Do you know of the cultural genocide of Indigenous people of Canada? This is a tale of the dark side of Canadian History.
Thousands of years before the colonization took place, the national indigenous people now inhabited the land. However, historically, the treatment of indigenous people by the government has made them outsiders in their own nation.
“Peace, order and good government” The Canadian motto seems to have failed the indigenous people of the province. Even the House of Parliament of Canada is located in the traditional territory of Algonquin.
Modern times and better access to knowledge birthed awareness about indigenous peoples’ suffering. Thus, giving rise to movements and protests aiming to make the conditions better for the first people.
Awareness movements –
- by idle no more
Awareness initiatives started getting more recognition in the last half-century. There has been a rapid rise in the number of organizations in the support of indigenous people. The Government has begun recognition of the first people and their rights, new treaties have been made, also some crucial legal amendments have been made in the constitution.
The government amendments have not been achieved easily. In the last half-century, there has been one after another press assistance and protests. One of the recent protests includes the Idle No More movement that started in 2012 and is still currently going on.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-2015) admitted the faults of previous Canadian leadership’s in securing the safety of the indigenous population. One of the most important events was the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2016-present). It shook the nation to its core by the horror that was unleashed in the form of truth.
In 2017 a nationwide celebration was announced for the 150th celebration of Canada’s anniversary as a nation. However, according to the indigenous populace of the nation, the idea of the nation existed long before the European colonization which led to the government of now.
The deletion of indigenous People of Canada
- by the guardian
First nation people, Inuit group & Métis are three different variations of indigenous groups recognized by the Canadian constitution.
The first nation people are mentioned in the constitution of Canada as aboriginal people or historically known as “Indians”.
At present, it is considered rude to use aboriginal or Indian terms however, indigenous and the first people are acceptable terms.
Have you ever heard of Eskimos? Well, the term is not used now. Inuk for a single person and Inuit as a multiple is used to address. These are the people who originally came from the arctic region of North America.
The last kind is the mixed-bloods, which originated as the cause of mingling between Europeans and indigenous people. The fur trade facilitated marriages and cultural blending between the two.
The slow yet systematic erosion
While indigenous people inhabited the areas of their tribes only, their population density at that time was not as it is now. What you need to know to understand the statement is, presently, the first people of the nation make up barely 4.9% of the nation’s population.
In 1867, the new nation may have been established, however, the policies and treaties by the Europeans considering the indigenous population were adopted just as. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the treaty of Niagara in 1764, indicated that indigenous lands could not be usurped without their consent.
The treaties provided a measure of sovereignty to the first people. The Canadian government seemed to include the treaties in its constitution in theory, in practice, actions were a major contradiction to the same. Let me give you an example for clarification.
Sir John A. Macdonald, the very first prime minister of the nation, proposed a national policy. This policy focused on the migration of the indigenous populace in western regions, away from their homelands. It creates a stark contrast from the written policy of offering a measure of sovereignty to the first people.
The Indian reserves were supposed to be protected land areas, specifically under the Dominion of indigenous tribes. These areas weren’t really offered the protection as mentioned, rather, the government sliced it bit by bit while offering minimum value for these land pieces. Most of the land pieces were sold to private sectors for mining and other purposes. The original inhabitants, the indigenous communities of the region weren’t offered proper reparations.
The Indian Act:
- by medium.com
A significant amount of amendments were done in the policy of the nation through this Act. It was a compilation of all the regulations relating to the first people.
The Act came into effect in 1876. It was an imposition without any input from the indigenous populace. The Act brought the first people into the regulations of the nation, without their consent.
While the name of the Act has been to “Indigenous & Northern Affairs Canada”, it is still under effect presently.
It started with keeping the “Indians”(first nation people) under its effect. However, I’m 1939, it extended to include the Inuit people(formerly called the Eskimos) under itself.
The Indian Act was a move to supposedly “assimilate indigenous people into the Canadian way of life”. While the statement itself seems innocuous enough, the meaning behind it is what you need to understand.
Crushed culture and suffocated sovereignty
- by history.com
First came the regulations of entry into indigenous reserves, then came “indigenous agents” that monitored the activities of indigenous people.
The regulations were so harsh that it seems as if it was designed to crush any sovereignty and cultural identity that separated them from other Canadians.
For no apparent reason, even some cultural events, as well as Indigenous apparels, were banned. The apparel of the indigenous individuals was the identifying mark of their free lifestyle.
Potlatch, an ancient cultural custom of the first people was restricted. Hunting and fishing by the indigenous people were banned as well. If you can see the hints and the traps closing in on the first people, it was a cleverly designed way to suffocate the indigenous culture.
The bans were the governments’ way of imposing severe restrictions. While the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was included in the Canadian constitution offered the indigenous people sovereignty in their areas, the Indian Act brought restrictions.
Indigenous communities were regulated through the hereditary hierarchy from ancient times. The new system forced the communities to follow the western system of governance, which was under the direct control of the Canadian government.
This went against the supposed sovereignty offered by the nation. Indigenous people lost their freedom of self-governance or independence. Let me tell you of the true picture behind the Canadian peaceful governance motto. The indigenous people weren’t offered even the right to vote before 1960.
