IN DEPTH: ABORIGINAL CANADIANS|
National aboriginal organizations
CBC News Online | November 16, 2005
The Assembly of First Nations
The Assembly of First Nations was founded in 1982, not long after 300 native leaders travelled to London, England, in an attempt to prevent the federal government from patriating the Constitution. There were concerns that the Constitution would come home without recognizing First Nations people as among Canada's founding groups, and there were concerns that the National Indian Brotherhood - which represented many aboriginal Canadians at the time - didn't have wide enough support among First Nations people to properly represent their interests.
There were no organized national groups representing First Nations before the 1940s. In the early 1920s, a First World War Mohawk veteran - Fred Ogilvie Loft - tried to organize First Nations into a national group. The League of Indians in Canada was modelled after the League of Nations - but it suffered the same fate as the international body. Unable to attract widespread support, it faded away.
It didn't help that the 1927 Indian Act forbade First Nations people from forming political organizations to represent their interests. That was the job of the Department of Indian Affairs. It was not uncommon for First Nation leaders to be jailed by the RCMP for trying to organize any form of political group.
After the Second World War, the short-lived North American Indian Brotherhood focused on extending voting rights without the loss of Indian rights. Again, a lack of nationwide support led to the death of the NAIB by 1959.
In 1961, the National Indian Advisory Council was formed to represent three of the four major groups of aboriginal people in Canada:
The NIAC was set up to promote "unity among all First Nations people." But it didn't include the Inuit. The organization dissolved in 1968 because of disagreements between "status" and "non-status" Indians. The "status Indians" formed the National Indian Brotherhood. The "non-status Indians" and the Métis groups formed what eventually became the Congress of Aboriginal People.
- Status Indians.
- Non-status Indians.
The NIB scored several successes in its dealings with the federal government. In 1972, the NIB's Indian Control of Indian Education policy paper won over then Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chrétien. It also managed to raise the profile nationally and among Indian communities of the issue of Indian control of Indian government.
The NIB also brought attention to issues such as housing, health care and economic development. It established itself as a powerful voice for status aboriginal people in Canada.
But despite its successes, there were problems within the NIB. The biggest difficulty remained organizing all the various status First Nation groups across Canada into a single, cohesive lobby group. The NIB drew an increasing amount of criticism for not being truly representative of all the status First Nations in the country.
The NIB responded by evolving. Instead of being an organization of representatives from regions of the country, the Assembly of First Nations became an organization of First Nations government leaders, under a national chief. The structure was formalized under the Charter of the Assembly of First Nations, which was adopted in July 1985.
The principal organs of the Assembly of First Nations are:
The Executive Committee is made up of the regional vice-chiefs, the national chief and the chairperson of the Council of Elders. Chiefs of their respective regions select the vice-chiefs. The Chiefs in Assembly elect the national chief every three years.
- The First Nations-in-Assembly.
- The Confederacy of Nations.
- The Executive Committee.
- The Secretariat (AFN/NIB).
- The Council of Elders.
The Métis National Council
The Constitution Act of 1982 led to the formation of the Métis National Council, which represents more than a quarter of a million Métis across Canada. The Act recognized the Métis as a distinct aboriginal people.
In the wake of the Constitution Act, four first ministers conferences were to be held to deal with additional changes needed respecting aboriginal peoples. Métis leaders concluded that they could not be adequately represented under the Native Council of Canada, which was an umbrella organization representing diverse aboriginal groups.
In March 1983, the Métis Nation separated from the Native Council of Canada and formed the Métis National Council (MNC). The council is made up of representatives from local Métis governments from Ontario westward.
Those governments are:
The Métis National Council is an evolving body. It is governed by a six-member board of directors that includes the presidents of the five Métis groups and a national president who is elected by the assembly every two or three years.
- The Métis Nation of Ontario.
- The Manitoba Métis Federation.
- The Métis Nation - Saskatchewan.
- The Métis Nation of Alberta.
- The Métis Provincial Council of British Columbia.
The national president appoints eight people to a cabinet. Each minister is responsible for a portfolio that is a priority sector within the organization's rights-based agenda. They are:
- Social development.
- Culture and heritage.
- Métis rights.
- Youth and women's issues.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
The history of Canada's Inuit differs from that of most aboriginal Canadians: they weren't directly threatened by guns or violence. But government policies did change their lives drastically over the past couple of centuries.
