We Are All Treaty People

Statement from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner on the formal repudiation of the “doctrine of discovery”

  • Published - 30/03/2023
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  • Posted By - OTC
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The Office of the Treaty Commissioner welcomes today’s formal repudiation from the Vatican of the “doctrine of discovery,” theories backed by 15th-century “papal bulls” that legitimized the colonial-era seizure of Indigenous lands and form the basis of some property laws today.

The statement from the Vatican says the “doctrine of discovery” is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The church “acknowledges that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples.”

The statement also says the Vatican is aware that these documents “were manipulated for political purposes” and used "to justify immoral acts against Indigenous peoples that were carried out, at times, without opposition from ecclesial authorities."

This statement comes about nine months after a visit by Pope Francis to Canada in 2022 to apologize and meet with Indigenous People.

This is another step in working towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The statement from the Vatican also says there is “strong support for the principles contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The implementation of those principles would improve the living conditions and help protect the rights of indigenous peoples as well as facilitate their development in a way that respects their identity, language and culture.”

We encourage this support to continue and look to see the full implementation of inherent Treaty rights, UNDRIP, and the Calls to Action in Canada.

Read the Statement from the Vatican

Full news story: Responding to Indigenous, Vatican rejects Discovery Doctrine