80. Aboriginal Affairs Principles

A fundamental obligation of the federal government is to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal Canadians, including the Inuit, in terms of economic opportunity, health, education, and community safety.

The Conservative Party believes the following principles should govern the administration of existing federal Aboriginal programs:

i. the need for a legislated framework for federal aboriginal expenditures;
ii. self government – legal and democratic authority;
iii. transparency;
iv. respecting the Canadian constitutional framework;
v. a framework for the settlement of comprehensive claims and self government agreements;
vi. the resolution of existing specific claims and lawsuits against the federal Crown; and
vii. economic sustainability.

We support provisions for property ownership and women’s equality on reserves.

These principles should also govern future legislative reform to the Indian Act and related legislation. They should also form the basis for government decision making in the resolution of rights disputes – whether based upon existing treaties, court decisions or section 35 of the Constitution Act.

81. Legislated Framework for Federal Aboriginal Expenditures

The Parliament of Canada must develop legislation which governs the delivery of federal governmental programs to Aboriginal Canadians. Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians deserve to know the legislative basis upon which the Government of Canada is expending funds on Aboriginal health, education, social welfare and infrastructure. Legislation
should be developed which governs such programs and which prescribes the standards of service which the federal government has undertaken to provide to aboriginal Canadians.

82. The Legal and Democratic Authority for Aboriginal Self Government

The Indian Act (and related legislation) should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to First Nations, including the Inuit, for their own affairs within the overall constitutional framework of our federal state. Such legislative reform should be pursued following full consultation with First Nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of other decision making responsibility within our federal system. First Nations like other Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law and which balances collective and individual responsibility. 

First Nation communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves, whether and how free market principles (such as individual property ownership) should apply to reserve lands. 

Self-government should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada’s First Nations. Within the context of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements. 

We believe the government should not negotiate land claims where the rule of law is not respected. 

83. Transparency in Aboriginal Affairs 

Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians are entitled to complete transparency and accountability in the expenditure of all public funds on aboriginal programs, services and inter-governmental transfers. Aboriginals, like other Canadians, must have ready access to police and judicial intervention to constrain and check any exercise of governmental authority (whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal) which is illegal, corrupt or an abuse of power. 

The Auditor General should be empowered to review the spending of Aboriginal governments and Aboriginal organizations which receive public funds.

84. Respecting the Canadian Constitutional Framework

We are a nation governed by the Constitution Act, under which the rights of all citizens are protected and advanced by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our future together as a country must be built upon the universal application of that framework.

All Aboriginal rights recognized under section 35 of the Constitution Act must be conferred within the four square corners of the Constitution Act and the Charter, with full protection for equality rights, such as women’s rights, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Future Aboriginal legislation, policies and programs must balance the collective rights of Aboriginal Canadians under section 35 of the Constitution Act with the individual equality rights enshrined in the Charter – which protect all Canadians – whether Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal.

Aboriginal Canadians are entitled to the full benefits of Canadian citizenship and the full protection of the Charter - in areas such as economic opportunity, the delivery of health services, community safety, women’s rights, respect for the rule of law, and the education and protection of children. Canada must develop in a manner that ensures constitutional equality and

85. A Framework for the Settlement of Comprehensive Claims and Self Government Agreements

Settlement of all outstanding “comprehensive claims” must be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the rights of Aboriginal claimants with those of Canada. In particular, negotiated settlements must balance the economic and social needs of Aboriginal Canadians with Canada’s need for certainty and finality of terms. Self-government agreements must reflect Canada’s need for both efficacy and practicality in institutional structure, and “constitutional
harmony” so as not to impede the overall governance of Canada.

86. The Resolution of Existing Specific Claims and Lawsuits against the Federal Crown

The federal government should, as a priority, adopt measures to resolve the existing backlog of “specific” claims so as to provide justice for Aboriginal claimants, together with certainty for government, industry and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Institutional reform in the specific claim area should be pursued in a manner which resolves claims in a timely manner. The jurisdiction of the Federal Court should be expanded and the arbitrary ambit of the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Minister and the Specific Claims Policy contracted to eliminate the inherent conflict of interest of the Federal Crown in the resolution of ‘specific claims’.

87. Measuring Outcomes in Aboriginal Affairs.

The federal government, in consultation with the provinces, territories and aboriginal leaders, should direct an independent audit of all social service providers to aboriginal communities to determine what, if any, measures of effectiveness are employed and whether the programs provided result in desired outcomes.

The federal government should work with the provinces, territories and aboriginal leaders to establish a three-party coordinating body tasked with developing a strategy for coordination of all programs and services provided to aboriginal communities.

The Auditor General of Canada and the Auditors General of the provinces should include an evaluation of actual outcomes as well as financial accountability in their audit reports on aboriginal services.

88. First Nations Land Title

The Conservative Party supports the development of a property regime that would encourage lending for private housing and businesses. This will promote economic opportunity and individual freedom.

We support the development, in conjunction with First Nations, of a First Nations Land Ownership Act, which would transfer Reserve land title from the Federal Crown to willing First Nations.

89. First Nations Matrimonial Property

The Conservative Party supports, in conjunction with First Nations, the creation of a matrimonial property code to protect spouses and children in cases of marriage breakdown.

90. First Nations Educational Choice

The Conservative Party proposes, where available and agreed to by all parties, including provincial authorities, to offer choice in schooling for First Nations.