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Tonina Simeone Social, Health and Cultural Affairs Section Parliamentary Information and Research Service 22 September 2011

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED Projects prepared by the Parliamentary Information and Research Service are designed in accordance with the requirements and instructions of parliamentarians making the request. The views expressed should not therefore be regarded as those of the Parliamentary Information and Research Service nor of the individual preparing the project.



INTRODUCTION Canadas Aboriginal population represents a young and rapidly growing segment of the Canadian population. Today, First Nations, Inuit and Mtis people are seeking to revitalize their cultures, rebuild and strengthen their communities and share in Canadas prosperity. The history of colonization and of government policies of the past, however, continues to be felt in Aboriginal communities as they work to address poorer health, education, social and economic outcomes relative to their non-Aboriginal Canadian counterparts. While there have been some notable improvements in this regard, for many Aboriginal people and Canadians alike, much work still needs to be done to ensure that Aboriginal people enjoy a comparable standard of living as that of other Canadian citizens. The legal, jurisdictional, constitutional and political framework governing Aboriginal-Crown relations is complex and steeped in a rich history. Within this framework, policy-makers and Aboriginal people seek to establish common goals and a mutual understanding in order to achieve reconciliation and positive outcomes for Aboriginal people and for Canadians. This document is intended to provide some background with respect to questions regarding Aboriginal people. Socio-economic conditions as well as issues regarding taxation, federal spending, jurisdiction and various legal and political aspects are addressed.


Aboriginal peoples are defined in the Constitution Act, 1982 (section 35) as the Indian, Inuit and Mtis peoples of Canada. Each of these groups has distinct cultures, languages and traditions. Registered (Status) Indians: are those people who are registered or entitled to be registered as Indians in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Act. Eligibility rules for registration have frequently changed since the first Indian Act was passed in 1876. In 1985, for example, Indian women who lost their status because through marriage to a non-Indian spouse could have their status restored. Non-Status Indian: People who are of Indian ancestry and cultural affiliation, but are not registered as Indians under the Indian Act or lost their right to be registered as Indians under the Indian Act. Mtis: There are two approaches to defining the Mtis. One approach describes Mtis as those persons whose ancestors inhabited western and northern Canada and received land grants and/or scrip (descendants of the historic Mtis nation). A broader definition includes all persons of mixed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestry who identify themselves as Mtis.



Inuit: The Inuit are circumpolar people who also live in parts of Greenland, Siberia and Alaska. The Inuit of Canada have concluded four modern land claims agreements that, together, encompass regions traditionally and continuously used and occupied by Inuit from a time predating Canadian sovereignty to the present. The settlement areas of the four Inuit land claims agreements comprise a geographic homeland called Inuit Nunaat. Almost 80% of Canadas Inuit population resides in Inuit Nunaat which comprises four regions in Canada: the Nunavut territory, Nunavik (in northern Quebec), Nunatsiavut (in northern Labrador), and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (in Yukon and the Northwest Territories).
WHO ARE FIRST NATIONS? The term First Nation or First Nation community is now frequently used in place of the Indian Act term band. Many bands prefer to be referred to as First Nations and have altered their names to reflect this preference. There are approximately 630 First Nation communities (or Indian Act bands) across Canada. Most Status Indians are also members of a First Nation community. The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples estimated that there are 60-80 Aboriginal nations across Canada. Unlike the term First Nation community, Aboriginal nation refers to a large grouping of Aboriginal people who share a national and cultural identity, such as the Cree, Algonquin or Innu. WHAT ARE INDIAN RESERVES? A reserve is land set aside for the use and benefit of an Indian band (First Nation). Legal title to the land, however, remains with the Crown. As discussed below, federal responsibility for Status Indians is largely limited to the on-reserve population. No reserves were set aside for the Inuit and Mtis populations.

