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Aboriginal Issues



Overview of Aboriginal Issues

- Aboriginal peoples want self-government.
- Land claims are at the center of debate, since the First Nations feel that they can only become truly self-reliant when their land has been returned.
- The Metis, descendants from First Nations and European (mainly French) are seeking basically the same thing.
- The Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord's included things beneficial to aboriginal peoples, but both accords were rejected.


Aboriginal Self-government

Ever since the early 1970's, aboriginal leaders have been negotiating with the federal and provincial governments for the rights to govern their own people throughout Canada. If the constitution recognized an aboriginal self-government, it would mean that the assemblies of elders and other systems used by aboriginal people would be legally recognized as governments.

In many cases, the negotiations for self-government are somehow related with land claims. The aboriginal or First Nations people debate they have inherent right to self-government based on their relationship with the land before the first European settlers arrived. First Nation peoples lost much of their land as more settlers arrived from Europe. Along with their land, they also lost control over their own affairs, as they became a minority of the population.

In the Proclamation of 1763, the British Crown declared that no land could be taken from the aboriginal people without adequate compensation or reimbursement. To get around the law, treaties were signed with First Nation peoples whenever more land was wanted. In the end, First nations people were given small reserves in remote areas, with most of the prime agricultural land taken from them by new settlers.

By the time Canada became a nation, as part of its treaty obligations, the federal government had taken responsibility for the education, health care and administration of all first Nation reserves and peoples.

The Metis people who are descendants of First Nations and European (mainly French) ancestors have also established traditions based on their relationship wit the land. Their negotiations with the federal government are much in common with those of the First Nations. Both groups of people have been forced to depend on the federal government for their survival since so much of their land had been taken away from them.

Constitutional changes recently have created opportunities, and movement towards aboriginal self-government. Land claims are at the center of debate, since the First Nations feel that they can only become truly self-reliant when their land has been returned to them.



Copyright 1998, Phil C. & Hussein B.