The federal government will sign detailed "relationship" agreements Tuesday with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami that will outline how Ottawa intends to involve them in addressing their main concerns in areas such as land claims, housing and education.
Less-detailed policy accords will also be signed with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Native Women's Association.
The Métis and Inuit groups are especially happy, as both have struggled to get the government to focus on aboriginal issues other than first nations living on reserve.
Talks are ongoing on the details of Tuesday's meeting, including the possibility of an announcement related to a settlement on the issue of residential schools.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine has suggested his organization would withdraw from the general policy discussions if there is no firm resolution on residential schools. Sources say the government is more likely to spell out a pledge to continue negotiations.
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who has led detailed talks with the AFN in recent weeks, appears to have bought the government some time.
Mr. Fontaine said in an interview he is satisfied with the progress on the issue and believes a deal will soon be reached, although likely not by Tuesday.
"Why we're prepared to engage in further discussions is to make sure we get it right," he said. He noted the file is complex, given that former students are fighting for compensation on several fronts, including class-action lawsuits.
Prime Minister Paul Martin and over 20 of his ministers are expected to meet with representatives from the five aboriginal groups at Tuesday's gathering in Ottawa.
Officials are concerned the ministers may have to leave the meeting to vote in the House of Commons because the Conservatives have an opposition day on Tuesday, and could move a motion of no-confidence or attempt to embarrass the government in some way.
The closed-door meeting is the culmination of over a year of "round table" discussions between Ottawa and aboriginal groups on six areas: accountability, economic opportunities, health, lifelong learning, negotiations and housing.
In a recent interview, Mr. Scott insisted the round-table process will produce major changes, but suggested large funding announcements will not come until a first ministers' meeting of the Prime Minister and premiers this fall.
"I believe we are going to turn a page," Mr. Scott said. "I believe the retreat will cause the national aboriginal organizations and the government of Canada to make decisions and agreements and share a vision that will, from a relationship point of view, be historic. The retreat is a first step in that relationship. This isn't an end."
Mr. Scott said real change must involve the provinces since they are involved in "practically everything you can think of," such as housing, education and health care.
Russell Diabo, an Ottawa-based native policy adviser, said the government appears to be placating aboriginal groups with commitments to continue or increase funding, but that most aboriginals will see little change.
"Unless there's some real, fundamental changes in policy and fundamental increases in funding, I can't see them changing things on the ground," he said.
Mr. Diabo said it also appears Ottawa is moving to shift some of its traditional responsibilities for aboriginals to the provinces.
Clement Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, said the framework deals will soon produce results because they commit federal officials to sit down and negotiate detailed programs and policies to address existing needs. "It's a significant step forward," he said.