A SOCIO-ECONOMIC PORTRAIT OF CANADA`S ABORIGINAL POPULATION According to the 2006 Census, the Aboriginal population in Canada totalled approximately 1, 172, 790 people, or roughly 3.8% of the country`s total population. Internationally, Canada s Aboriginal population is second only to New Zealand, where the Maori represent 15% of the total population. In Australia and the United States, the Aboriginal population accounted for roughly 2% of each countrys total population. First Nation people (both status and non-status Indians) comprised the largest percentage of Canadas Aboriginal population, accounting for close to 60% or 698, 025 individuals. An estimated 40% of First Nations people lived on-reserve, while the remaining 60% lived off-reserve. The Mtis share of the Aboriginal population was approximately 30% or 389, 785 people, followed by the Inuit who comprised 4% of the total Aboriginal population, or 50, 485 people. Of the respective Aboriginal groups in Canada, the Mtis are growing fastest, with a 91% growth rate in the last decade. This rapid increase is attributable to many more individuals self-identifying as Mtis. Overall, the Aboriginal population in Canada is younger and growing faster than the non-Aboriginal population, with a 45% increase between 1996 and 2006 or six times faster that the non-Aboriginal



population during the same period. It is also an increasingly urban population, with a sizeable presence in Canadas western provinces. Despite some important gains in income, employment and education outcomes in the past decade, the Aboriginal population in Canada continues to lag behind the non-Aboriginal population on a range of social and economic indicators. The on-reserve First Nations population and the Inuit also fare worse on a range of indicators in comparison to the Mtis and off-reserve populations as evidence by higher unemployment, lower income and education levels, and prevalence of health issues. Highlights from the 2006 Census include: Demographics With a median age of 27 years, the Aboriginal population is much younger than the nonAboriginal population, whose median age is 40 years. Almost half (48%) of the Aboriginal population consists of children and youth aged 24 and under, compared with 31% of the non-Aboriginal population. The majority of Aboriginal people reside in Ontario and the Western provinces. Ontario has the largest number of Aboriginal Peoples at 242,495, or two per cent of the province's population. More than half of the Aboriginal population (54%) lived in urban areas, compared with 81% of the non-Aboriginal population. Winnipeg was home to the largest urban Aboriginal population (68,380), followed by Edmonton, with 52,100. Vancouver ranked third, with 40,310 residents. Toronto (26,575), Calgary (26,575), Saskatoon (21,535) and Regina (17,105), were also home to relatively large numbers of urban Aboriginal people.

Education Despite some important gains, the educational attainment of Aboriginal peoples continues to lag behind the non-Aboriginal population. In 2006, 50% of the on-reserve First Nations population aged 25 to 64 did not have a high school leaving certificate, compared with 15% for other Canadians of the same age. Overall, 34% of the Aboriginal population, aged 25-64 years, did not have a high school leaving certificate compared to 15% of the non-Aboriginal population. 8% of Aboriginal people have a bachelor degree or higher, compared to 22% of Canadians. In 2004, the Auditor General found that, at current rates of progress, it would take 28 years for First Nations living on reserves to reach educational parity with the Canadian population as a whole. Labour Market Since 2001, the employment rate for Aboriginal people aged 25-64 has increased (from 58% to 63%) but it still remains much lower than for non-Aboriginals (76%).



Unemployment rates are highest among First Nations individuals, in particular men living on-reserve, and Inuit people and lowest for the Mtis population. Despite an important decline since 2001, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people aged 25-64 remains almost three times the rate for non-Aboriginals in 2006 (13% vs. 5%). It exceeds the national rate in every region. Between 2001 and 2026, more than 600,000 Aboriginal youth will come of age to enter the labour market. The 15-29 age group, in particular, is projected to grow by 37% compared with 6% for the general Canadian population. By 2026, 36% of the population 15-29 years old in Saskatchewan is expected to be Aboriginal. In Manitoba, this proportion is projected to be 28%.

Income In 2006, the median income for Aboriginal peoples was $18,962 30% lower than the $27,097 median income for the rest of Canadians. The income gap between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canadians who have earned a university degree diminished from $3,382 in 1996 to just $648 by 2006. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the income gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is $7,083 higher in urban settings and $4,492 higher in rural settings. Non-Aboriginal people working on urban reserves earn 34% more than First Nation workers. On rural reserves, non-Aboriginal Canadians make 88% more than their First Nation colleagues.

