In this paper it is argued that First Nations1 jurisdiction over social policy is critical to their real autonomy and self-government. Jurisdiction over social policy is a key indicator of the extent to which peoples as collective entities control their social and cultural destinies. The paper first provides a brief history of the First Nations' loss of control over social policy using social assistance as a case example and highlighting what were defining moments when the jurisdictional issue came to the fore. The importance of having jurisdiction over social policy is then argued using Quebec as an exemplar. Next, the paper explores the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its importance in supporting jurisdiction over social policy. This is followed by a discussion of the complexity of acquiring jurisdiction because of issues embedded in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the constitutional division of powers and the Indian Act (1951,1985). The paper concludes by offering solutions, some within today's de facto arrangements between Canada and First Nations and others that would fundamentally alter the relationship between them.

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Journal Canadian Journal of Native Studies
Citation
Shewell, H.E.Q. (2016). Why jurisdiction matters: Social policy, social services and First Nations. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 36(1), 179–202.