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Government documents & law

Indian Act  (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-5) Justice Canada - Laws

"The Indian Act is a Canadian federal law that governs in matters pertaining to Indian statusbands, and Indian reserves." (The Indian Act, UBC Indigenous Foundations)

Further reading about the Indian Act:


RCAP: Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) - Government of Canada

The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) concerns government policy with respect to the original historical nations of this country. Those nations are important to Canada, and how Canada relates to them defines in large measure its sense of justice and its image in its own eyes and before the world.


 UNDRIP: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) - UN General Assembly Resolution

The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.

Government departments

Current departments

In August 2017, the Prime Minister announced plans for the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the creation of two new departments: Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC). This transformation will take time and includes engagement with Indigenous peoples. This websites of these new departments will be updated as a result of structural changes to the departments.

History of departmental responsibility

"Throughout the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, it was the British Imperial Government which, mainly through the actions of its military commanders, governors general, and lieutenant governors between European colonists and the original peoples of North America. In the Maritimes, the colonial legislatures of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island dealt with Indian matters by appointing commissioners and passing legislation as specific needs arose.

In the united Canadas, the Department of Crown Lands assumed responsibility for Indian administration in Canada East and Canada West in 1860.

On the Prairies and in British Columbia, the operations of the Hudson's Bay Company constituted Britain's initial dealings with the Indian nations.

At Confederation, the federal Department of Secretary of State undertook the management of the Canadian government's role with respect to Indians in Canada, then shifting to the Department of the Interior in 1873.

In 1880 a separate Department of Indian Affairs was created, which gave full departmental status to Indian Affairs. This arrangement lasted for fifty-six years, after which Indian Affairs reverted to branch status within the following departments:

  • Mines and Resources from 1936 to 1949,
  • Citizenship and Immigration from 1949 to 1965,
  • Northern Affairs and National Resources from 1965 to 1966,
  • Indian Affairs and Northern Development from 1966 to 2017.

Inuit programs were handled by the Northern Affairs Program and its predecessors until 1971. At that time, the Indian and Eskimo (later Inuit) Affairs Program came into existence." (Library and Archives Canada, 2018, Indian Affairs Record Group Inventory: Administrative Outline)

Government Relations


Canada's Relationship with Inuit: A History of Policy and Program Development (2006) - Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

An overview of the federal government’s Inuit policy and program development from first contact to 2006. Topics that are covered  include the 1939 Re Eskimo decision that gave Canada constitutional responsibility for Inuit, post World War II acculturation and defence projects, law and justice, sovereignty and relocations, the E-number identification system, Inuit political organizations, comprehensive claim agreements, housing, healthcare, education, economic development, self-government, the environment and urban issues. 

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