


There are two memos assigned over the year, being roughly 3750 words each. They are worth 45% of the grade each.

There is also a class presentation worth 10% on a case assigned to you. This presentation is to be done by video.

Course Materials

Readings will be assigned on a weekly basis.


Sacha R. Paul and Shoshanna Y. Paul