Trisha Shetty

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

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The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) was a Canadian Royal Commission established in 1992 to address many issues of Aboriginal status that had come to light with recent events such as the Oka Crisis and the Meech Lake Accord. The commission culminated in a final report of 4000 pages, published in 1996. The original report "set out a 20-year agenda for implementing changes."



The Commission of Inquiry investigated the evolution of the relationship among Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis), the Government of Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and part of the Culture of Canada as a whole. It proposed specific solutions, rooted in domestic and international experience, to the problems which have plagued those relationships and which confront Aboriginal peoples today. The Commission examined many issues which it deems to be relevant to any or all of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The study of the historical relations between the government and Aboriginal people, in order to determine the possibility of Aboriginal self-government, and the legal status of previous agreements that included, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Indian Act, the Numbered treaties and Aboriginal case law.

Final report

Members of the Commission traveled to numerous Aboriginal communities to interview Aboriginal peoples on their past and current condition. The commission consisted of several high-profile Aboriginal members and jurists, including Paul Chartrand (Commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission), Peter Meekison, Viola Robinson, Mary Sillett, and Bertha Wilson, and was chaired by René Dussault, and Georges Erasmus. The Commission issued its final report in November 1996. The five-volume, 4,000-page report covered a vast range of issues; its 440 recommendations called for sweeping changes to the relationship between Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal people and the governments in Canada. Some of the major recommendations included the following:

  • Legislation, including a new Royal Proclamation stating Canada’s commitment to a new relationship and companion legislation setting out a treaty process and recognition of Aboriginal nations and governments.
  • Recognition of an Aboriginal order of government, subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with authority over matters related to the good government and welfare of Aboriginal peoples and their territories.
  • Replacement of the federal Department of Indian Affairs with two departments, one to implement the new relationship with Aboriginal nations and one to provide services for non-self-governing communities.
  • Creation of an Aboriginal parliament.
  • Expansion of the Aboriginal land and resource base.
  • Recognition of Métis self-government, provision of a land base, and recognition of Métis rights to hunt and fish on Crown land.
  • Initiatives to address social, education, health (Indian Health Transfer Policy) and housing needs, including the training of 10,000 health professionals over a ten-year period, the establishment of an Aboriginal peoples’ university, and recognition of Aboriginal nations’ authority over child welfare.
  • Criticism

    In an uncharacteristic move, Erasmus denounced the historical role of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada for forced integration of Aboriginal Peoples. Referring to the abandonment of Aboriginal languages, cultures and traditions.

    Twenty years later

    With the publication of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (Government of Canada, 1996), there was increased recognition in Western Canada of "the urgent need for preservation of Canada’s Indigenous languages, many of which face[d] extinction if current trends continue." In response to the threat of extinction, institutes for the revitalization of Indigenous languages - like the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute (CHILLDE) were established. Now running out of the University of Alberta, by 2016, CHILLDE had attracted over a thousand participants to its summer school programs.


    Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Wikipedia

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