Housing Over the past decade, the proportion of Aboriginal households that experienced crowding decreased from 7.6% to 4.3%. Despite this improvement, crowding remains four times more prevalent in Aboriginal households than in non-Aboriginal households at the national level. Crowding in Aboriginal households was highest in Nunavut at 23.0% followed by Saskatchewan at 8.2%. Non-Aboriginal households in the same two regions experienced crowding at rates of 1.4% and 0.5%. Crowding is also prevalent among Inuit residing in Inuit Nunaat with a rate of 22.8% in 2006. First Nations people were five times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to live in crowded homes, and four times more likely to live in dwellings requiring major repairs.


A study of the Canadian Community Health Survey indicates that Aboriginal people who live off-reserve in cities and towns are generally in poorer health than the non-Aboriginal population. After socio-economic factors were taken into account, the off-reserve Aboriginal population was 1.5 times more likely than the non-Aboriginal population to report at least one chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis.



Suicide rates on the First Nations and Inuit population are significantly higher than in the general population, with First Nations experiencing rates 5 times higher, and Inuit, 11 times higher that their Canadian counterparts. The life expectancy of First Nation citizens is five to seven years less than other nonAboriginal Canadians and infant mortality rates are 1.5 times higher among First Nations. Tuberculosis rates among First Nation citizens living on-reserve are 31 times the national average. Among the Inuit in Canada, life expectancy is almost 15 years lower than the national average. Nunavuts infant mortality rate is almost four times higher, and represents one of the largest discrepancies between the Inuit and the general population. Tuberculosis rates are almost 23 times higher among the Inuit than in the national population; suicide rates are estimated to be between six and 11 times greater and appear to be increasing. In Canada, Inuit lung cancer rates are the highest in the world and climbing, and may be linked to the high rates of smoking. Health research indicates that Inuit households experience disturbing rates of food insecurity. A seminal study undertaken in 20072008 and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that nearly 70% of Inuit preschoolers resided in households rated as food insecure.

FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL JURISDICTION The federal governments current policy is that its responsibility with a few exceptions extends only to Indian people resident on-reserve and Inuit residing in traditional territories, while provincial governments have a general responsibility for Aboriginal peoples living off-reserve. Neither the federal nor the provincial governments have accepted any special responsibility for the Mtis and non-status Indian population. Jurisdiction over Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians is vested in the federal Crown by virtue of subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. The federal governments exclusive legislative authority over Indians is exercised primarily in relation to the on-reserve registered (status) Indian population. As a result, registered Indians are eligible for a range of federal programs and services delivered by a variety of federal government departments and agencies. A 1939 Supreme Court decision (Re Eskimos) brought the Inuit within the meaning of Indians under subsection 91(24), thus recognizing a special federal role in relation to the Inuit. As with onreserve registered Indians, the federal government provides a number of programs and services to Inuit communities. The status of the Mtis and the non-registered Indian population under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 remains undetermined. The federal government maintains that it does not have exclusive responsibility for these groups, and that its financial responsibilities for these groups are therefore limited.



Most provinces maintain that the federal government has primary jurisdiction over, and financial responsibility for, all of Canadas Aboriginal peoples, including off-reserve registered and nonregistered Indians and Mtis. In practice, however, these groups have access to programs and services on the same basis as other provincial residents. In the recent past, some provincial governments have taken an increasingly active role to improve their relations with Aboriginal communities. Evidence of this shift can be seen in the emergence of provincial policy frameworks and the introduction of special programs to address the social and economic needs of Aboriginal peoples living off-reserve. FEDERAL EXPENDITURES ON ABORIGINAL PROGRAMS AND SERVICES

In 2011-2012, Parliament approved approximately $7.4 billion in appropriations for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to support the provision of basic provincial-type services directed primarily, but not exclusively, to on-reserve First Nations communities, and to a lesser extent, Inuit residing in their traditional homelands. Federal funding for comparable services, normally delivered by provincial and municipal governments, represents the vast majority of spending. Education, health, housing, social assistance and capital facilities and maintenance (such as schools and water treatment plants) comprise the basic core services for which funding is provided. While the AANDC is the lead federal department responsible for coordinating and fulfilling the Government of Canadas obligations to First Nations, Inuit and Mtis people, 34 other federal departments are engaged in delivering a range of programs and services to Aboriginal Canadians. Total federal expenditures in this regard are estimated to be roughly $10 billion.


