The Harper Government, the Aboriginal Right to Self-Determination, and the Indian Act of 1876


A debate on the reform of the frequently criticized Indian Act of 1876 – the basic law governing the rights and responsibilities of First Nations and their special status within Canada – is getting more intense with the ongoing socio-economic problems of Aboriginal peoples. Whereas the federal government emphasizes self-sufficiency and financial responsibility, First Nations require the assertion of their constitutional rights to self-determination and self-government in any future reform. This paper examines various proposals to reform the Indian Act and their potential effect on the status of First Nations. In particular, it focuses on Aboriginal policy stances of the Harper Government and the First Nations’ reaction to the federal government’s approach. The author concludes by arguing that any effort to change the current situation will run into problems because of the discrepancy of ideas on how to implement the reform of the Indian Act and how to enforce the right to self-determination.

Keywords: Canada, First Nations, Indian Act of 1876, right to self-determination, Idle No More

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2016.3