CAP Historical Development
Since 1971 five major developments have occurred to significantly alter the original structure, constituency and mandate:
- The emergence of land claims organizations that break the relevance of “status” in determining “Aboriginal rights” and require groups dealing with Section 35 title rights to represent all beneficiaries in a territorial region, including Metis Nation of the Northwest Territories (MNNWT), the Council for Yukon Indians (CYI) (non-status and status Indians in the Yukon), Grand Council of the Crees in Quebec (status and non-status Cree) and some Tribal Councils in B.C. such as the Gitksan-Wet’suwe’ten who are organized by nation rather than by Indian Act band. The Labrador Métis Nation, a CAP affiliate, is on the verge of having their comprehensive claim accepted by DIAND.
- Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights in 1982, which made common treaty and Aboriginal rights the dominant legally recognized basis for political organization, altering significantly ties of common legal status under federal legislation or common service needs.
- The separation of Prairie Metis from affiliation with non-status Indians and other Métis in 1983. Prairie Métis felt they had to define a distinct “national” content for Métis rights entrenched in The Constitution Act 1982 and they felt they could not do this if they were tied to non-status Indians or to “mixed” populations in other regions who had a different historical pattern of recognition and political organization than developed out of the 1870 scrip system.
- Passage of Bill C-31 in 1985 has accelerated the number of off-reserve Indians. At present, 48% of status Indians do not reside on reserve lands. 100,000 Indians and Métis have to date been reinstated or registered under Bill C-31. Based on 1991 Census figures, there are at least 250,000 Indians who still do not have status but who are “Indians” within the meaning of sections 91(24) and 35 of the Constitution. 92% of reinstated Indian have not returned to reserves, about 20-30% of the 90,000 have been “cut-off” from band membership, and about 2/3rds of all reserves exclude non-resident members from participating in Band elections or votes. Finally, the membership control options provided to reserve-based Indians have led since 1985 to a growing distance between “pre-C-31″ off-reserve status Indians and reserve-based Band Councils.
- Self-government policies: From 1984 – 1987 the constitutional process was discussing self-government and used a common “Aboriginal” focus to try and develop a single national framework. This “pan-Aboriginal” focus was already being undercut in 1985 when the federal government announced its “two-track” policy for self-government on and off-reserve.
Basically, the federal government policy was to continue to legislate for Indian self-government on reserve and leave the provinces to deal with all off-reserve native people. Northern native people were assumed to be “dealt” with through their claims processes or in discussions on division of the Northwest Territories, and were not factored into this policy. A measure of the imbalanced effect of this two-track policy can be found in the Main Estimates, where DIAND allocates some $20 million/year for reserve-based self- government (affecting 300,000 people) and the Privy Council allocates 1/20th of that amount for the over 600,000 Aboriginal people outside of reserves.
CAP has responded to some of these changes in amending its Constitution and By-laws such that at present the mandate of the Council is to represent off-reserve Indian and Métis peoples regardless of status under the Indian Act. Similar changes have been made by its affiliates.