The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was a formal investigation of the relationship among Aboriginal people in Canada, the federal government, the department of Indian and Northern Affairs and the problems that have plagued these relationships for generations. This November, the release of the RCAP final report will reach its 20 year anniversary.
RCAP commissioners started their work in 1991, soon after the Oka Crisis—a standoff involving the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, the Sûreté du Québec and the Canadian Army. The Commission held 178 days of public hearings and visited 96 First Nation communities.
The goal of the RCAP was to restore the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. The final report released in 1996, at 4,000 words, included hundreds of sweeping recommendations related to health, treaties, education and self-governance, and set out an 20-year agenda to improve the lives of Indigenous people in Canada.
But has the RCAP led to significant change? For many, it hasn’t, since few of the recommendations have been implemented.
One recommendation, however, was for the federal government to establish a public inquiry instructed to investigate and document the origin and policies of the residential school system, research and analyze the effects of these policies, conduct public hearings and recommend remedial action. In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began years of hard work, with the aim of steering Canada onto a path of reconciliation.