Indigenous Peoples include First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The First Nations’ communities throughout Canada have much in common, but each has unique needs, issues and distinctive cultures that are remarkably different from one another and other Indigenous groups. The Inuit, whose culture was shaped by the demanding northern environment; Métis people, diverse, whose blended traditions from Indigenous and European forebears are encapsulated, creating another distinct Indigenous culture. Despite the uniqueness of all Indigenous peoples, there are also many commonalities shared.
With the creation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission (formerly Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission) in 1990, the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) became the first and only political party to formally recognize the unique place that Indigenous Peoples occupy in Canada by providing them the opportunity to represent themselves within a federal party.
Prior to the establishment of the IPC/APC, Indigenous issues were the responsibility of the Standing Committee on Native and Original Peoples’ Affairs. There were no provisions within the Party’s Constitution to enable Standing Committee members to be involved in other areas of Party business, such as the National Executive or other LPC Standing Committees.
There was, however, an Aboriginal (Indigenous) Caucus within the party and it was their mission to create a commission which would have a greater influence within the Liberal Party of Canada. At the Halifax Policy Convention in 1985, the concept of an Aboriginal Commission was first expressed. This led to the adoption of a priority resolution at the 1986 Biennial Convention endorsing in principle the establishment of an Aboriginal Commission within the Liberal Party of Canada.
To bring about the implementation of this resolution in principle, the National Executive of the Party adopted a further resolution in September 1989 to allow specific constitutional amendments to be voted on at the June 1990 Leadership Convention in Calgary, Alberta. The APC became a reality when the necessary changes to the Party’s Constitution were passed.
The mandate of the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission is clearly stated in the Preamble of its Constitution. The Commission represents and promotes the interests of Indigenous members of the Liberal Party and encourages the active and equitable participation of Indigenous people at all levels of the party structure.
Since its inception in 1990, the IPC/APC has played an important role in the direction of the Liberal Party of Canada. Through the development of Indigenous policy, through general elections, and through the Aboriginal caucus, the Commission has successfully represented the concerns of Indigenous peoples at the party level, thereby increasing Indigenous participation in the broader political system.
The Liberal Party of Canada has begun the process of rebuilding a relationship and has recognized the multiple realities of Indigenous Peoples. It is within this party that Indigenous Peoples have an opportunity to have our voices heard and make a contribution to not only Indigenous Peoples, but in partnership with all Canadians.