The Indian Act (1876) is the principal legislation through which federal jurisdiction for Indians and lands reserved for Indians is exercised. It is comprehensive and regulates almost every aspect of First Nations life on reserve. Provisions of the Act cover Indian status and band membership, the organization and exercise of band government, elections and by-laws, taxation, Indian lands and resources, the management of Indian moneys, wills and estates, and education. Only Status Indians are recognized as Indians under the Indian Act and are entitled to certain rights and benefits under the law. Non-Status, Mtis and the Inuit are not subject to the Act. Originally, the Indian Act was intended as a temporary set of laws until First Nations people were successfully assimilated into the dominant society. Despite numerous amendments to the Indian Act over the years, most notably in 1951 and 1985, the Act has remained largely unchanged. Certain discriminatory provisions of the Act, such as denying Indians the right to vote, forbidding them to leave a reserve or consume alcohol without the permission of an Indian agent, and Indian



women losing their status if they married non-status Indians or non-Indian men, have since been repealed. The deficiencies of the Indian Act have been well documented. Aboriginal peoples object to its inherent paternalism. Government officials also acknowledge the Acts limitations as a framework for relations with First Nations. While serving as an instrument of assimilation, however, the Act has also provided certain protections for First Nations. These conflicting roles, together with the differing views of Aboriginal self-government adopted by federal authorities and First Nations in the modern constitutional context, intensify the complexities of Indian Act reform. B. Aboriginal and Treaty Rights

Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, provides that the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed. The constitutional entrenchment of Aboriginal and treaty rights, and resulting protections, mean that these rights are not subject to unilateral extinguishment by federal laws. However, notwithstanding section 35(1) protections, the government does have the jurisdiction to limit or infringe Aboriginal and treaty rights for justifiable reasons. Specifically, if it can prove that the infringing measures serve a valid legislative objective such as natural resource conservation and that such measures are consistent with the fiduciary or trust relationship the government has with Aboriginal people. Aboriginal rights refer to the practices, traditions and customs integral to the distinctive cultures of aboriginal peoples. The hunting, trapping and fishing rights of certain Aboriginal peoples are examples of Aboriginal rights. Aboriginal rights vary from group to group depending on the customs, practices and traditions that have formed part of their distinctive cultures. Unlike Aboriginal rights, treaty rights do not derive from Aboriginal peoples historic use of the land. Treaty rights refer to Aboriginal rights set out in historic treaties or negotiated in modern land claims agreements between Aboriginal people and the Crown. While no two treaties are identical, examples of treaty rights across Canada included such things as reserve lands, farming equipment and animals, annual payments, ammunition, clothing and certain rights to hunt and fish. Since 1982, a substantial body of common law has developed governing the identification and definition of Aboriginal and treaty rights and how they are reconciled with Canadian society as a whole. These rights are site and fact-specific. However, the absence of terms defining these rights has placed the task of interpreting the scope of these section 35 rights squarely in the judicial sphere C. Land Claims

Since 1973, the federal policy has divided Aboriginal land claims into two broad categories comprehensive and specific claims.



