• Indigenous peoples in Canada

    Indigenous peoples in Canada

    The indigenous peoples of Canada are collectively referred to as “aboriginal peoples”. Canada recognizes three groups of aboriginal peoples: First Nation, Inuit and Métis. Canada’s aboriginal peoples are challenged by the slow implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, child welfare, and violence against indigenous women and girls.
  • Peoples

    1,400,685 persons in Canada have an aboriginal identity, according to the 2011 census
  • Rights

    In 2010, the Canadian government announced its endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007.
  • Current state

    Canada’s aboriginal peoples are challenged by the slow implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, child welfare, and violence against indigenous women and girls.


The Indigenous Peoples of Canada are collectively known as "Aboriginal Peoples". The Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes three groups of Aboriginal Peoples: Indians, Inuit and Métis. Aboriginal peoples in Canada are challenged by the slow implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, child welfare and violence against indigenous women and girls.

In 2010, the Canadian government announced its support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. This decision was a reversal of Canada's previous opposition to the Declaration, which he pursued together with Australia, the United States and New Zealand. All have reviewed their attitude towards the Declaration.

The Government of Canada has highlighted four important principles that govern its relations with Indigenous Peoples. These are the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. Unfortunately, these principles seem to come with little more than political rhetoric. In addition, Canada has not ratified ILO Convention 169.

The Constitutional Act of Canada of 1982 recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and Existing Treaties of Aboriginal Peoples. In addition, the Supreme Court of Canada has called for the reconciliation of "pre-existing aboriginal sovereignty with the supposed sovereignty of the Crown."

Aboriginal peoples and First Nations

According to the 2016 Canadian Census, there were 1,673,785 Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, accounting for 4.9% of the total population. 977,230 people identified as a First Nations person. First Nations (defined as “Indians” in the Indian Act (R.S.C., 1985., 1985, c. I-5) and the Constitution Act (1982)) are diverse Nations and peoples representing more than 600 distinct First Nations and encompassing more than 60 languages.

The Métis constitute a distinct Aboriginal nation, number 587,545 in 2016, many of whom live in urban centres. The Inuit represent an Indigenous People who have occupied Inuit Nunangat in Canada’s north, and numbered 65,025 in 2016.

Main challenges for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada

Indigenous Peoples and their allies are challenged by the slowness of substantive action on the implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations. Even with a support government at the federal level, implementation remains a challenge for the state. The causes of this include pressures from the corporate sector and disputes within the government about how the implementation could move forward.

Another struggle is related to child welfare. The Canadian Court of Human Rights (CHRT) ruled that the First Nations Children and Families Services Program (FNCFS), provided by the Government of Canada through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC), has denied services of child welfare to many First Nations Children and families living in the reserves. Despite welcoming the decision and swearing to act, the Canadian government has not complied.

It is worth noting that Canada has presented itself before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) at the Organization of American States (OAS) regarding both the issues of violence against indigenous women and girls and the current discrimination against them.

Possible progress for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada

After many years of national and international calls, Canada launched a national investigation into Indigenous women and girls killed and disappeared in 2016. The commission should recommend actions to eliminate the systemic causes of violence and increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls.

The recommendations will be made to the government through an interim report before November 1, 2017 and a final report by November 1, 2018. Indigenous communities and political organisations have welcomed the investigation, but have also expressed concerns for the slow start and raised with respect to transparency.

In February, the Prime Minister announced a working group of ministers to review and decolonize all federal laws, policies and operational practices, including to ensure consistency with the UN Declaration. This work should be carried out in consultation with Indigenous Peoples. While the working group met and presumably worked on this critical task, the commitment with representatives of Indigenous Peoples and other experts was unfortunately minimal.

In late 2016, the Prime Minister announced new bilateral mechanisms between the federal government and the three national representative bodies for Indigenous Peoples: the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis nation. Such a formalized relationship between the federal government and Indigenous Peoples is certainly a step to improve relationships and work in a more collaborative manner.

Canada: Indigenous leaders reject Pipeline Equity Offer

Tar Sands: First Nations Reject Enbridge Pipeline Equity Offer - “Your Money is No Good To Us.” Nations reject company's latest tar sands pipeline financial package, citing the risk of oil spills, and taking company to task for lack of respect for their rights Prince George/Lheidli (BC) – Last night at a public meeting in Prince George, the five First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance told Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines President John Carruthers that they categorically reject the company’s revenue-sharing offer.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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