Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (1996-1997) Canada’s failing grades

November 22, 2006

Canada has been shortchanging aboriginal Canadians to the tune of $8 billion in the ten years since the RCAP report tabled its 440 recommendations. Government inaction, stalling tactics have hampered land claims settlements. Canada’s Inuit and First Nations continue to be denied rights to access adequate housing, health, education and employment (CHRC).

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These items placed in a linear chronology of events are gleaned from historical documents, reports, testimonies, witnesses produced as part of the largest most comprehensive participatory action research project undertaken in Canada, the Report on The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996). They are but a fragment of a thorough research project. Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
I am currently working on a more complete social history of Inuit.

Selected Social Histories Including Relations Between Settler Populations and First Nations, Inuit and Métis of Canada

1763. This “can best be done by a new Royal Proclamation, issued by the Queen as Canada’s head of state and the historical guardian of the rights of Aboriginal peoples, and presented to the people of Canada in a special assembly called for the purpose. The proclamation would set out the principles of the new relationship and outline the laws and institutions necessary to turn those principles into reality. It would not supplant but support and modernize the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which has been called Aboriginal peoples’ Magna Carta. (RCAP 1996)”.

1930s-1960s. “The use of the term ‘colony’ may sound odd, but it originated with civil servants who entered public service in the 1930s and felt they were doing work similar to the pioneering on the prairies of the nineteenth century. The term disappeared when they retired in the 1960s. See Tester and Kulchyski, Tammarniit (cited in note 134), p. 186. RCAP” ” Tester and Kulchyski, Tammarniit (cited in note 134), p. 111. The authors also caution that the term ‘experiment’ must be seen in the context of the administrative culture of the day. The civil servants involved in northern administration considered that they were opening up the North “in a manner parallel to what had happened on the Prairies following Confederation —” (p. 119). Experiment, at least in this context, had noble rather than sinister connotations.” RCAP. Canadian cultural policies Aboriginal affairs Inuit history.

1941. S. Arneil, “Investigation Report on Indian Reserves and Indian Administration, Province of Nova Scotia” (Ottawa: Department of Mines and Resources, Indian Affairs Branch, August 1941). RCAP.

1952. Contrary “to the perceptions of administrators at the time, one of the last residents of Takush, Robert Walkus, Sr., says the community was active and healthy before the relocation. Many people were employed in the fishery, and there were 30 boats, compared to the eight owned by community members in 1994. “I never had trouble finding any work. There was employment all year round. We never were dependent on the Government for anything. We were well off.” Robert Walkus, Sr., quoted in Franka von Specht, “A Gillnetter’s Journey on Land and Sea”, Awa’k’wis 5/7 (July 1994), p. 3. RCAP”. Chief G. Walkus, letter to Indian Agent, Alert Bay, 28 September 1952, quoted in Emery and Grainger, “You Moved Us Here”. RCAP.

1952. “NAC RG22, volume 254, file 40-8-1, volume 2 (1949-1952), “The Future of the Canadian Eskimo”, 15 May 1952, p. 1. RCAP”.

1952-62. Clancy, Peter, (1987), “The Making of Eskimo Policy in Canada, 1952-62: The Life and Times of the Eskimo Affairs Committee”, Arctic 40:3 (September 1987):191. See also Frances Abele, “Canadian Contradictions: Forty Years of Northern Political Development”, Arctic 40:4 (December 1987), pp. 310-320. We also discuss the development of northern policy administration as it affects Aboriginal people in the North in Volume 4, Chapter 6.” RCAP.

1953. “NAC RG22, volume 254, file 40-8-1, part 4, Minutes of a Meeting held at 10:00 a.m., August 10, 1953, in Room 304, Langevin Block, to Discuss the Transfer of Certain Eskimo Families from Northern Quebec to Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands. RCAP”.

1956. NAC RG85, volume 1514, file 1012-1, part 6, Minutes of the Seventh Meeting of the Committee on Eskimo Affairs, 28 May 1956, pp. 9-10, quoted in Tester and Kulchyski, Tammarniit, p. 310. RCAP.

1958. “NAC RG22, volume 335, file 40-8-14/1, Graham Rowley to Gordon Robertson, Memorandum for the Deputy Minister, 22 January 1958, quoted in Marcus, “Inuit Relocation Policies”. 161 NAC RG22, volume 1511, file 1000-179/2, R.A.J. Phillips to Gordon Robertson, Memorandum for the Deputy Minister, 15 January 1958, quoted in Marcus, “Inuit Relocation Policies”. RCAP”.

1958. NAC RG85, volume 1382, file 1012-13, part 5, Minutes of the meeting held November 18 [1958] at 10:30 a.m., in the conference room to discuss resource studies for the proposed relocation of Eskimos, p. 1, quoted in Tester and Kulchyski, Tammarniit, p. 319. RCAP.

