Author Archives: karngill

About karngill

Hi, my name is Karn Gill and im 18 years old. I enjoy playing many sports but tennis and basketball are my favorite. I graduated this year from PM and now attend Kwantlen.

Historical treatment of Aboriginal Canadians and Genocide

 

The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin. It can be defined as the destruction or elimination of a certain groups of people. In terms of the historical treatment of aboriginal people in Canada, it may not seem as genocide on the surface to most people, but to others more familiar with what occurred during this time, it’s indeed genocide because the Canadian government employed several harsh methods to oppress and eliminate aboriginal people.

When thinking of genocide most people assume the extreme forms, like the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda were millions of innocent people were killed. This is a misconception people hold, it is not only the mass killing of a certain groups of people, but there is a wide array of other acts that fall under genocide.  According to the United Nations definition of genocide, in addition to the killing of members of a group, it includes causing serious mental or bodily harm towards a group, preventing birth in a group, transferring children by force from the group and imposing conditions designed to physically destroy the group of people (Bolen, 2013). Aboriginal people in Canada faced a form of cultural genocide or ethnocide, as Andrew Woolford states in his article. (Woolford, 2009). It can be defined as cultural genocide because the Canadian government in a way wanted to eliminate the beliefs and traditions of aboriginal people and assimilate them into Canadian culture.

Naming the historical treatment of aboriginal people genocide would indeed be an act of demystification or clarifications. This is the case because it falls into several categories of the conventions definition. Firstly, it falls in the category of forcefully transferring children from their homes. This is the case because the government removed 20 000 aboriginal youth from their homes from 1960 to 1980, these children were eventually adopted by white families (Bolen, 2013). Although, this method of genocide does not employ the method of extreme killing, it is still genocide because the government is removing the future of a group to make sure it does not exist in the future. Secondly, the historical treatment fall under the conventions definition of genocide because, the Canadian government ignored the spread of tuberculosis in residential schools and did not provide significant health care to these children. There were also high levels of malnutrition at these residential schools. This is genocide because thousands of young aboriginal children were killed by disease and the government could have taken steps to reduce the spread of disease, but no action was taken. What the government did was an obvious example of disregard for human life. In addition to death at these residential schools, children were sexually, physically and mentally abused. There were also many children that committed suicide. Finally the government passed policies that starved aboriginal people to make room for immigration. This is genocide because several aboriginal died as a result of this policy and it was targeted towards a particular group. Although all these events did not involve direct killing they all constitute genocide because the goal was to eliminate a culture of people.

The outcome of naming these historic events genocide would be bitter-sweet for native communities, this is because it does not change what happen, but it shows the government is taking greater accountability for their horrific actions against innocent aboriginal people. In my opinion it should already be considered genocide because it falls under the UN definition of genocide, what is the point of having such a descriptive definition of genocide if you ignore event that clearly represent genocide. It is an embarrassment in my opinion that the UN has not recognized these events as genocide; Phil Fontaine and Bernie Farber should not have to write letters to the United Nations for this recognition. The United Nations definition either needs to be revised or the horrific treatment that aboriginal people faced should be recognized as the aboriginal genocide.

Monture would also employ the word genocide because after reading her work she takes a strong stance against the historical oppression of aboriginal people and parts of Canadian law. Several innocent people were killed after these targeted government actions to get rid of aboriginal people. She was previously a lawyer who is use to reading the criminal code, which is sets of rules that help govern society. Similarly the UN convention has an outline of what is considered genocide and the actions of the Canadian government clearly fulfil those categories, so Monture after looking at the definition of genocide would agree it was genocide.  To conclude, my belief is the events need to be recognized as genocide. There also needs to be more teachings in schools about what happen at these residential schools. I have taken several Canadian history courses that do not even mention aboriginal people or residential school experiences. There needs to be a greater inclusion in school curriculum’s of this oppression. To this day there is a negative perception towards aboriginal people from some members of society. The media plays a huge role in the thinking society has towards aboriginal people, for example several television programs portray aboriginal people as constantly intoxicated. This is an example of a prejudice or a pre-judgement people have towards aboriginal people before knowing them. Greater knowledge and education of aboriginal traditions and culture would improve this problem. I admit, I had this problem at one time but, after learning about their culture and talking to aboriginal friends the media portrayal of aboriginal people has been removed from my head.

Link – short video of aboriginal experiences at residential schools

References

Bolen, M. (2013, Oct 18). UN urged to declare Canada’s treatment of aboriginals ‘genocide’. The Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/18/genocide-first-nations-aboriginals-canada-un_n_4123112.html

Monture, P. (2006). Standing against Canadian law: Naming omissions of race, culture and gender. In E. Comack (Ed.), Locating law (2 ed., pp. 73-93). Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Woolford, A. (2009). Ontological destruction: Genocide and Canadian aboriginal peoples. Genocide Studies and Prevention4(1), 81-97. Retrieved from http://aboriginalhealingincanada.com/resources/4-1.1.woolford.pdf

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2 Comments

by | November 3, 2013 · 11:17 pm

The Charter of Québec Values is unjust and is currently a dark shadow on Canada. It represents governmental racism towards religious groups and clearly violates the freedom of conscience and religion, which is a key fundamental freedom under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 1 of the charter clearly outlines these rights and freedoms are guaranteed within reasonable limits. There is clearly no reasonableness to this proposed Charter of Values, because public servants are there to protect society and a piece of cloth on their head does not change anything.

This is just my opinion and I might be bias, because I wear a turban and want to join law enforcement. Proposed laws like the Charter of Québec Values make me think, have we truly cut down on racism. Racism by citizens is one thing but, when the government clearly practices racism it makes me wonder, have we really progressed away from racism, or is this Canada more similar to the Canada that implemented the Head Tax on Chinese immigration several years ago.

Now that I have outlined my perspective, I will shift my focus to Fuller and Finnis and incorporate several components from the class lecture. Lon Fuller would view the Charter of Québec Values as not a valid law. For Fuller law must reflect an internal morality, if it does not it is not law. (30) From this basis the Charter of Québec Values is morally wrong because it is not for the greater good of society and marginalizes certain religious groups. It’s morally wrong for the Quebec government to discriminate against certain people and set restriction which prohibit them express their religious values, while working as a public servants. If there is already a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the government has guaranteed those rights, it is morally wrong to make a law inconsistent to the previous law. