The Treatment of Indigenous People in Canada
Although Canada was established on the lands that have belonged to Aboriginal peoples for centuries, the percentage of indigenous people on the territory of the country is currently very low. The history of Indigenous people in Canada is inherent in the history of the country because the first European settlers of North America oppressed indigenous peoples when establishing their laws on these territories. The inequality and cultural assimilation imposed on indigenous people in Canada started with colonization and continues now, as the aftermath of continuous discrimination unveils multiple disparities in justice, healthcare, education, and other spheres.
The establishment of Canada as a state was based on the oppression of Indigenous peoples. According to Neylan (2018), “Indigenous peoples’ place in the national narrative of the “birth” of Canada has been minimized and viewed as peripheral to the dominant culture’s stories” (para. 17). Thus, dominating settlers initiated policies that outlawed native populations. Historically, the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada has been viewed at the intersection of governmental policies and education. Indeed, the initiation of residential schools for Indian children was a case of intentional cultural assimilation, which was conducted in the form of cultural genocide (Lozinski, 2020). Children were taken away from their families to be so-called ‘educated’ in residential schools where they were forced to abandon their cultural identities and language, as well as were subject to abuse. In such a manner, the government tried to kill Indians in children to eliminate the possibility for the Indigenous population to survive and maintain their ethnicity in the future.
The schools functioned for many decades, with the last one closed only in the 1990-s, followed by the reconciliation procedures. Soon after the last schools were closed, the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation was initiated, and the governmental authorities apologized for the genocide committed against Indigenous people. However, since the survivors of those inhumane policies are still alive and the aftermath is still evident in society, Indigenous people continue to be treated as inferior to the dominating white population.
The demographic characteristics are the illustrative data that proves this argument. According to Sawchuk (2020), “in 2016, 1,673,785 people reported an Indigenous identity, making up 4.9 per cent of the Canadian population” (para. 4). At the same time, approximately 50% of the Indigenous population are unemployed, 19% live in unrepaired dwellings, and their life expectancy is 10-15 years shorter in comparison to the non-Indigenous population (Sawchuk, 2020). Therefore, the quality of life of this underrepresented social group is low, which demonstrates the adverse impact of decades of deliberate genocide and oppression.
Moreover, the discrimination that persists across various sectors in the country diminishes the opportunities for Indigenous people to improve the quality of their lives. Indeed, since this population commonly resides in remote areas and experience low-income issues, they are exposed to food insecurity. According to Sawchuk (2020), “in 2019, 48 per cent of First Nations households did not have enough income to cover their food expenses” (para. 15). The same level of disparities is observed in criminal justice, where Indigenous people comprise over 20% of imprisoned population, while their percentage in the overall Canadian population is about 5% (Sawchuk, 2020). This observation indicates that first Nations are exposed to institutional and systematic discrimination, which persists over centuries and is currently experienced by this population.
The present state of the situation is characterized by systemic racism, injustice in the criminal system, social inequality, and discrimination against Indigenous people. The unrest of this population manifested through “the grassroots Idle No More movement (2012-present), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-2015), and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2016- present)” demonstrates the current situation (Neylan, 2018, para. 8). These events demonstrate that Indigenous people are not satisfied with governmental actions aimed at the recognition of their equal status. They lack support in the legislative field, which ultimately disrupts the quality of their social lives. Inequality in education and health access, biased crime investigations, and overrepresentation of the Indigenous population in prisons show that much needs to be done at a national legislative level to provide equality and respect to these people.
Conclusively, as the overview of the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada demonstrates, despite minor legislative actions in place addressing the needs of this minority population, their life is subject to prejudice and unequal treatment. The history of establishing Canada as a state was built on the principles of settlers’ cultural, social, and legal dominance over the Indigenous population. Official documents and government policies aimed to kill Indians in people, and children, in particular, to eliminate the problem with Indigenous peoples. Despite years after the proclamation of Reconciliation, little has changed. Indigenous people continue to experience discrimination, inequality, and disparities in healthcare, education, food security, dwelling, and justice. Therefore, it is imperative for Canada to revise its legislature to recognize Indigenous people as lawful and respected members of society.
Lozinski, P. (2020). What it’s like to live as an Indigenous person in Canada in 2020. Prince Albert Daily Herald. Web.
Neylan, S. (2018). Canada’s dark side: Indigenous peoples and Canada’s 150th celebration. Origins, 11(9). Web.
Sawchuk, J. (2020). Social conditions of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Web.