The treatment of Aboriginal Peoples can be legally defined as ‘Genocide’

The Aboriginals of Canada lived a simple life which consisted of a strong connection to their land, strong cultural beliefs and respect for the natural resources. They carried on a simple lifestyle which revolved around spiritual practices of gathering food which was obtained through creeks, oceans, mountains, animals from land water and plains (Harry, 2009). Their cultural history lives on through stories, beliefs and spiritual practices. As well men and women lived in tight communities where both men and women had equality (Harry, 2009). Hence the different roles encompassed by both genders played an important role in survival and lifestyle. With the arrival of the Europeans into Canada, the Aboriginals were oblivious to the drastic changes that will soon be implemented.

The Indian act was introduced in 1876; the purpose of this act was an act that allowed the federal government to act like guardians for the aboriginals and outline what they could and could not do. The goal of this act was to assimilate the aboriginals into the mainstream society. Within this act there were many things that sparked controversy, for example status, mandatory attendance at Residential Schools, and excluded from commercial ventures. An Indian woman would lose her Indian status if she married anyone not considered an Indian. The loss of Indian Status through marriage to a non-Status man resulted in loss of income from her former band, again affecting her independence (Harry, 2009).Indian children were not allowed to attend public school till 1951. Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and lived in residential schools. The purpose of the residential schools was to assimilate them into the mainstream society and this could only be done once they were removed from their communities and culture. The residential schools were meant to promote self sufficiency by teaching aboriginal children to become farmers and laborers. These children were also forced to practice Christianity and if they failed to comply they were severely punished. The Indian act prohibited from Indians from selling agricultural products off the reserves. The purpose of this was to keep Indians dependents. Indians were not allowed to use mechanized farm or iron implements (Harry, 2009).They were also banned from slaughtering livestock for sustenance (Harry, 2009). An act that had a purpose to help out the aboriginals failed to do so. As of today the Indian Act has tried to make changes which will benefit the aboriginals but up till now this ongoing issue is yet to see the needs of Aboriginals being fully met.

Genocide: “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group” (dictionary.com). Upon reading this definition one can conclude that the difficult times faced by the aboriginals in Canada are no less than genocide. Aboriginals were being forced to depart from their culture and religion and adopt the mainstream culture. Even though the Canadian government did not go on a killing spree like the Holocaust but by forcing aboriginals to assimilate to the mainstream left these individuals with the same loss. By labeling this oppression of Aboriginal people an act of demystification will be appropriate because this will allow the aboriginal to accept what was done to them was wrong and not a fair way to treat humans. The Canadian government would be taking responsibility for their wrong doings and providing an explanation for their actions. As well this clarification plays an important role in society so other Canadians can understand what the Aboriginals faced. Many Canadians, like myself did not have much knowledge on who the Aboriginals were, how they were treated, and what was done many years ago still affects them as they continue to suffer as of today. By providing clarification it allows Canadians to understand the struggles faced by the Aboriginals, empathize with them and give them the respect and support they deserve.

By forcing children to attend residential schools and convert to Christianity is an act of eliminating the strong religion between the Aboriginals. By targeting young children and persuading them to depart from their culture was a way for the government to eliminate the religion at its root because eventually when these children grow up as Christians they will have no connection with their Aboriginal religion. By reading Patricia Monture’s opinion on the difficulties the Aboriginals face it can interpreted that her thoughts and feelings towards the Canadian government comply with the definition of genocide. Monture, a lawyer who is very familiar with the criminal code, shares her frustration on the injustice faced by the Aboriginals through the hands of the Canadian Government. Monture, who herself is a Mohawk woman talks about the inequality faced by the Aboriginal woman in Canada and is growing impatient with the Canadian Law as a solution to problems to their problems (Comack, 2006).

In my opinion, what the aboriginals went through is nothing else than a genocide. Even though the last residential school was shut down in 1996, as of today the Aboriginals are still struggling to live a normal life. I really encourage the school districts, to teach kids at a young age the importance of the struggles the Aboriginals went through because of the Canadian government. When I was in high school, we briefly talked about residential schools but it wasn’t until University I learnt about their struggles in depth. I also believe the Canadian government needs to make changes to the Indian act, which will conform to the needs of the Aboriginal society.

Works Cited
Comack, E. (2006). Locating Law. Black Point: Fernwood Books.
Harry, K. (2009). The Indian Act & Aboriginal Women’s Empowerment: What Front Line Workers Need to Know. Battered Women’s Support Service, 1-28.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “The treatment of Aboriginal Peoples can be legally defined as ‘Genocide’

  1. This is an interesting post.

    I think that we need to examine concepts like ‘simple life’ in relation to discussions of aboriginal peoples. Pavlich (2011: 76), in his discussion of Durkheim’s perspective on the evolution of societies (from conditions of mechanical solidarity to conditions of organic solidarity), cautions us: “We should note that there are far-reaching dangers associated with this evolutionary view as grafted onto society, including the exclusionary imperialism that effectively imagines ‘primitive’ societies through European eyes, and casts them as simple others to complex, modern societies”.

    By what standard can we describe the cultural and social lives of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, pre-colonialism, as ‘simple’, as opposed to ‘different’?

    In terms of the question of genocide, I don’t think that it is helpful to use the dictionary.com definition. In point of fact, this definition is incorrect. The legal definition of genocide is governed by the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Article 2 of the Convention states:

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    • (a) Killing members of the group;
    • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    As you can see, the definition extends well beyond the notion of ‘deliberate killing’.