The Aboriginal Rights series consists of 10 subseries arranged by subject, based on supplied subject titles. Materials were created between 1939 and 2012. This series contains research, background material, and government publications on aboriginal peoples in Canada and the Indian Act. Overall, this series addresses two main issues: first, equal status rights for aboriginal men and women, and second, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Additional topics include: aboriginal self-government, aboriginal women’s groups, amending the Indian Act for discrimination, the effect of the constitution on aboriginal rights, interpretation of history, land claims and land development, inheritance and estate administration for people who live on reserves, a scandal surrounding corruption at Petroglyph Provincial Park in Ontario, aboriginal rights in respect to Quebec sovereignty, solidarity between bands and nations, government relations and policies with respect to various aboriginal groups, bands, and nations, Elijah Harper effectively ending the Meech Lake Accord, and missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The fight for the equal rights of aboriginal women was largely spearheaded by Mohawk activist Mary Two-Axe Earley from Kahnawake, Quebec, who fought for aboriginal equality issues in band politics and with the federal government. Under the Indian Act, aboriginal women lost their Indian status if they married a man who did not have status, however a woman would gain status if she married an aboriginal man who held status. If a woman married a man from a different band they would lose their band status. Court cases fighting to amend the Indian Act so that status could not be taken away were appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, fought by Mary Two-Axe Early, Jeannette Lavell, Yvonne Bedard, and Vivian Corbiere Lavell. Marguerite Ritchie and the HRI supported these court cases and offered research aid. Marguerite Ritchie also counted Mary Two-Axe Earley as a personal friend. After the courts amended the Indian Act so as not to discriminate against women, activism continued to change band policies that allowed male band leaders to refuse to accept women back onto reserves even if they had status.
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples reviewed the relocation of Inuit families from the Quebec coast of Hudson’s Bay to the high arctic in Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay in the early 1950s. The Royal Commission was called after the children of the relocated Inuit families accused the government of wrongdoing and asked for compensation. The Commission looked into the alleged reasons for the relocations including claims that the Inuit faced starvation and claims that the Cold War era government wanted people living in the high arctic so they would have a stronger land claims. The Commission also gathered testimony on the RCMP officers who oversaw the relocations and the town store for instances of exploitation or wrongdoing. Royal Commissions do not lay charges against those they feel have committed wrongdoings. The HRI and Marguerite Ritchie felt the Royal Commission did not have a high enough standard of proof for testimonies given and that the government, Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, and the RCMP were being misrepresented to and by the Commission. Bent Gestur Sivertz, Commissioner of the Northwest Territories at the time of the relocations, maintained throughout that the Inuit who were relocated were happy and healthy and fared better in the long run than many of the Inuit who had not been relocated. Historian Gerard Kenney wrote a book entitled “Arctic Smoke and Mirrors” based on the government’s archive from the period, supporting the position of the HRI and Marguerite Ritchie and dismissing charges that the relocations were related to Cold War land claims. Marguerite Ritchie believed the Inuit who asked for a Royal Commission to be called were only trying to receive monetary compensation and did not have substantiated claims. Marguerite Ritchie was a personal friend of Bent Gestur Sivertz. This series contains significant documentation and testimony from the government perspective on the relocations, but does not address Inuit claims in significant detail.