Making The Most Out of Canada’s New Department of Indigenous Services Act

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ON JULY 15, 2019, two new federal laws came into effect: the Department of Indigenous Services Act (“DISA”) and Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act (“CIRNAA”).Together, these two acts replaced and repealed the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act, RSC 1985, c I-6 (the “DIAND Act”).

As draft bills debated in Spring 2019, these got very little attention in comparison to federal bills on Indigenous Languages or Indigenous Child Welfare. This is likely due, in part, to the fact that these new bills were hidden (at Division 25 of Part 4) in a big omnibus budget implementation bill called Bill C-97 An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures. [...]

Another reason these laws might have gotten little attention this past spring is that their content does not seem that ground-breaking—just putting into place the legal mechanics to run two departments instead of one. It’s not like these laws repealed or changed anything in the Indian Act, after all. True, but laws that set out the details of the government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples can be important. My aim here is to explain this and how the new laws, particularly DISA, is an improvement over the old DIAND Act. (I will leave detailed discussion of what CIRNAA for another day).