Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones
Mission and orientations of the Secrétariat
The Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones (SAA) is the agency entrusted with the prime responsibility for maintaining ties between the Aboriginal peoples and the Gouvernement du Québec. For 35 years, it has worked with Amerindian and Inuit organizations to facilitate their access to the various government programs and to adapt government activities to their needs in some cases.
The SAA is part of Québec’s ministère du Conseil exécutif and reports to Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
It is up to the Secretariat to establish harmonious relations and partnerships between the Aboriginal peoples and the government as well as between the Aboriginal peoples and the general public. This is achieved, in particular, through the negotiation of agreements, the dissemination of appropriate information and the providing of support for the social, economic and cultural development of the Amerindians and the Inuit.
The Secretariat must also coordinate all government actions in aboriginal communities. It is responsible for ensuring coherency in the policies, interventions, initiatives and positions of the various departments and agencies of Québec involved in this action. With this objective in mind, the SAA works in close collaboration with ministerial aboriginal affairs coordinators with whom it meets on a regular basis. The assembly of ministerial coordinators, created in 1978 at the same time as the Secretariat, is a forum for exchanging information and holding consultations on the government’s action.
The Secretariat mainly intervenes with representatives of the communities, nations and various aboriginal organizations. When required, the Secretariat is also active with the general public via the municipal world, wildlife and forestry associations as well as other stakeholders, in order to obtain points of view and also to provide appropriate information.
To implement the vision and action priorities of the Gouvernement du Québec in relation to aboriginal matters made public in the spring of 2004, the Secretariat is the main gateway for the Aboriginal peoples to Québec’s government apparatus.
The orientations of the SAA are initially based on the general principles found in the resolutions that the National Assembly passed in 1985 and 1989. These principles recognize the eleven aboriginal nations of Québec (10 Amerindian nations and one Inuit nation) as well as 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 the Aboriginal peoples in economic development, notably through access to and the development of lands and natural resources;
- Recognizing aboriginal institutions and the exercise of contractual jurisdictions;
- Developing legislative and regulatory flexibility;
- Establishing harmonious relations;
- Ensuring the coherency and convergence of government actions in aboriginal communities.
The orientations apply to all of Québec’s aboriginal nations, whether their populations live in northern villages, on reserves or in communities. The orientations concern the following four intervention fields:
- The aboriginal 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;
- Aboriginals outside the communities.
The 15 principles referred to in the resolution of the National Assembly
are those which Cabinet adopted on February 9, 1983, which read as
- « 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The aboriginal nations have the right, within the framework of
existing legislation, to govern themselves on the lands allocated to
- 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
- 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.
- The rights recognized by Québec to the aboriginal peoples are also
recognized to women and men alike.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Once established, such mechanisms could be institutionalized so as
to guarantee the participation of the aboriginal nations in discussions
pertaining to their fundamental rights. »