At the end of the twentieth century, Canadians find themselves caught in a dilemma over Aboriginal affairs. We have inherited a legal structure and bureaucracy that is rooted in the policies of the nineteenth century, with their racist assumptions about "primitive" people that most Canadians no longer find palatable. In some regions, we have a legacy of treaties that are interpreted by Natives to mean one thing and by non-Natives to mean another. And we have the thorny central issue of Aboriginal rights. Do Native people have special rights because they were here before the European colonizers? Is our society to be based on the philosophy of equal rights for individuals, or on the philosophy of different rights for different groups or collectivities? How can we best negotiate the answers to these questions?
Clearly, the issue of future government policy for Aboriginal affairs is one that strikes at some fundamental questions of the nature of Canadian society.