September 1995



Important changes were made to Canada's Indian Act on June 28, 1985, when Parliament passed Bill C-31, an Act to Amend the Indian Act. Bill C-31 brought the Act into line with the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The three principles that guided the amendments to the Indian Act were:

In addition to bringing the Indian Act into accord with the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill C-31 expanded band control over membership and community life, enabling Indian people to take an important step toward self-government.

The Indian Act, passed in 1876, combined all existing policies affecting Indians and outlined the responsibilities of the federal government, established by the British North America Act of 1867.

The Indian Act was subject to frequent legislative fine-tuning and amendments. However, until the 1985 amendments, its basic features remained the same from 1867 to 1985.


Registration (Status)

Band Membership

New By-law Powers




All status Indians including those newly registered as a result of Bill C-31 are eligible to apply for post secondary education assistance through DIAND and are eligible for non-insured health services through Health and Welfare Canada. This applies to b oth on-reserve and off-reserve Indians.

The federal government provides programs and services to Indians living on reserve much as provincial and municipal governments provide programs and services for other residents. For people living on reserve, the federal government provides funds for hou sing, elementary and secondary education, health services and social assistance, most of which are delivered by bands or tribal councils.

DIAND has undertaken to meet the additional cost of providing these programs and services to people who gained status as a result of the 1985 amendments.


A review of the impacts of Bill C-31 was submitted to a Parliamentary Committee in June 1987. A study, Impacts of the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act (Bill C-31), was tabled in the House of Commons on December 19, 1990.

This is one of a series of information sheets produced by the Communications Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. For information sheets on other topics, or for copies of the Report to Parliament on the Implementation of the 1985 Changes to the Indian Act, or copies of the study, The Impacts of the 1985 Amendments to the Indian Act (Bill C-31), contact:

The Department of Indian Affairs
and Northern Development
Public Enquiries Kiosk
Ottawa, Ontario

Telephone: (819) 997-0380


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