Excerpts from the Royal Commission report (Official Summary), entitled, “People to People, Nation to Nation”:

“There cannot be peace or harmony unless there is justice… Our central conclusion can be summarized simply: The main policy direction, pursued for more than 150 years, first by colonial then by Canadian governments, has been wrong.”

“A careful reading of history shows that Canada was founded on a series of bargains with Aboriginal peoples—bargains this country has never fully honoured.”

“Aboriginal people’s living standards have improved in the last 50 years—but they do not come close to those of non-Aboriginal people… Aboriginal people do not want pity or hand-outs. They want recognition that these problems are largely the result of the loss of their lands and resources, the destruction of their economies and social institutions and denial of their nationhood.”

“Aboriginal people have made it clear, in words and deeds, that they will no longer sit quietly by, waiting for their grievances to be heard and their rights restored. Despite their long history of peacefulness, some leaders fear that violence is in the wind.”

The Facts

Figures from the Royal Commission on First Nations living standards. Courtesy of The Eastern Door.

❖ The Native population in Canada is growing at twice the rate of the Canadian population.

❖ Fifty-six per cent of the current Native population is below the age of 25. Two-thirds are under the age of 15.

❖ 300,000 new jobs will have to be created for Native people within the next 20 years if they are going to reach the nine to 10 per cent rate of unemployment of the Canadian population today.

❖ The First Nations population has a low participation rate in the overall Canadian economy. Fifty-seven per cent of Native people participate in the labour force, compared to 68 per cent of all Canadians

❖ The Aboriginal population has a very high unemployment rate. Rates of unemployment among Native people in the labour force rose from 15.2 per cent in 1981 to 24.6 per cent in 1991. This is despite the advances and access to education.

❖ Forty-six per cent of Native people on reserves receive welfare.

❖ Only 42 per cent of Native children finish Grade 12, compared to 61 per cent of non-Natives.

❖ Poor health is a growing problem among Native people. The incidence of tuberculosis is 17 times higher than the Canadian average, while for diabetes it’s three times higher than the Canadian average.

The Commission recommends that a renewed relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada be established on the basis of justice and fairness.


Federal, provincial and territorial I governments further the process of renewal by

(a) acknowledging that concepts such as terra nullius (uninhabited land) and the doctrine of discovery are factually, legally and morally wrong;

(b) declaring that such concepts no longer form part of lawmaking or police development by Canadian governments;

(c) declaring that such concepts will not be the basis of arguments presented to the courts;

(d)committing themselves to renewal of the federation through consensual means to overcome the historical legacy of these concepts, which are impediments to Aboriginal people assuming their rightful place in the Canadian federation; and

(e) including a declaration to these ends in the new Royal Proclamation and its companion legislation.

That the appropriate place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history be recognized. The Commission recommends that


The Government of Canada (a) commit to publication of a general history of Aboriginal peoples of Canada in a series of volumes reflecting the diversity of nations, to be completed within 20 years.

That the nature and scope of the injury caused to Aboriginal people by past policies in relation to residential schools be established and appropriate remedies devised therefor.

The Commission recommends that


Under Part I of the Public Inquiries Act, the government established a public inquiry to (a) investigate and document the origins and effects of residential school policies and practices respecting all Aboriginal peoples, with particular attention to the nature and extent of effects on subsequent generations of individuals and families, and on communities and Aboriginal societies;

That the nature and scope of the injury caused to Aboriginal people by past policies in relation to the relocation of Aboriginal communities be established and appropriate remedies devised therefor.


Parliament amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to authorize the Canadian Human Rights Commission to inquire into, hold hearings on, and make recommendations on relocations of Aboriginal peoples to decide whether (a) the federal government had proper authority to proceed with relocations;

Chapter 2, Treaties

With respect to the historical treaties, the Commission recommends that


The parties implement the historical treaties from the perspective of both justice and reconciliation.


The federal government establish a continuing bilateral process to implement and renew the Crown’s relationship with and obligations to the treaty nations under the historical treaties, in accordance with the treaties’ spirit and intent.


The federal government establish a process for making new treaties to replace the existing comprehensive claims policy, based on the following principles;

(a) the blanket extinguishment of Aboriginal land rights is not an option.

2.2.15 ,

The governments of Canada, relevant provinces and territories, and Aboriginal and treaty nations establish treaty commissions as permanent, independent and neutral bodies to facilitate and oversee negotiations in treaty processes.

Chapter 3, Governance

With regard to the establishment of Aboriginal governance, the Commission concludes that

1. The right of self-determination is vested in all the Aboriginal peoples of Canada… The right finds its foundation in emerging norms of international law and basic principles of public morality.

2. When exercized by Aboriginal peoples within the context of the Canadian federation, the right of self-determination does not ordinarily give rise to a right of secession, except in the case of grave oppression or disintegration of the Canadian state.

3. Aboriginal peoples are not racial groups; rather they are organic political and cultural entities… They have the capacity to evolve over time and change in their internal composition.

4. The right of self-determination is vested in Aboriginal nations rather than small local communities… Currently, there are between 60 and 80 historically based nations in Canada, compared with a thousand or so Aboriginal communities.

The Commission therefore recommends that 2.3.2

All governments in Canada recognize that Aboriginal peoples are nations vested with the right of self-determination.


All governments in Canada recognize that the right of self-government is vested in Aboriginal nations rather than small local communities.


The government of Canada recognize Aboriginal people in Canada as enjoying a unique form of dual citizenship, that is, as citizens of an Aboriginal nation and citizens of Canada.


The government of Canada take steps to ensure that the Canadian passports of aboriginal citizens

(a) explicitly recognize this dual citizenship; and

(b) identify the Aboriginal nation citizenship of individual Aboriginal persons.


Aboriginal nations, in exercising the right to determine citizenship, and in establishing rules and processes for this purpose, adopt citizenship criteria that

(a) are consistent with section 35 (4) of the Constitution Act, 1982;

(b) reflect Aboriginal nations as political and cultural entities rather than as racial groups, and therefore do not make blood quantum a general prerequisite for citizenship determination.

Other Recommendations

❖ An additional House in Parliament should be created known as the House of First Peoples to restore to Native people their voice.

❖ An in-depth public inquiry should be held into the origins and effects of residential schools.

❖ All governments should commit themselves to training 10,000 aboriginal health and social service professionals and ensure that students receive support to achieve this goal.

❖ The federal government should provide an annual grant of $10 million over a five-year period to support an aboriginal languages foundation

❖ The Commission recommends that $2 billion must be spent each year by the Canadian government to improve First Nations living standards in addition to money already spent. If this isn’t done, in the long run, the entire Canadian economy will lose money and all Canadians will suffer.


The final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples is a huge, five-volume encyclopedia of information and recommendations. The first print run of 3,000 copies was quickly sold out and more are being printed.

The 440 recommendations can’t all be published in The Nation, but we have chosen some of them to give readers an idea of the major points in each area. This information is reprinted from The Eastern Door newspaper of Kahnawake. For your own copy of the report, costing about $300, call the Royal Commission at (613) 943-2070.