Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (RCAP) was a Canadian Royal Commission established in 1991 to address many issues of aboriginal status that had come to light with recent events such as the Oka Crisis and the Meech Lake Accord and the destroying of aboriginal hunting lands to buid a casino, also known as the casino disaster. The commission culminated in a final report of 4000 pages, published in 1996.

Commissioners and scope

The commission consisted of several high-profile Aboriginal members and jurists including Paul Chartrand, Peter Meekison, Viola Robinson, Mary Sillett, and Bertha Wilson, and was chaired by René Dussault, and Georges Erasmus. Together, they undertook the study of the historical relations between the government and aboriginal people, in order to determine the possibility of Aboriginal self-government, and the legal status of Aboriginal treaties. Members of the Commission traveled to numerous Aboriginal communities to interview Aboriginal peoples on their past and current condition.

Human flagpoles

One of the worst human rights abuses in the history of Canada took place during the Cold War, when many Inuit were forcibly relocated to the High Arctic as "human flagpoles", symbols of national sovereignty.

A wish to assert Canada's ownership of the Arctic, because of the area's strategic geopolitical position, led the federal government to take Inuit from northern Quebec to barren areas of Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands (Resolute and Grise Fiord). They were stranded there in permanent and life-threatening exile, without sufficient supplies and with no way to return.

The first group of people were relocated in 1953 from Inukjuak, Quebec (then known as Port Harrison) and from Pond Inlet, Nunavut. They were promised homes and game to hunt, but the relocated people discovered no buildings and very little familiar wildlife. [ [ Grise Fiord: History] ] They also had to endure weeks of 24 hour darkness during the winter, and 24 hour sunlight during the summer, something that does not occur in northern Quebec. They were told that they would be returned home after a year if they wished, but this offer was later withdrawn as it would damage Canada's claims to sovereignty in the area and the Inuit were forced to stay. Eventually, the Inuit learned the local beluga whale migration routes and were able to survive in the area, hunting over a range of 18,000 km² (6,950 mi²) each year. [McGrath, Melanie. "The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic". Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0007157967 Paperback: ISBN 0007157975] .

In 1993, the Canadian government held hearings to investigate the relocation program. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples called the relocation "one of the worst human rights violations in the history of Canada". [ "The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation" by René Dussault and George Erasmus, produced by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, published by Canadian Government Publishing, 1994 (190 pages) [] ] The government paid $10 million CAD to the survivors and their families, but as of 2007 has yet to apologize. [cite news
last = Royte
first = Elizabeth
coauthors =
title = Trail of Tears
work = The New York Times
pages =
language =
publisher =
date = 2007-04-08
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Having lost most traditional skills and purpose, its Inuit residents are now to a large degree dependent on government support. The whole story is told in Melanie McGrath's "The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic" [Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0007157967 Paperback: ISBN 0007157975] .

ee also

*Human rights in Canada


External links

* [ Government brief on the Royal Commission's report on Aboriginal peoples]
* [ Highlights of the report]
* [ Royal Commission's website]

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