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Book Chapter

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Self-Government, Self-Determination, Reconciliation, First Nation, Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples


Most Indigenous groups in Canada are not self-governing. While the last two decades have seen an increase in laws and policies that provide some Indigenous groups greater control over their territories and citizens, overall these have been ineffective in achieving transformative change. What has transpired in Canada over the last twenty years can be characterized as ‘piecemeal recognition’—discrete recognition of Indigenous control here and there in a case, policy or statute—and implemented in a patchwork fashion. In 1996 the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report advanced a very reasonable proposal for national legislation recognizing the right of Indigenous peoples to organize themselves collectively and govern themselves in core areas of jurisdiction as they see fit. It also mandated the provision of adequate funding and resources for capacity building in order to ensure successful implementation. This paper argues that it is time for Canada to discard its piecemeal approach to self-government and return to RCAP’s proposal to implement national legislation modelled on the Recognition and Governance Act as one of the first of many steps in transforming the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.


This is a post-print of a chapter originally published in: Karen Drake & Brenda L. Gunn, eds, Renewing Relationships: Indigenous Peoples and Canada (Saskatoon: Native Law Centre, 2019). Full book is available at