You need to understand that the nation was established back in 1867. It took almost a century for the government to even offer a choice in the governance selection to the first people of the nation. They weren’t even considered Canadians legally until that time.
Status erasure & “Indian-ness”
- by history.com
The status of “Indian” or the minority rights offered to them could be removed at any moment through the Indian Act.
The nature of the “Indian” heritage was enforced with a heavy gender bias. Any Indigenous woman, marrying a non-Indigenous person, automatically lost their “Indian” status.
“Indianness” was considered a patriarchal trait by the Indian Act. At least 100,000 people have recently reapplied for their lost indigenous status to the government.
If you want me to summarise it, the Indian act policy aimed at it is the indigenous identity that separated them from the rest of the Canadians in its entirety.
It was a cleverly plotted slow systematic genocide of culture.
This is not a biased review of an author, to prove my point, let me quote the exact words of the deputy superintendent of internal affairs for Canada between 1913 to 1932.
Duncan Campbell, the aforementioned deputy, declared in his speech given in 1920 “I want to get rid of the Indian problem.. our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question and no Indian Department”
- by Truth and reconciliation commission of Canada
Let me take you on a journey to the dark side of Canadian history. Unreasonable restrictions were enforced by its government on the indigenous population. A cruel plan targeting the children of the first people communities, separating them from their families.
Masked under the veil of education while in truth progressing in the front of cultural assimilation.
In a rough count around 150,000 children were forced to attend 132 schools over the time before the system was banned in the ending period of the 20th century.
The curriculum of the school was about giving the most basic and least possible education to the children focusing more than enough time on activities such as saving farming wood chopping or even laundry.
A systematic cultural Assimilation
This was a system that had been used for a long time by European colonization efforts. Back then, it was used by missionary schools to assimilate the mixed heritage kids into European culture.
It was a way of assimilation that brainwashed the future generation into compliance. Attendance in the Indian school by the status Indian kids were made mandatory Richmond the indigenous people had no choice rather than to comply.
Another way to see the same situation is that their kids were taken from their homes, without their consent or even a choice. The schools were not about education while education was of course provider even if an elementary level, it was about assimilation.
The children were kept away from their communities. The traditions and customs of indigenous people transferred from generation to generation for thousands of areas were cut off. Drastically underfunded and crowded, the system never intended to provide good education. Separating the kids from their traditions at a young age and keeping their growth stunted, created a rift between old customs and new generations.
According to the report by the truth and reconciliation commission of Canada, more than 3200 kids lost their lives to neglect and abuse during this time. There were cases of abuse and rape as well. The last of those schools closed functioning during 1996. And only then did people started understanding the true depth of damage done by the system.
The people that studied in those schools refer to themselves with the term “residential school survivor”. While a healing fund may have been issued, and an apology by former prime minister Stephen Harper. It was all a little too late.
Two faces of Canadian politics
- by burlington gazzette
Canada is known as a multicultural, tolerant, and peaceful country. It has successfully included French and British culture in itself, without damaging the other.
It is a place known for welcoming immigration policy, no matter the origin of the immigrant. However, when it comes to the policies related to the indigenous people, the nation and people seem uncomprehending to the clear suffering of its indigenous populace.
The welcoming visage of the maple leaf countrymen is a stark contrast to the indigenous culture genocide causing its darker past.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission if Canada aimed to start the process of reconciliation between indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Unless the citizens of Canada accept the dark past behind them, and the fact their present comforts lie on the backs of oppressed indigenous masses, the rift will not heal.
Major problems faced by Indigenous people of Canada:
- by winningpress.com
The healthcare system present in the Indian Reserve is of barely passable standard. The system suffers from overcrowding and lack of maintenance.
Some steps have been taken to improve the health of indigenous people but the situation has not improved by much.
If you study a bit deeper into it, you will come through see the correlation between, lower-income, social oppression, and a higher rate of sickness.
Indian residential school system and its aftermath continue to haunt the indigenous psyche to this day.
The school system was so oppressive and elementary that around 33.6 % of indigenous Canadians are identified to lack any secondary education.
Overcrowded living conditions-
Indigenous people have suffered overcrowded and inadequate living conditions for so long that it can now be picturized as a common site in their dwellings in Canada. In 2011, a report on terrible living conditions suffered by the indigenous communities came to international attention.
It successfully drew the attention of the United Nations and even foreign entities. The report declared that around 44.2 % of people who stay in Indian reserves suffer living in dwellings that are usually in need of extreme repairs. Due to continued government oversight, the conditions kept getting worse.
There is a 25% income gap to this date between indigenous and non-indigenous people. Low income is one of the major obstacles that the indigenous population face. Its cause can be traced back to the residential school system and the oppressive environment against the indigenous populace as well.
Every country has a past they are proud of, and a past that they desperately want to forget.
But know this, my friend, trying to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich is not the solution. Facing our demons and accepting the past is the first step to improving the present and building a better future.
With these thoughts, I end this blog here. I hope I have given you enough to contemplate.