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Aboriginal Rights, Customary Law and the Economics of Renewable Resource Exploitation

Ian Keay and Cherie Metcalf

Canadian Public Policy, 2004, vol. 30, issue 1, 1-27

Abstract: In this paper we investigate the economic foundations supporting the conservation rationale that is prominent in the Canadian court system's cautious approach to recognizing Aboriginal rights guaranteeing access to natural resources. We discuss the recognition of Aboriginal rights by Canadian courts, and we consider a standard economic model of a commercial fishery with profit-maximizing Aboriginal fishers, self-regulated Aboriginal fishers, and customary-law Aboriginal fishers, harvesting alongside non-Aboriginal fishers. It appears that the potentially dramatic stock and industry outcomes feared by the courts are dependent on the assumptions made about Aboriginal responses to their economic and regulatory environment. The typical neoclassical assumptions made by economists may be poor approximations of Aboriginal behaviour.

Date: 2004
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