Aboriginal People

A collective name for the original peoples in Canada and their descendants. The Constitution Act, 1982 specifies that the Aboriginal peoples in Canada consist of three groups: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. These are three separate peoples with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. Their common linkage is their indigenous ancestry.

First Nations

A term that came into common usage in the 1970s to replace "band" or "Indian," which some people found offensive. Despite its widespread use, there is no legal definition for this term in Canada. Among its uses, the term "First Nations peoples" refers to the Indian people in Canada, both Status and Non-Status. Many Indian people have also adopted the term "First Nation" to replace the word "band" in the name of their community.

  • Bill C-3

    December 15, 2010 Bill C-3: Gender Equality in Indian Registration Act amends provisions of the Indian Act. Bill C-3 ensures that eligible grand-children of women who lost their status as a result of marrying non-Indian men will be entitled to registration (Indian Status). As a result of this legislation, more than 45,000 individuals are newly entitled to registration.
  • Bill C-31

    The pre-legislation name of the 1985 Act to Amend the Indian Act. This Act eliminated certain discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, including the section that resulted in Indian women losing their Indian status when they married non-Indian men. Bill C-31 enabled people affected by the discriminatory provisions of the old Indian Act to apply to have their Indian status restored. Since 1985, about 105 000 individuals have successfully regained their status.
  • Status

    People who are entitled to have their names included on the Indian Register, an official list maintained by the federal government. Certain criteria determine who can be registered as a Status Indian. Only Status Indians are recognized as Indians under the Indian Act, which defines an Indian as "a person who, pursuant to this Act, is registered as an Indian or is entitled to be registered as an Indian." Status Indians are entitled to certain rights and benefits under the law.


The Aboriginal people of Arctic Canada. Inuit live primarily in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and northern parts of Labrador and Quebec. They have traditionally lived above the treeline in the area bordered by the Mackenzie Delta in the west, the Labrador coast in the east, the southern point of Hudson Bay in the south, and the High Arctic islands in the north. Inuit are not covered by the Indian Act. However, in 1939, the Supreme Court interpreted the federal government's power to make laws affecting "Indians and Lands reserved for the Indians" as extending to Inuit. The word "Inuit" means "the people" in Inuktitut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk.


Métis are one of three Aboriginal Peoples, along with First Nations and Inuit, recognized in Canada's Constitution. The Métis people rose to prominence in the 19th century on ​the​ northern plains of what is now southern Manitoba centred around Red River (what is now Winnipeg, Manitoba). Their descendants live in communities stretching from northern Ontario, across the prairie provinces, eastern British Columbia and parts of the northwest territories. 

Note: Métis organizations in Canada have differing criteria about who qualifies as a Métis person. There are formal mechanism by which Métis people can be registered, they are the provincial organizations and since 2003, a single definition has been used. The different provincial affiliates have different levels of organizational infrastructure to follow that mandate.


A Non-Status Indian is a legal term referring to any First Nation individual who for whatever reason is not registered with the Federal government, and/or is not registered to a band which signed a Treaty with the Crown. Non-Status Indians are not entitled to the same rights and benefits available to Status Indians.