About the Committee
INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE
ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples is referred, as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers, and other matters relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples was created by the Senate in 1990, following a motion presented by the Honourable Len Marchand, an Aboriginal senator from British Columbia who later became the committee’s first chair. The Senate Selection Committee nominated the first members of the committee on February 14, 1990. Prior to the creation of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the Senate Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and on Social Affairs, Science and Technology considered bills that affected Aboriginal peoples.
Over the last few years, the committee received mandates to examine and report on the federal government’s constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and on other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.
The committee has, for example, undertaken an investigation of First Nations education. In the course of this study, the committee travelled to Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to gather evidence, beyond what it had heard in Ottawa. The report, Reforming First NationsEducation: From Crisis to Hope was extremely well-received when it was tabled in December, 2011. It recommended that an opt-in First Nations Education Act be developed that would recognize the authority of First Nations for on-reserve education; that the Act provide authority for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to make payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to First Nations educational authorities, with the objective of providing educational services on reserves; that AANDC in collaboration with First Nations organizations and the Assembly of First Nations develop a Canada-First Nations Action Plan for education reform; and that a task force, jointly appointed by the Minister and the Assembly of First Nations be established to oversee and monitor progress related to First Nations educational reform.
In 2010, the committee held hearings on the issue of elections held in the context of the Indian Act. These hearings culminated in a report entitled First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs.
A few years ago, the committee undertook a special study on the implementation of comprehensive land claims agreements in Canada. The result was a report entitled Honouring the Spirit of Modern Treaties: Closing the Loopholes. The report was adopted by the Senate in May, 2008.
The committee was also authorized to examine and report on the involvement of Aboriginal communities and businesses in economic development activities in Canada. In March, 2007, the committee’s final report Sharing Canada’s Prosperity, a Hand Up, not a Handout, was issued. Other studies covered wide ranging topics of interest like safe drinking water in First Nations’ communities and urban Aboriginal youth.
Most recently, the committee has been studying the question of the recognition of Métis identity in Canada, including legal, political, and cultural definitions of the Métis, and processes for enumeration and registration. To offer broadest possible perspective, the committee travelled extensively seeking regional voices in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. In July 2012, the committee also seized upon a unique opportunity to see Metis culture in context during the Back to Batoche Days festival in Batoche, Saskatchewan. This provided an invaluable opportunity to meet with elders and political representatives gathered there and to tour the Batoche national historic site, the last battlefield in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
In the last 10 years, the committee has pursued its legislative agenda by considering over 20 bills of importance to First Nations. These bills covered issues related to education, land management, self-government, land claims, treaty implementation, and resource management.
A recent example is Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, which was reported to the Senate in June of 2012. Earlier in the year, the committee had studied Bill S-6, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councilors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations. Other examples include Bill C-22, An Act to give effect to the Agreement between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada concerning the Eeyou Marine Region in November, 2011; Bill C-24, An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act in June, 2010 and Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act in May, 2009.
For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at: http://senate-senat.ca/appa.asp .