The Constitution Act of 1867 gave the federal Parliament exclusive legislative authority over “Indians and Indian lands.” The Constitution Act of 1982 enshrines aboriginal rights in the Constitution and requires federal and provincial governments to consult with Aboriginal people before legislating directly on them. (35) A series of constitutional conferences in the 1980s involving governments and Aboriginal representatives was unable to define Aboriginal rights, but the process of determining these rights was encouraged by numerous Court decisions and by deliberations sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations. A 1991 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples working group recommended a guaranteed procedure for Aboriginal representation in the House of Commons, but the 1993 Royal Commission`s final report recommended an Aboriginal Parliament or “House of First Peoples” with the power to review laws or veto Aboriginal people. In the meantime, the creation of voters (or “riding”) with small, predominantly Aboriginal populations has increased the chances of Aboriginal people becoming MPs. For example, the creation of Nunatsiaq in the former Northwest Territories virtually guaranteed the election of an Inuit representative. (36) In 1998, the Aboriginal Canadian Action Plan, a response to the Royal Commission report, contained a declaration of reconciliation. (37) By incorporating self-identification into its administrative formula for defining an Aboriginal person, Australia is closer to Norway or Sweden than to countries such as Canada and the United States, where definitions and access to programs are based on registered ancestry. The focus on registration in Canada and the United States reflects a long history of federal involvement in Aboriginal affairs, but has created problems of exclusivity. What is remarkable is that in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada, the Aboriginal population is younger and growing faster than the general population. The Norwegian state is based on the territory of two peoples – the Norwegians and the Sami. The history of the Sami is closely linked to that of the Norwegians.
Today, we deplore the injustices that the Norwegian state has committed in the past against the Sami people through a hard-line Policy of Norway. The Norwegian nation therefore has a solemn responsibility to establish relations with rights so that the people of Samois are able to build a strong and viable society. It is an ancient right, based on the colonization of the Sami in their regions, which goes back a long way in time. (58) International comparisons in the area of Aboriginal affairs are difficult to establish. The nature of the available data and the history of non-Aboriginal Aboriginal relations vary considerably from country to country. However, as Australia is not the only country currently facing problems related to aboriginal affairs, it is possible that Australia can learn a great deal from overseas experience. The following country profiles have been summarized to help the reader easily compare these experiences.