Comprehensive claims (or modern treaties) are based on the assertion of continuing Aboriginal rights and title that have not been dealt with by treaty or other legal means. Comprehensive land claims agreements cover a wide range of issues such as: jurisdiction over lands and resources, harvesting rights, subsurface rights, resource-revenue sharing, land and resource management, environmental management and, as of 1986, harvesting rights in offshore areas. Since 1995, the negotiation of constitutionally-entrenched self-government arrangements has also been provided for within the context of land claim negotiations. Since the announcement of the first federal land claims policy in 1973, twenty-three comprehensive claim agreements have been signed and ratified. The pace of negotiating modern treaties as well as their effective implementation continues to be a source of long-standing concern. Specific land claims arise from alleged non-fulfilment of treaties or other legal obligations, or from the alleged improper administration of lands and other assets under the Indian Act or other formal agreements. In response to increasing frustrations with the growing backlog of unsettled specific claims, in June 2007 the Prime Minister, accompanied by then Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine, announced a plan to reform the specific claims system and address the mounting number of outstanding claims. The Specific Claims Tribunal Act (2008) established a Tribunal to make binding decisions on the validity of claims and compensation awards, to a prescribed maximum of $150 million per claim. It also allows a First Nation to file their claim with the Tribunal if, after three years have lapsed since the claim was accepted for negotiation, it has not been resolved. Between April 2010 and April 2011, 18 specific claims were settled at a total value of approximately $666 million. As of April 2011, 503 specific claims remained in the federal inventory of claims under assessment and negotiations. D. Aboriginal Self-Government

Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of Indians, Inuit and Mtis, but does not define those rights. Accordingly, the status of Aboriginal self-government under that provision has been a matter of ongoing debate. In 1995, general political acceptance of the concept led to federal recognition of the inherent right of Aboriginal self-government as an existing section 35 right. Under this policy, negotiated selfgovernment rights might attain section 35 protection as treaty rights in new treaties, as part of comprehensive land claim agreements or as additions to existing treaties, but might also be implemented in other, non-treaty, forms. The policy outlined differing approaches to selfgovernment for First Nations, Inuit and Mtis, stipulating that provincial/territorial governments must be parties to agreements in which subject matters addressed fall within their jurisdiction.



Despite federal acknowledgement of an inherent right of self-government, Aboriginal groups and governments continue to hold different views on the scope and nature of self-government powers. The current approach of the federal government features both negotiations on comprehensive selfgovernment agreements with individual or groups of First Nations, and incremental steps toward self-government through the transfer of authority or development of more flexible arrangements in particular sectors, such as education and First Nations financing. According to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has completed 17 self-government agreements in virtually every jurisdiction across the country. These include 15 self-government agreements completed in conjunction with comprehensive land claims as well as two stand-alone self-government agreements with the Sechelt and Westbank First Nations in British Columbia. E. Political Representation

Up until 1927, the Indian Act prohibited Aboriginal peoples from forming political organizations to represent their interests. Since then, however, Aboriginal peoples have established representative organizations at the national, provincial, regional and local levels to advocate on their behalf. At the local level, each community is represented by a Chief and Council, responsible for delivering an array of programs and services to their citizens in areas such as education, housing, health, drinking water and social services. In addition, there are five national organizations mandated to represent Aboriginal interests at the national and provincial level. They are: Assembly of First Nations (AFN): The AFN is the national representative organization of First Nations in Canada, and is particularly closely linked with reserve communities, numbering over 600. As the representative of Status Indians, for whom the Department of Indian Affairs takes core responsibility, the AFN is the National Aboriginal Organization (NAO) most commonly associated with the Department. Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is the AFN National Chief. Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP): The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (formerly the Native Council of Canada) describes its constituency as including Mtis, non-registered and off-reserve First Nations people throughout Canada. This is a source of disagreement with the AFN, which also states that it represents off-reserve First Nations people. CAPs National Chief is Betty Ann Lavalle. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK): The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (formerly Inuit Tapirisat of Canada) is the national Inuit organization, representing approximately 55,000 Inuit living in 53 communities in the four Inuit regions: Labrador, Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunavut, and the Western Arctic region of the Northwest Territories. Mary Simon is ITKs president. Mtis National Council (MNC): The Mtis National Council was established in 1983 and represents the Mtis of the historic Mtis Nation, taking its direction from the elected



leadership of the five Mtis Nation governments from Ontario westward. The MNC President is Clment Chartier. Native Womens Association of Canada (NWAC): NWAC represents First Nations women regardless of their status under the Indian Act and is concerned with a wide range of national issues facing Aboriginal people, particularly, in recent years, violence against Aboriginal women and matrimonial real property on reserve. The President of NWAC is Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.

