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Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples
The Senate of Canada
Canada, K1A 0A4
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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, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers, and other 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 Indigenous 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 Indigenous peoples.
Over the past decade, the committee has undertaken a variety of special studies and produced several significant reports on its on mandate 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 Indigenous peoples of Canada.
In the past parliament, the committee undertook a study on the new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The study was divided into three phases focused on: (1) the history of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada, (2) the main principles of a new relationship and (3) the application of these principles to specific issues affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada. During its study, the committee held public hearings in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and heard from over 120 witnesses. The committee also travelled to Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. In April 2019, the committee tabled an interim report titled How did we get here? A concise, unvarnished account of the history of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. A final report for the study was not tabled prior to the end of the session.
In March 2012, the committee also studied the question of the recognition of Métis identity in Canada, including legal, political, and cultural definitions of the Métis, and processes for enumeration and registration. To offer broadest possible perspective, the committee travelled extensively seeking regional voices in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. In July 2012, the committee seized upon a unique opportunity to see Métis 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 in the Senate on June 2013.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
In the last 10 years, the committee has pursued its legislative agenda by considering over 20 bills of importance to First Nations. These bills covered issues related to education, language, land management, self-government, land claims, treaty implementation, and resource management.
Most recent examples include Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was presented to the Senate without amendment but with observations on June 10, 2021; Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages, which was presented to the Senate on June 13, 2019, with amendments; Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which was presented to the Senate with amendments including observations on June 13, 2019; and Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was presented to the Senate without amendment on June 11, 2019.
Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration) was referred to the committee on November 17, 2016. The committee initially held several meetings and heard from many witnesses. On December 6, 2016, the committee adopted a motion to report that the bill should not proceed further in the Senate. However, after further discussion, the committee decided to hold the bill in abeyance and write a letter to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs about Senators’ and witnesses’ concerns. The committee resumed its study and the bill was reported with amendment, including observations, on May 30, 2017.
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: https://www.sencanada.ca/en/committees/appa.