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Comment on partners in confederation, a report on self-government by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal peoples

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  • Introduction: On April 17, 1982, the Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada were recognized and affirmed in the Canadian constitution. In the following years, several First Ministers' conferences were held to address Aboriginal constitutional matters. A recurring topic was the recognition of a right of Aboriginal peoples to self-government. The existence, nature and scope of such a right were at the heart of the self-government debate. In the end, Aboriginal and government representatives could not agree on the need, desirability and effect of an articulated definition of self-government in the Canadian constitution. Throughout this debate, many Aboriginal peoples and academics claimed that the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights recognized in the Constitution Act, 1982 included an inherent right to self-government. According to this view, specific articulation of the right may be politically desirable but not legally necessary. One can argue that questions of scope, jurisdiction and implementation are properly addressed in negotiations with specific Aboriginal Nations and not as part of the Constitutional process. This view has been rejected by the federal and provincial governments, with the result that the implementation of the self-government goals of Aboriginal peoples has been severely limited. Small steps toward autonomy have been taken through amendments to the federal Indian Act; legislatively sanctioned community arrangements allowing Indian bands to opt out of the Indian Actfor limited purposes, and community self-administration agreements in various policy sectors such as education, child welfare and surface resources. The limited political rights acquired through these arrangements have reflected the philosophy that Aboriginal self-government is subject to the political will of, and delegation by, federal and provincial governments.

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    © 1993 UBC Law Review Society and Catherine Bell. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Bell, C. (1993). Comment on partners in confederation, a report on self-government by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal peoples. University of British Columbia Law Review, 27(2), 361-376. Retrieved from
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