The following important national organization does not represent any particular segment of the Aboriginal population: National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC): For many years Friendship Centres have provided referral and support services to Aboriginal peoples living in urban communities in areas such as health, housing, employment, recreation, human resources development and culture. The non-profit NAFC represents 117 Friendship Centres and 7 Provincial/Territorial Associations at the federal level, and manages and administers federal funding for friendship centres across the country. The President of NAFC is Vera Pawis Tabobondung.


Access to safe drinking water is a health and safety issue of critical importance to all Canadians. For many First Nations communities, however, unsafe drinking water is a persistent reality of their daily lives. As of 31 July 2011, 126 First Nations communities were under drinking water advisories; some of them are on long-term drinking water advisories, lasting several years. In April 2011, a national assessment of First Nations water and wastewater systems found that 39% of all First Nations water and wastewater systems were at high risk, 34% were ranked at medium risk and 27% as low overall risk of being unsafe.

DO ABORIGINAL PEOPLE PAY TAX? Like all Canadians, Aboriginal peoples are required to pay taxes. The only Aboriginal people enjoying some measure of exemption from taxation are First Nations people (Status Indians). These exemptions, however, apply in limited circumstances as outlined below. Under sections 87 and 90 of the Indian Act, Indians and bands do not pay federal and provincial taxes on their personal and real property which is situated on the reserve. Personal property includes goods and income, and certain on-reserve services. Some property, such as scholarships paid to registered Indians by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is always considered to be "situated on reserve" and is therefore not taxable. It is important to keep in mind that the legislative framework regarding Aboriginal peoples and taxation



is still being worked out. While Sections 87 and 90 do provide exemptions for Indians, the scope of those exemptions is not yet clear. Registered, or Status Indians, are subject to taxation unless the goods purchased, or income earned, is situated on a reserve. Since income is personal property, registered Indians who work on reserve do not pay provincial and federal taxes on their employment income. However, registered Indians living and/or working off-reserve are required to pay income tax. However, in Shilling v. Canada (1999) the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the income of Status Indians who work offreserve for an employer situated on a reserve should have that income exempt from taxation under Section 87 of the Indian Act. Provinces cannot tax registered Indians on any goods they purchase on a reserve. Some provinces exempt goods that are purchased off-reserve but are delivered to, used or consumed on-reserve (e.g. automobiles). The federal tax on goods and services (GST) follows similar guidelines. The GST does not apply to "'on reserve purchases of goods by Indians or bands, or to off-reserve purchases of goods delivered to the reserve by vendors or their agents" as well as to "services purchased onreserve by Indians, where the benefit will be primarily realized on-reserve"

WHAT ARE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS? Between the late 1800s and the early 1990s, the federal government, together with several Christian churches, operated a system of approximately 130 residential schools for Aboriginal children across the country. The Indian Residential Schools educational system saw more than 150,000 Aboriginal children taken to boarding schools, miles away from their families, to be civilized, educated, and converted to Christianity. While the schools mainly took in Indian and Inuit children, many were Mtis students. Though the system formally ended in 1969, several government-run schools remained open until as late as the 1990s. An estimated 70,00080,000 First Nations, Inuit and Mtis who attended residential schools are still alive in Canada today. In 2006, a negotiated legal settlement the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was reached between the federal government, representatives of former students at residential schools, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives and several church organizations. Among other things, the Agreement established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and provided compensation to eligible former students who resided at a recognized Indian Residential School ($10,000 for the first school year plus $3,000 for each school year after that). On 11 June 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a Statement of Apology to the former students of Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Prime Minister stated that it is now recognized that the entire policy of assimilation as administered through the Indian Residential Schools system was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.




