• 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: Indians, 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. Canada 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 2011 census, 1,400,685 people in Canada had an aboriginal identity, accounting for 4.3% of the total Canadian population. 851,560 people identified as First Nations people, representing 60.8% of the total Aboriginal population and 2.6% of the total Canadian population.

The First Nations, referred to as Indians in the Constitution and generally registered under the Indigenous Act of Canada, are a diverse group, representing more than 600 First Nations and more than 60 languages. About 55% live in the reserve and 45% reside in urban, rural, special access and remote areas outside the reserve. The métis constitute a distinct aboriginal nation, with 451,795 in 2011, many of whom live in urban centers, mainly in western Canada.

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.

Historic Ruling from the Nunavut Court of Justice Upholding Inuit Rights

History was made yesterday when Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice issued his ruling in favour of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on the failure of the Government of Canada to create a Nunavut General Monitoring Plan as required by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. This is the fourth legal motion NTI has won in relation to the lawsuit filed in 2006 against the Government of Canada, on behalf of the Crown.

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Canada: Year of Youth ends with alarming suicide rates among young indigenous peoples

Pikangikum First Nation Pikangikum, Ontario POV 2L0 Tel. No.: 807-773-5578 / 773-5523 Fax No.: 807-773-5536 October 12, 2011 Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General – United Nations Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary- General for Economic and Social Affairs 2 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017 Sirs: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ YOUTH SUICIDES IN THE STATE OF CANADA On 1 February 2010, the General Assembly declared via a resolution that starting on the 12th of August 2010 until 12 of August 2011 would by the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding.

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Canada concerned over Russian suspension of RAIPON

Canada's term as head of the Arctic Council could get interesting before it even begins after Russia shut down a group that represents its northern aboriginals at international meetings. Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who sits on the council and is an Inuk herself, says Canada is concerned about the move and has joined other members in "expressing their concern."

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Canada: Discrimination against First Nations

During Canadas periodic review in February over 20 Indigenous nations and organizations, are holding Canada accountable and CERD has delivered scathing criticisms over the government's treatment of First Nations and recent changes to the country's immigration system. Members on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, questioned why headway has not been made in resolving the ongoing disparities between First Nations communities and the rest of the country. An "Alternate Report" was submitted by the Chiefs of Ontario to identify gaps, misrepresentations, and assumptions made in Canada's official report. It is stressed that the observations and recommendations made within the Alternate report are by no means new. Indigenous nations and organizations have been raising awareness and advocating action on these priorities for years.

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.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

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