By Doug Whitlow BA – The Canadian Government and visa-vie, the non-native Canadian public have a legal system which is inherently unjust towards indigenous people. This unjust legal system is not an accident of human nature or of political will. This unjust legal system is a by-product of the Canadian Indian Assimilation Project which had
By Doug Whitlow BA – The Canadian Government and visa-vie, the non-native Canadian public have a legal system which is inherently unjust towards indigenous people. This unjust legal system is not an accident of human nature or of political will. This unjust legal system is a by-product of the Canadian Indian Assimilation Project which had its beginnings many years prior to 1867 when Canada was still under the care and control of the British Government.
When the Dominion of Canada was brought into being by the enacting of the British North America Act (BNA) Indians were declared a federal responsibility under Section 91, Subsection 24 “91(24)” by the term on “Indians and lands reserved for Indians”, which was the only term in the document which a direct reference to Indians and which clearly set Indians apart from other all other Canadians. This brief mention in the BNA also separated the administration of Indian lands from all other Crown lands.
In her book, Canada’s First Nations, 1992, Olive Dickason states that white people of the times and more importantly, the drafters of the BNA made such a minor reference to Indians as everyone in Canada expected that all Indians would eventually be completely assimilated. This view of the Indian situation at that time was reinforced by Sir John A. MacDonald in 1887 when MacDonald stated that “there was nothing in the Indian’s way of life that was worth preserving”. MacDonald went on to say that “the great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion, as speedily as they (the Indians) are fit to change”.
Today, in the year 2018, the Canadian Indian Assimilation Project remains alive and well and is being administered by the Liberal Party of Canada and the Party’s Leader, the Canadian Prime Minister. Certain people then point out all the benefits like welfare; some Indian owned and operated schools and businesses; and reserves which have good roads and potable water and say that these would not be there if it weren’t for benefits doled out from the offices and officers of the Federal Department (s) of Indian Affairs.
These people, some also being indigenous, will also point out that one or more of their own is heading up some Federal Minister’s Office in Ottawa and say that these Federal Ministers are doing things which are favorable to indigenous people and (really understand) the despicable plight of native people everywhere. What these people will not tell anyone is that the Indian politicians are bound by Liberal Party Guidelines and are thus extremely limited in what they (Indian politicians) can do on behalf of indigenous people.
In the last few weeks in the province of Saskatchewan, the indigenous population of Canada has once again came face to face with the ugly, but familiar face of exactly how unjust the Canadian Legal System can be and in most cases, is; toward indigenous people. The latest case of what many indigenous people see as an example of injustice was the Saskatchewan farmer who was found not guilty in the shooting death of a young indigenous man in 2017. However; harsh as this may seem to some people, the fact is, is that this is what occurs in many instances when a non-native jury gets to decide the fate of a non-native person charged with a serious crime against an indigenous person in the Canadian Legal System.
When legal issues like this arise, both indigenous and non-indigenous people have a tendency to blame the legal system. However; history shows that the real culprit in cases like this is not the Canadian legal system; it is, in fact, the Canadian Federal Government which, (ever since 1867 when Canada became an Independent part of the British Commonwealth through the instituting of the British North America Act) instituted the Assimilation Project throughout the Dominion of Canada. It may also come as a shock to many new and old Canadians that the Assimilation Project has never been legally repealed by the Federal Government and is alive and well even as these words are being written and read by you the reader.
The Assimilation of Canada’s indigenous population has been a priority of every single Canadian Primes Minister since 1867 and remains a big part of the current Liberal Party and their leader in Ottawa. Canadian history very clearly shows how men such as the late Duncan Campbell Scott and the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau did their level best to eradicate the indigenous people of Canada not so much through actually killing every indigenous person in the country; but by doing their best to assimilate everyone by taking away the legal rights of all indigenous people. Duncan Campbell Scott did not leave any family heirs to carry on his assimilative practices, but Pierre Trudeau did and now we see Justin Trudeau promising much in the way of (doing the right thing) towards indigenous people but actually doing almost nothing in the way of positive, concrete action for good.
In a recent newspaper article Prime Minister Trudeau stated that he and his government had (failed so far) in regard to Canada’s Indigenous people and he was right. However; it is the assertion of this writer that Trudeau was, in reality, talking to his cabinet and meant that he had personally not accomplished anything positive along the lines of continuing the assimilation practices of his predecessors. One good local example of how dysfunctional and unjust the Federal Government is toward the Six Nations Iroquois people is in the; Add to Reserve Process or (ATR). Here the Reserve lands once stretched all the way from Lake Erie to Dundalk, Ontario and compromised about one million acres of land. Most of those hundreds of thousands of acres have been lost through outright theft, bad sales, squatters and other means.
When the local government (Band Council) goes out and buys back a portion of our stolen land, the Canadian Government Insists that the land can only be ‘Added to’ and ‘Not Returned Outright’ to the current Six Nations of the Grand River land base. The feds insist that land must be returned through the Ten Year Plus Add to Reserve Process which means that the Six Nations Iroquois will not receive title to the land until some unknown point of time in the future. When a non-indigenous person buys a portion of our stolen or lost land; that non-indigenous landowner gets to begin using his land right now. The ATR is one of the biggest and costliest and completely unjust examples of injustice towards Indigenous people in Canada and our local government appears to allow this injustice to continue.
The two instances of outright discrimination of indigenous people mentioned here are just a very small example of how the Federal Government views and treats indigenous people while always carrying on and on about how we (the federal government) must do more to improve the life of each and every indigenous person in the country. It doesn’t even matter which Political Party is in control in Ottawa as every consecutive government since Canada became a country has acted exactly like its predecessors when it comes to dealing with indigenous people.