The Indian and Inuit Affairs Program (IIAP) of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) is an administrative rather than a legislated entity. The Program is not named specifically in either the Government Organization Act, 1966, the passage of which resulted in the creation of DIAND, or in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act (R.S.C. 1985, Chap. I-6, as amended) which established the Department. A number of the over 50 statutes administered in whole or in part by DIAND are related direct to the functions of the IIAP. The Indian Act is the most obvious and far-reaching; examples of others include the Indian Oil and Gas Act, the Sechelt Indian Band Self-Government Act, or the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act. Other IIAP activities derive their authority from treaties, others from policy.
The origins of many of the activities carried out today by the IIAP can be traced direct to predecessor federal agencies and, indeed, to agencies of pre-Confederation colonial governments and to the Indian Department of the British Imperial government. Between Confederation and the creation in 1966 of its present home, DIAND, the agency responsible for "Indian affairs" was transferred from ministry to ministry and saw its stature change from Branch to Department and back to Branch. Yet, in spite of government organizational shifts, the principal focus of the agency - administering the relationship between the federal government and the status Indian population - remained, to a large measure, constant. And, irrespective of its moves within the Canadian government structure, the agency remained, for the most part, intact. Relatively few core functions were lost or gained in its travels, one major exception being the transfer in 1945 of Indian Health Services to the Department of National Health and Welfare (P.C. 1945-6495). Moreover, it operated largely in a self-contained manner and with a considerable degree of independence within whichever ministry it was placed.
Under Section 91(24) of The Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government was given jurisdiction for "Indians and lands reserved for the Indians". Responsibilities with regard to Indian affairs were further defined in 1868 with the passage of An Act providing for the organization of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada and for the management of Indian and Ordnance lands (31 Vict., Chap. 42, assented to 22 May 1868). This legislation created the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada and the office of the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs (SGIA), a position to be held ex officio by the Secretary of State of Canada. The duties and powers of the SGIA were transferred by Order in Council, passed 8 December 1869, to the Secretary of State for the Provinces. The statute which, four years later, abolished the office of Secretary of State for the Provinces and created that of Minister of the Interior (36 Vict., Chap. 4, assented to 3 May 1873 and proclaimed in force 1 July 1873) made the latter ex officio the SGIA.
The Department of Indian Affairs was created by statute in 1880 (43 Vict., Chap. 28, assented to 7 May 1880). Although this act conferred department status, the Minister of the Interior continued to hold the office of SGIA ex officio. This responsibility passed to the President of the Privy Council by Order in Council of 17 October 1883 but was returned to the Minister of the Interior 3 October 1887 and remained with him until 1936, but for a brief period in 1930 when it was held by the Minister of Immigration and Colonization. Throughout this period the senior public servant in the Indian affairs administration carried the title Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs.
The office of Superintendent General of Indian Affairs was abolished, along with that of Minister of the Interior, in 1936 and the office of Minister of Mines and Resources created (1 Edw. VIII, Chap. 33, assented to 23 June 1936 and proclaimed in force 1 December 1936). Through this act, the Department of Indian Affairs was reduced to Branch status within the Department of Mines and Resources. In this new organization structure the role previously performed by the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs fell to the Director, Indian Affairs Branch.
The Indian Affairs Branch remained within the Department of Mines and Resources until the latter was abolished, at which time the Branch was transferred to the newly-created Department of Citizenship and Immigration (13 Geo. VI, Chap.16, assented to 10 December 1949 and proclaimed in force 18 January 1950). Sixteen years later the Indian Affairs Branch was transferred yet again, this time by Order in Council (P.C. 1965-2285, effective 1 January 1966), to the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. Later in 1966, however, the passage of the Government Organization Act, 1966 (14-15 Eliz. II, Chap. 25) resulted in the establishment of DIAND with jurisdiction relating to, among other things, "Indian affairs" and "Eskimo affairs". The Indian Affairs Branch was transferred to the new Department.
In a major reorganization of DIAND the Indian Affairs Branch, as such, disappeared in September 1968. Elements from both the former Indian Affairs and the former Northern Administration branches were re-cast in a new organizational structure based on function rather than on geographic location or ethnic origin of the people served. From this restructuring emerged an Indian and Eskimo Affairs Program. This Program brought together under its umbrella both those areas within the Department responsible for the administration of services delivered to the Indian and Inuit population (e.g., education, social, cultural and community development, economic development) and those areas responsible for statutory commitments. In 1978 the program name was changed to Indian and Inuit Affairs Program.
The IIAP has undergone a number of structural changes within the past twenty years. Organizational units (sectors, branches, divisions, etc.) with a variety of names have existed under the Program umbrella. The nature of the relationship between the federal government and First Nations has changed dramatically over the period and this evolution can be seen clearly in the role played by the constituent elements of the IIAP. Where 40 years ago the predecessor of the IIAP was heavily involved in the direct delivery of services to First Nations, the IIAP now operates (with some significant exceptions in the area of statutory obligations) primarily as a funding agency. Delivery of many services has devolved to other governments, in some cases to the provinces but in many others to First Nations themselves as part of the major shift to self-government. DIAND is currently (1997) organized into four major business lines of which two - Indian and Inuit Programming and Claims - together constitute the Indian and Inuit Affairs Program.
Current responsibilities within the area of Indian and Inuit Programming include: First Nations funding, through which the Program provides financial support toward the delivery of public services and provides access to opportunities in employment, economic development and post-secondary education; Lands and Trust Services, through which the Program carries out many of the Crown's legal and fiduciary obligations toward First Nations; and Regional Direction, through which the Program provides support to regional offices (of which there are 9 across Canada) and district offices (which continue to operate in Ontario and Saskatchewan). Indian Oil and Gas Canada, with offices located in Calgary, is a Special Operating Agency within the Lands and Trusts Services sector providing services to First Nations to manage and control their oil and gas resources. Within the Claims area, the IIAP is responsible to negotiate and settle comprehensive claims; to ensure that the government meets its legal obligations by settling specific claims and monitoring claims agreements; to provide research funding for claimants; and to support the Department of Justice in litigation involving First Nations.