Key Dates in Aboriginal and Canadian Government Relations

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Key Dates in Aboriginal and Canadian Government Relations by Andrew Thomson

  • Royal Proclamation (1763)

Afer the British seizure of nearly all of France's North American empire, King George III issued a proclamation to organize the new possessions. This included a ban on private land purchases from First Nations -- all land transfers would be performed in public, in the name of the Crown, creating the modern treaty process.

The proclamation is viewed as a key constitutional document for relations between the Crown and Canada's First Nations.

British North America Act (1867) Responsibility for "Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians" is given to the federal government.

Indian Act (1876) This legislation still governs registered Indians, reserves, and bands. There have been several amendments since.

The White Paper (1969) and the Red Paper (1970) The federal government releases a document calling for "equal staus" for aboriginal peoples, who "must not be shut out of Canadian life." Ottawa proposed to:

   * repeal the Indian Act and end the legal distinction between "status" Indians and other Canadians
   * end the treaty process for land claims and create private ownership of reserve lands
   * devolve more responsibility for aboriginal peoples to the provinces

A group of Alberta chiefs responded the following year with an infamous "Red Paper" that defended their status and treaty rights, arguing that the government offered "despair instead of hope."

Constitution Act (1982) The new Charter of Rights and Freedoms could not "abrogate or derogate" from aboriginal rights found in the Royal Proclamation or land claims agreements. Aboriginal leaders, worried their historic rights would be excluded in a new constitution, even traveled to London to press their case.

Also this year, the National Indian Brotherhood was re-organized into the Assembly of First Nations.

First Ministers' Conferences (1983-1987) Four conferences were held with aboriginal groups, but no agreement was reached on self-government.

Meech Lake Accord (1987) The first attempt to amend the 1982 Constitution included a recognition of Métis peoples. However, many First Nations refused to support the accord, which expired in June 1990.

Charlottetown Accord (1992)

The failed constitutional reforms of Meech Lake led to a second attempt by Brian Mulroney's government. Charlottetown included more provisions for aboriginal peoples, including the right to self-government and Senate representation. Canadian voters defeated the accord in an October referendum.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) The massive five-volume, 4,000-page report contained 440 recommendations, including:

   * a new Royal Proclamation
   * an aboriginal parliament
   * more Métis rights, including self-government
   * more resources for education, health care, housing, and social services

Kelowna Accord (2005)

Paul Martin's Liberal government engineered a $5.1-billion agreement with the provinces and aboriginal leaders, not long before a non-confidence motion led to an election and his replacement by Stephen Harper.

The accord ended more than one year of negotiations.

The House of Commons passed a private member's bill by Martin in 2007 that would have restored the funding for health care, education, and housing, but was not implemented by the minority Conservative government.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008) Commissioners were given a five-year mandate to review the residential school system and its abuses. Another key goal was to provide a forum for surviving students to share their experiences.

An earlier agreement set aside $1.9 billion as compensation for survivors.

Residential Schools Apology (June 11, 2008) Prime Minister Stephen Harper rose in the House of Commons to issue an official apology to former students at residential schools. First Nations leaders responded to the apology inside the chamber.

Conservative Majority (2011) Since winning a majority, the Harper government has introduced the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The bill would require band chiefs and councillors to publish their salaries and expenses. -Andrew Thomson


Interview with John Duncan (Dec. 9, 2011)

Canada's North Beyond 2011: Session One and Session Two

Rebuilding Bridges with the First Nations (August 2011)

Shawn Atleo on aboriginal education (May 2011)

2010 AFN General Assembly

The Crown and the First Nations (June 2010)

2006 Land Claims conference: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

Canadian Constitutional Affairs Conference (January 2008)

Our Home on Native Land: Burrard Inlet, Cumberland House, Kitcisakik, Pauingassi, Wikwemikong

Telling Times: First Nations voting rights

Shawn Atleo's election as AFN national chief and news conference (July 2009)

Key Dates in Aboriginal and Canadian Government Relations

  • 1763: A Royal Proclamation notes aboriginal claims to lands and says treaties with natives will be handled by the Crown.
  • 1867: The British North America Act gives the federal government responsibility for aboriginals and their lands.
  • 1871-75: The first five numbered treaties deal with native lands in northwestern Ontario and what is now southern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta.
  • 1876: The Indian Act is passed, essentially extinguishing any remaining self-government for natives and making them wards of the federal government.
  • 1870s: The first residential schools open. Their painful legacy would stretch to today.
  • 1885: The Northwest Rebellion was a brief and unsuccessful uprising by the Metis people of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel. Some Cree groups also fought, but for a variety of reasons, some unrelated to the Metis grievances
  • 1951: Major changes to the Indian Act remove a number of discriminatory rules, including a ban on native consumption of alcohol, although it is only allowed on reserves.
  • 1960: Natives are given the right to vote in federal elections.
  • 1973: In the Calder case, the Supreme Court held that aboriginal rights to land did exist, citing the 1763 Royal Proclamation.
  • 1975: Quebec signs the James Bay agreement with Cree and Inuit communities, opening the way for new hydro projects.
  • 1984: The Inuvialuit Claims Settlement Act gave the Inuit of the western Arctic control over resources.
  • 1985: Changes to the Indian Act extend formal Indian status to the Metis, all enfranchised aboriginals living off reserve land and aboriginal women who had previously lost their status by marrying a non-aboriginal man
  • 1990: The Oka Crisis focuses attention of native land claims.
  • 1999: Nunavut is created in the western Arctic, with lands set aside where Inuit can live, hunt and control sub-surface resources.
  • 2000: The federal government approves the Nisaga'a Treaty, giving the tribe about $196 million over 15 years plus communal self-government and control of natural resources in parts of northwestern British Columbia.
  • 2005: The Kelowna Accord called for spending $5 billion over five years to improve native education, health care and living conditions. Paul Martin's minority Liberal government fell before the accord could be implemented.
  • 2008: Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers a formal apology on behalf of Canada over residential schools.
  • 2010: Canada signs the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • 2011: A winter housing crisis in the northern Ontario native community of Attawapiskat rivets national attention on native living conditions.
  • 2012: Harper holds a summit meeting with First Nations chiefs.

Source: New