What Now? Future Federal Responsibilities Towards Aboriginal People Living in Cities


  • Frances Abele Carleton University
  • Katherine Graham




urban Aboriginal, federalism, Indian Act


For decades, successive federal governments insisted that the federal fiduciary responsibility to "Registered Indians" ended at reserve boundaries, while not recognizing any responsibilities for Non-Status Indians, Metis, and Inuit. The recent growth of urban Aboriginal populations has changed this situation dramatically. Many federal programs for urban Aboriginal people are not delivered in a "status-blind" fashion, while other services are still entangled in or complicated by the provisions of the Indian Act. This paper explores the policy history underlying the current situation while identifying four issues for further discussion: (1) political self-determination in the cities; (2) problems arising from the cities' junior position in the Canadian federation; (3) the challenge of dealing with the diversity of circumstances and preferences of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal urban dwellers; and (4) the legacy of differential programs based upon differentiations among sections of the Aboriginal population that no longer have constitutional salience. Long-term solutions, such as replacing the Indian Act, creating a "cities charter" and creating addenda to treaties or section 35 are discussed.