Mission

The Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones is entrusted with the prime responsibility of maintaining ties between Aboriginal peoples and the Gouvernement du Québec. It works with the First Nations and Inuit to facilitate their access to the various government programs and, in some cases, to adapt government activities to their needs.

The Secrétariat is part of Québec's Ministère du Conseil exécutif. It reports to the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs.

It is up to the Secrétariat to establish harmonious relations and partnerships between Aboriginal peoples and the government as well as between Aboriginal peoples and the general public. This is achieved by negotiating agreements, disseminating appropriate information and providing support for the social, economic and cultural development of the First Nations and Inuit.

The Secrétariat must also coordinate all government actions in Aboriginal communities. It is responsible for ensuring coherence in the policies, interventions, initiatives and positions of Québec's various departments and agencies involved in this action. To this end, the Secrétariat works in close collaboration with ministerial Aboriginal affairs coordinators, meeting with them on a regular basis. The assembly of ministerial coordinators, created in 1978 at the same time as the Secrétariat, is a forum for exchanging information and holding consultations on the government's action.

The Secrétariat mainly intervenes with representatives of the communities, nations and various Aboriginal organizations. When required, it also takes action with the general public via the municipal world, wildlife and forestry associations and other stakeholders to obtain points of view and provide appropriate information.

The Secrétariat is the main gateway for Aboriginal peoples to Québec's government apparatus.

Orientations

The Secrétariat's orientations are initially based on the general principles found in the resolutions that the National Assembly passed in 1985 and 1989.  These principles recognize the 11 Indigenous nations of Québec and their right to develop their identities, cultures, economic base and autonomy within Québec. These principles formally commit Québec to promote these rights and to enter into agreements in the pursuit of this objective.

This basically involves:

  • Fostering the participation of Indigenous peoples in economic development, notably through access to and the development of lands and natural resources;
  • Recognizing Indigenous institutions and the exercise of contractual jurisdictions;
  • Improving legislative and regulatory flexibility;
  • Establishing harmonious relations;
  • Ensuring the coherence and convergence of government actions in Indigenous communities.

The orientations apply to all of Québec's Indigenous nations, whether their populations live in northern villages, on reserves or in communities. The orientations concern the following four intervention fields:

  • The Indigenous nations that are not signatories of the northern agreements and that are not taking part in comprehensive territorial negotiations;
  • The nations that are signatories of the northern agreements;
  • The nations taking part in comprehensive territorial negotiations;
  • Indigenous peoples outside the communities.

Principles

Fifteen principles form the basis of government action with respect to Indigenous peoples. They were adopted by Cabinet on February 9, 1983:

  1. "Québec recognizes that the Aboriginal peoples of Québec constitute distinct nations, entitled to their own culture, language, traditions and customs, as well as having the right to determine, by themselves, the development of their own identity.
  2. lt also recognizes the right of Aboriginal nations, within the framework of Québec legislation, to own and to control the lands that are attributed to them.
  3. These rights are to be exercised by them as part of the Québec community and hence could not imply rights of sovereignty that could affect the territorial integrity of Québec.
  4. The Aboriginal nations may exercise, on the lands agreed upon between them and the government, hunting, fishing and trapping rights, the right to harvest fruit and game and to barter between themselves. Insofar as possible, their traditional occupations and needs are to be taken into account in designating these lands. The ways in which these rights may be exercised are to be defined in specific agreements concluded with each people.
  5. The Aboriginal nations have the right to take part in the economic development of Québec. The government is also willing to recognize that they have the right to exploit to their own advantage, within the framework of existing legislation, the renewable and unrenewable resources of the lands allocated to them.
  6. The Aboriginal nations have the right, within the framework of existing legislation, to govern themselves on the lands allocated to them.
  7. The Aboriginal nations have the right to have and control, within the framework of agreements between them and the government, such institutions as may correspond to their needs in matters of culture, education, language, health and social services as well as economic development.
  8. The Aboriginal nations are entitled within the framework of laws of general application and of agreements between them and the government, to benefit from public funds to encourage the pursuit of objectives they esteem to be fundamental.
  9. The rights recognized by Québec to the Aboriginal peoples are also recognized to women and men alike.
  10. From Québec's point of view, the protection of existing rights also includes the rights arising from agreements between Aboriginal peoples and Québec concluded within the framework of land claims settlement. Moreover, the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement and the Northeastern Québec Agreement are to be considered treaties with full effect.
  11. Québec is willing to consider that existing rights arising out of the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763, concerning Aboriginal nations be explicitly recognized within the framework of Québec legislation.
  12. Québec is willing to consider, case by case, the recognition of treaties signed outside Canada or before Confederation, Aboriginal title, as well as the rights of Aboriginal nations that would result therefrom.
  13. The Aboriginal nations of Québec, due to circumstances that are peculiar to them, may enjoy tax exemptions in accordance with terms agreed upon between them and the government.
  14. Were the government to legislate on matters related to the fundamental rights of the Aboriginal nations as recognized by Québec, it pledges to consult them through mechanisms to be determined between them and the government.
  15. Once established, such mechanisms could be institutionalized so as to guarantee the participation of the Aboriginal nations in discussions pertaining to their fundamental rights."