Inuit communities were small and isolated and there was little opportunity for large groups of them to gather. But by the mid-1960s, that began to change. Inuit students were brought together at high schools established at Churchill, Man., and Yellowknife, NWT. That gave large numbers of Inuit youth from different regions the opportunity to start discussing the types of problems they were facing.
At about the same time, an organization called the Indian and Eskimo Association (IEA) was created. Its primary objectives were to conduct research on the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada and to assist newly formed aboriginal organizations in becoming involved in the political process.
In 1969, Tagak Curley was asked to represent Inuit as a member of IEA. He would later become one of the founding members of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
In 1971, seven Inuit attended a meeting in Toronto. At the end of it, they called for an independent Inuit organization that would work alongside Indian organizations. That organization became the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
The new organization would focus on:
Among its aims and objectives are:
- Aboriginal rights.
- Concerns about development.
- Formalizing Inuit rights with respect to development, and establishing appropriate mechanisms for Inuit participation, consultation and decision making powers.
- Formulating policies, programs and research for dealing with rights to territory and resources.
- Concerns about the right to maintain traditional land use and harvesting practices.
The formation of the group set in motion a process that would eventually lead to land claims and to the creation of self-governing regions.
- To represent the interests of the Inuit through their settlement claim organizations.
- To preserve and promote the unity of Inuit as a single people within Canada.
- To promote and facilitate co-ordination and co-operation among the Inuit settlement claim organizations on matters of a national nature.
- To take measures to further enable Inuit to fully exercise their rights within Canadian society in general, including their right of self-government.
The ITK is run by an eight-member board of directors. It's made up of the presidents of the four regional Inuit organizations (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Makivik Corporation, Labrador Inuit Association and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation) as well as the presidents of the National Inuit Youth Council (NIYC), Pauktuutit (National Inuit Woman's Association), Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC Canada) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).
The board of directors elects the president of ITK.
Native Women's Association of Canada
The Native Women's Association of Canada was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1974. It is composed of 13 provincial and territorial native women's organizations from across the country and is the national voice for native women in Canada.
Most of its budget is passed to those 13 provincial and territorial member associations to enable grassroots level work and strengthen the voice of aboriginal women nationwide.
The group describes itself as acting much like a "grandmothers' lodge," collectively recognizing, respecting, promoting, defending and enhancing "our Native ancestral laws, spiritual beliefs, language and traditions given to us by the Creator."
The association's goal is to "help empower women by being involved in developing and changing legislation that affects them, and by involving them in the development and delivery of programs promoting equal opportunity for aboriginal women."
The NWAC's has been trying to pressure the federal government to change Bill C-31. The legislation - which was given royal assent in 1985 - made changes to the Indian Act that the group says have led to large numbers of First Nations people losing their Indian status either because one of their parents is non-status or their spouse is non-status.
The NWAC's board of directors is made up of four regional executive leaders, four regional youth leaders from the youth council, 13 regional representatives, a council of elders, and one national speaker (the president).
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
The Congress of Aboriginal People traces its roots back to 1961 and the formation of the National Indian Council. The federal government set up the council as an umbrella group to represent non-status Indians (mostly living in urban areas) and Métis people.
By 1968, the group was finding it increasingly difficult to equally pursue the interests of the various groups it represented. There was a split: the Canadian Métis Society and the National Indian Brotherhood emerged. The Canadian Métis Society was renamed the Native Council of Canada in 1970. The National Indian Brotherhood evolved and became the Assembly of First Nations in 1982.
The NCC was composed of provincial and territorial organizations, usually called native councils or Métis and non-status Indian associations.
The NCC refocused its objectives in 1985, a year after the Métis National Council emerged as an alternate voice for Métis nationalism. In 1993, it officially became the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and aimed to provide a voice for the rapidly growing urban aboriginal population, both status and non-status.
CAP does not have individual memberships or provide programs and services directly to people. CAP is a collection of affiliated organizations, each of which is a provincially or territorially incorporated organization that has legally associated itself with CAP since 1971. Each has its own constitution, membership, and elected executive officers with its own administrative staff and program officers.
CAP's board of directors consists of a national chief, a vice-chief and the chief or president of each of its affiliated organizations.
Total population of Canada: 31,414,000|
Total people of aboriginal origin: 1,319,890
North American Indian:
More than one aboriginal origin:
People of aboriginal origin living on reserve: 285,625
People of aboriginal origin living off reserve: 1,034,260
People of non-aboriginal origin living on reserve: 36,230
(Source: 2001 Census, Statistics Canada)
*includes people of a single aboriginal origin and those of a mix of one aboriginal origin with non-aboriginal origins