The federal government provides approximately $300 million annually to support post-secondary education of on- and off-reserve First Nations students and Inuit learners. Most student funding under the Post Secondary Student Support Program is currently administered by First Nations and Inuit administrators. The PSE Program is not accessible to Mtis and Non-Status First Nations learners. Post-secondary enrolment rates among Aboriginal students have increased exponentially over recent decades with a continuing increase in education attainment levels seen among all Aboriginal groups. However, figures from Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada indicate that there has been a decline in the number of students funded over recent years. In 1996, 27,000 students received financial assistance compared to 23,000 in 2005. The decline can be partially explained by the fact that tuition costs have been rising substantially while the growth of the budget for the post-secondary student assistance program has been capped at 2% since 1996. In her 2004 report, the Auditor General cited an Assembly of First Nations report indicating that, as of 2000, about 9,500 First Nations people were unable to pursue post-secondary education owing to lack of federal funding

WHAT IS THE UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES? On September 13, 2007, in an historic vote, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is considered by many as constituting a major step in addressing the many serious and persistent human rights violations against indigenous peoples worldwide. It is arguably the most comprehensive international human rights instrument to explicitly address the rights of Indigenous peoples. The Declaration provides the worlds 370 million indigenous peoples in over 70 countries a universal instrument and legal framework for affirming a wide range of collective political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, including rights to self-government, recognition and enforcement of treaties, the maintenance and strengthening of distinct institutions as well as their traditions, customs, intellectual property and heritage. Initially, Canada was one of only four countries to vote against the Declaration (United States, New Zealand and Australia also voting against the measure) citing concerns that it was incompatible with its constitutional framework and the need to balance Aboriginal rights to lands and resources with the rights of others. However, faced with widespread criticism of its position, as well as Australia, NZ and the US signalling they would review their initial positions, Canada went on to formally endorsed the Declaration on 12 November 2010 (all four countries have since reversed their initial positions).



WHAT IS THE CANADA-FIRST NATIONS JOINT ACTION PLAN? On 9 June 2011, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the Honourable John Duncan, and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, announced a joint

action plan to improve the living conditions and prosperity of First Nations people in Canada. The Action Plan identifies four key priority areas for strategic action:

Education: Commitments in this area include developing a framework to strengthen and improve the delivery of elementary and secondary education to First Nations children living on reserve. Also included is a pledge to repeal the residential school provisions of the Indian Act. Accountability, transparency, capacity and good governance: Commitments in this area include advancing initiatives to support effective on-reserve First Nations governments, and increasing the transparency and accountability of those governments to their constituents. Specific areas of focus are improved First Nations electoral processes, emergency management frameworks and community development and a dialogue on citizenship and membership issues. Economic Development: The Joint Action Plan commits to establishing a Task Force on Activation of First Nation Economies with a focus on removing the barriers to economic development on-reserve and to unlocking the economic potential of First Nations. Negotiation and Implementation (Treaties and Claims): Commitments in this area include establishing a process to reinvigorate historic treaty relationships, improve the negotiation and implementation of comprehensive land claims and conduct a joint review of the progress of settling specific claims.




The Assembly of First Nations: The Mtis National Council: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Congress of Aboriginal Peoples: Native Womens Association of Canada: National Association of Friendship Centres: Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada: Truth and Reconciliation Commission: First Nation Child and Family Caring Society of Canada:


Statistics Canada, 2006 Census: Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Mtis and First Nations, 2006 Census: Findings, Catalogue no. 97-558-XIE:

Canada Revenue Agency, Information for Indians, Document is available on line at:
Office of the Auditor General of Canada, 2011 Status Report of the Auditor General of Canada Chapter 4 Programs for First Nations on Reserve, Ottawa, June 2011. Report is available on line at:

Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, The Specific Claims Policy and Process Guide, Ottawa 2009. This document is available on line at:



United Nations, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, New York, September 2007. The Declaration can be viewed on line at: Library of Parliament, Mary C. Hurley, Aboriginal Self Government, Ottawa, December 2009. The document can be consulted on line at: Library of Parliament, Tonina Simeone, Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities, Ottawa, May 2010. The document can be consulted on line at: Library of Parliament, Tonina Simeone, First Nations Education, Ottawa, June 2011. The document can be consulted on line at: House of Commons, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, No Higher Priority: Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education in Canada, February 2007. The report is available on line at: Senate of Canada, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Honouring the Spirit of Modern Treaties, May 2008. The report is available on line at:

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