The federal government must seriously consider the reforms recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and not let the report sit on a shelf, says the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

“What Canada needs is a blueprint for change that makes a new relationship with the Aboriginal peoples a national imperative of the first order,” says the Commission’s 1996 Annual Report.

“The cost of an inadequate response today will almost certainly be increased frustration, more lost opportunities and yet another generation of Native Canadians consigned to a second-class existence.”

First Nations leaders across the country have set aside April 17 as a national day of protest against the government’s policies toward Native people. National Chief Ovide Mercredi of the Assembly of First Nations has warned that the Trans-Canada highway may be blockaded in provinces where it runs through Native communities.

The Annual Report also criticized Canada’s lack of employment for Native people, calling its record “abysmal.” Native people are underrepresented in the federal public service and in large companies like the banks and railways.

The Commission also called on Ottawa to withdraw its proposed amendments to the Indian Act, saying the government failed to consult adequately with Native people.