Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

In 1993, under the leadership of Jim Sinclair, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) grew out of a reorganization of the Native Council of Canada. Since its founding in 1971, the central objective of the Native Council of Canada, and now CAP, has been to represent the interests of off-reserve First Nations people. CAP speaks primarily for nonstatus INDIAN people and the Métis population in Canada, as well as for some FIRST NATIONS organizations. Nonstatus refers to individuals whose ancestors are related to a First Nations band that is federally recognized but who, under the INDIAN ACT, are not entitled to registered Indian status or its entitlements. The term Métis is derived from a French word meaning "mixed blood" and is a broad term used to describe individuals with mixed First Nation and European ancestry. With mixed ancestry, Métis are distinct from Indian, Inuit, and non-Aboriginal people and not all individuals of mixed Aboriginal ancestry identify themselves as Métis (see Louis RIEL; Gabriel DUMONT; James BRADY; Malcolm NORRIS).

Until the 1950s, MÉTIS interests were represented by a variety of local political organizations and activists. In 1961, the National Indian Council was created, under government auspices, as an umbrella group to advocate for the concerns of Métis and nonstatus Indians (usually urban or off-reserve Aboriginal people). By 1968, it became apparent that pursuing such a wide variety of interests through a single organization that was under government influence was problematic. The Canadian Métis Society emerged, which, in turn, became the Native Council of Canada (NCC) in 1970, at the same time as the emergence of the National Indian Brotherhood (now ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS), which was established to represent status Indians. The NCC was composed of provincial and territorial organizations, usually called native councils or Métis and nonstatus Indian associations.

CAP holds an annual assembly that includes member organizations, and it is governed by a board of directors consisting of presidents of the member associations and an executive elected by the assembly. Originally, the Native Council of Canada received federal funds to participate in the FIRST MINISTERS CONFERENCES on Aboriginal rights and CAP has been funded almost entirely by the federal government's Native Citizens' Directorate. The Métis National Council emerged about the same time, and in the same region, as the Prairie Treaty Nations Alliance. In 1983, with the emergence of the Métis National Council as an alternative voice of Métis nationalism, together with the 1985 reinstatement under Bill C-31 of women and their children who had been forcibly enfranchised, it became necessary for the NCC to redefine its objectives. Its transformation in 1993 into the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples was intended to provide a voice for the rapidly growing urban, status and nonstatus Aboriginal population.

For CAP, the long-term effect of the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act has been to focus on the need for off-reserve programs for the rapidly growing Aboriginal population in most urban Canadian communities. CAP policy focuses on practical issues facing local Aboriginal communities such as health, justice, opportunities for youth, housing and environment. To bring attention to these issues, CAP has made presentations to the UN, primarily through the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. CAP rests its demands on the affirmation of Aboriginal rights in the constitution as well as on the needs of First Nations people, and it seeks a special relationship for Métis and nonstatus Indians with the federal government.

See also NATIVE PEOPLE, POLITICAL ORGANIZATION AND ACTIVISM; NATIVE WOMEN'S ISSUES.