1960. “Northwest Territories Archives (NwTA), N92-023, Alex Stevenson Papers, Box 10, Confidential Memorandum to the Director: Relocation of Eskimo Groups in the High Arctic, from C.M. Bolger, Administrator of the Arctic 15 November 1960.” RCAP.

1964. Diamond Jenness, Eskimo Administration: II, Canada, Technical Paper No. 14 (Montreal: Arctic Institute of North America, 1964), p. 58. RCAP.

1968. RCAP, High Arctic Relocation (cited in note 1), p. 18. The Hudson Bay Company’s post manager’s influence is alluded to in an economic survey written in the late 1960s that touches upon the [relocation] and the people’s unhappiness, though with little empathy: The Eskimo found rough ice choking the harbour, which made sea mammal hunting difficult. The Hudson’s Bay Company Manager dispersed half the Eskimos to Croker Bay. The Cape>Dorset and Pangnirtung Eskimos disliked the long winter period of darkness. The more superstitious of the Eskimo were also fearful during the dark period —The Hudson’s Bay Company closed the post due to poor ice conditions and moved the Eskimos to Arctic Bay. (Don Bissett, “Northern Baffin Island: an area economic survey”, volume 2 of the Northern Baffin Island Report [Ottawa: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Industrial Division, November 1968], p. 36.) 144 RCAP, High Arctic Relocation, p. 18. RCAP.

1970s. The large project proposals of the 1970s, such as the James Bay hydroelectric power development and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, galvanized Aboriginal peoples across the North. They organized to pressure governments to halt or regulate the projects. One result of this activity was the establishment of the comprehensive claims negotiation process, which was intended to achieve in modern times what the treaties had achieved (at least in part) in the past: secure and peaceful access to northern resources by those interested in developing them, and the regulation of land and water use so that Aboriginal hunters, trappers and fishers, and industrial developers, could coexist. A second result of land-use conflicts in the 1970s was the introduction of regulatory and review processes, such as the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Process.124 See The North RCAP 1996.

1979. Two “large collections of potlatch regalia were returned to the communities of Alert Bay and Cape Mudge in British Columbia. They were housed in museums built specifically to receive them and financed by the federal government. Repatriation can be a deeply spiritual and powerful experience, as indicated in the Peigan Nation response to repatriation of their cultural materials.” RCAP.

1983. The 1983 publication of “Native Children and the Child Welfare System, prepared for the Canadian Council on Social Development by Patrick Johnston, sent shock waves through child welfare and government systems, particularly those involved in First Nations child welfare.16 It presented documentary evidence that First Nations people had good grounds for protesting against the massive involvement of child welfare agencies in removing children from their families and communities” (RCAP 1996).

1988. The “Lubicon Lake Cree organized a boycott of The Spirit Sings, the cultural showcase of the Winter Olympics in Calgary. Museums were asked not to lend objects for the display, and many people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, refused to attend. The boycott did a great deal to raise awareness of the issues, and as a result of the conflict, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) formed a task force with a mandate to “develop an ethical framework and strategies for Aboriginal Nations to represent their history and culture in concert with cultural institutions”.6 The task force report sets out guiding principles, policies and recommendations on repatriation and calls for the creation of new relationships to serve the needs of Aboriginal people and the interests of Canadian cultural and heritage institutions. (See Appendix 6A to this chapter for excerpts from the report.)” RCAP.

1990. “Janet Mancini Billson, “Opportunity or Tragedy: The Impact of Canadian Resettlement Policy on Inuit Families”, American Review of Canadian Studies, 20:2 (Summer 1990), p. 192.” RCAP.

1996. The “Report on The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was published with findings that the damage due to a 150-year-old distorted relationship between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community in Canada and a call for reconciliation moving towards a renewed relationship of mutual recognition and respect, sharing and responsibility. “We were told many times during our mandate that most Canadians know little of Aboriginal life and less of Aboriginal history. Information in school curricula is limited. Media coverage is often unsatisfactory. Few governments, agencies and organizations promote awareness of Aboriginal issues among members, employees and colleagues. Yet without mutual understanding, a renewed relationship is impossible. Part of the answer is information. We recommend a number of steps to increase and improve the quality of information about Aboriginal people and their concerns. But information alone will not break down walls of indifference and occasional hostility. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people need many more chances to meet each other face to face and learn about one another. We urge Canadians to become involved in a broad and creative campaign of public education. Our report can be a starting point – a basis for study groups, lectures, meetings and exchanges, organized by churches and unions, schools and hospitals, local businesses and national corporations, about what they can do to understand and accommodate Aboriginal people and their concerns. Remaining passive and silent is not neutrality – it is support for the status quo (RCAP 1996).”

1998. A Teaching Manual entitled Aulajaaqtuta: Curriculum of empowerment was published by the Nunavut Divisional Education Councils. Sheila Levy was one of the organisers behind the project. The bibliography did not mention the RCAP report on Education. No Inuit references were cited at all although the report used a word in Inuktitut in its title.

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