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, 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.
Most recently, the committee has studied the question of the recognition of Metis identity in Canada. The committee traveled extensively for this purpose, seeking regional voices in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories to offer perspectives beyond the testimony heard in Ottawa. 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. The committee tabled its report, The People Who Own Themselves: Recognition of Metis Identity in Canada, in June 2013.
The committee has also investigated First Nations education. In the course of this study, some members 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.
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 May2008.
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.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
In recent years, the committee has pursued its legislative agenda by considering bills on such topics as the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations, the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, and the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations. These bills were reported without amendment.
Earlier bills covered issues related to education, land management, self government, land claims, treaty implementation, and resource management.
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 .