The Committee’s mandate includes all areas covered by the Department
of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, also known as Indian and Northern Affairs Canada or INAC. It can study any aspect of the Department’s management and operation, as well as any legislation, programs or policy areas administered by the Department. Traditionally, the Department has taken responsibility primarily for on-reserve registered First Nations people, Inuit and northern or territorial affairs. In turn, the Committee has primarily considered legislation and issues related to these populations and subjects. The Committee may also look into other government programs and services developed for on-reserve First Nations people. It can examine issues, policies and programs related to off-reserve registered and non-registered First Nations people, Métis, and other off-reserve Aboriginal people. As of July 2004, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has been assigned the additional role of Federal
Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians.
At its broadest, the Committee’s mandate could extend to any issue of concern to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, at the national or international level.
Order 108(1), the House of Commons refers matters to the Committee for examination and report. These referrals often involve government bills coming from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. This Order also authorizes the Committee to create subcommittees to focus on particular subjects. For example, in 1995 the Committee established the Sub-Committee on Aboriginal Education to study and report on Aboriginal education.
Standing Order 108(2) gives the Committee broad authority to study the policies, programs, expenditures and legislation of departments and related agencies falling under its mandate. The main department assigned to the Committee is the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Major agencies reporting to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development whose activities may be of interest to the Committee include the British Columbia Treaty Commission (BCTC), the Indian Claims Commission (ICC), the Canadian Polar Commission, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (Saskatchewan), the Treaty Relations Commission (Manitoba) and the Cree-Naskapi Commission. Representatives of these and other agencies frequently appear before the Committee, either at their request or at the Committee’s invitation. In addition, as mentioned above, the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians has also become the Minister’s responsibility.