Archived - About Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
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Working together to make Canada a better place for Indigenous and northern peoples and communities.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) supports Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) and northern peoples in their efforts to:
- improve social well-being and economic prosperity
- develop healthier, more sustainable communities
- participate more fully in Canada's political, social and economic development — to the benefit of all Canadians
INAC is one of 34 federal government departments responsible for meeting the Government of Canada's obligations and commitments to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and for fulfilling the federal government's constitutional responsibilities in the North. INAC's responsibilities are largely determined by numerous statutes, negotiated agreements and relevant legal decisions. Most of INAC's programs and spending are delivered through partnerships with Indigenous communities and federal-provincial or federal-territorial agreements. INAC also works with urban Indigenous peoples, Métis and Non-Status Indians (many of whom live in rural areas).
INAC's mandate is derived from a number of sources including:
- Canadian Constitution
- Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act
- Indian Act, as amended over the years
- statutes dealing with environmental and resource management such as the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act (2013)
- other statutes such as the Northwest Territories Devolution Act (2014)
INAC is also mandated to work with First Nations to implement legislation designed to provide them with jurisdictional powers outside of the Indian Act. INAC's mandate is further defined by specific statutes enabling modern treaties and self-government agreements and implementation of those agreements. Learn more about these Laws and regulations.
INAC negotiates comprehensive and specific claims as well as self-government agreements on behalf of the Government of Canada. INAC is responsible for implementing its obligations under these agreements and processes, as well as overseeing the implementation of obligations of other government departments flowing from these agreements. INAC also:
- provides support for services on reserves such as education, housing, community infrastructure and social support to Status Indians on reserves
- administers the land management component of the Indian Act
- executes other regulatory duties under the Indian Act.
The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs acts as the Government of Canada's primary interlocutor for Métis, Non-Status Indians and urban Indigenous peoples. INAC also serves as a focal point for Inuit issues, which supports the inclusion of Inuit-specific concerns in federal program and policy development.
Through its Northern Affairs mandate, INAC is the lead federal department for two-fifths of Canada's landmass, with a direct role in the political and economic development of the territories and significant responsibilities for science, land and environmental management. In the North, the territorial governments generally provide the majority of social programs and services to all Northerners, including Indigenous peoples.
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station Act, which came into force on June 1, 2015, established Polar Knowledge Canada as a new federal research organization. This new organization combines the mandate and functions previously held by the Canadian Polar Commission and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station's Science and Technology Program, which was formerly led by INAC. The organization is responsible for advancing Canada's knowledge of the Arctic and strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology.