Media Centre

Land Claims Pioneer Passes Away

NR 06-21 CAL ENG Calder Passes Away.doc

(November 14, 2006 — Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Paul Kaludjak today opened the organization’s Annual General Meeting by speaking about the important accomplishments of Frank Calder, the man widely credited for pushing the Supreme Court of Canada to recognize the existence of Aboriginal title.

Calder’s efforts paved the way for the signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993. He passed away last week at the age of 91 in his home province of British Columbia.

Inuit in Nunavut are grateful to Dr. Calder for the work he did in opening doors for us when it came time to negotiate and sign our own land claims agreement. Before he began his work, the federal government would not accept the existence of Aboriginal title because they thought Aboriginal rights were vague and irrelevant to the modern world, said Kaludjak.

Calder is remembered for the famous 1973 case of Calder v. Attorney-General of British Columbia, which involved the Nisga’a Nation of British Columbia. The case is the most important case on Aboriginal rights in Canadian history because in it the Supreme Court of Canada accepted the concept of Aboriginal title. This led to the development of a federal land claims policy, which eventually led to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. The Nisga’a later achieved their own land claims and self-government agreement in 2000.

Calder began his famous law suit in 1968. Notably, Thomas Berger represented the Nisga’a and played a key role in the outcome of the legal action. At the conclusion of the law suit, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced that he had made a mistake. Trudeau was quoted as saying, You have more legal rights than I thought you had.

Many Inuit will remember Dr. Calder and be thankful for what he helped us achieve, said Kaludjak.

Other firsts in Calder’s distinguished career included being the first member of the Nisga’a Nation to attend the University of British Columbia, and the first First Nation’s person to be elected to B.C.’s legislature. Calder was also an Officer of the Order of Canada.

For further information:

Kerry McCluskey
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4914 Toll-free: 1-888-646-0006