The term Aboriginal Peoples came into use in 1982 when the Government of Canada patriated the Canadian Constitution, and in so doing, formally entrenched Aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the supreme law of Canada as seen below.
“35(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal people in Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.
(2) In this Act, “Aboriginal Peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada.
(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1), “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.
(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”
The term Aboriginal Peoples literally comes from subsection (2) of section 35 of the Constitution when it identifies and includes: the Indian, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada.
The Government of Canada was looking for a way to describe descendants of the original Indigenous Peoples and decided the term Aboriginal Peoples would be the best term to use.
It should be noted that although the term Aboriginal Peoples is the constitutionally correct term, research should be undertaken ahead of time to avoid mistakes on how or when to use Aboriginal Peoples as some communities may prefer to be called something else, such as First Nations.
Other considerations about how or when to use the term Aboriginal Peoples to describe a group of Peoples should include an understanding of the diversity of your audience. If you are speaking to a group that includes Indian and Métis Peoples, for example, then the usage of the term would be appropriate as it is an inclusive term. On the other hand, if you were meeting directly with a First Nation then I would consider using that term.
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