The Commission work cannot fulfil the Canadian government’s “duty to consult” with First Nations as it is not the government. Only the Crown has a prescribed duty to consult with first nations as per Supreme Court of Canada rulings. However Canada’s implantation of the BWT through the International Boundary Waters Act acknowledges that nothing in BWT negates aboriginal and First Nation treaty rights.
Although the Boundary Waters Treaty is silent on role of Indigenous Peoples, the IJC in the modern era has worked with individual indigenous people in the basins in which it is active, and with indigenous organizations, as the Treaty does provide for all interested parties “a convenient opportunity to be heard”.
For the first 90 years of the Treaty, the federal governments advised the IJC that they would engage with First Nations and Tribal governments directly. However since the early 21st Century governments have specifically noted the need for the Commission to work with indigenous people when assigning tasks to the Commission.
The Commission has appointed a number of indigenous members to its Boards and has worked on a number of IWI projects with indigenous partners.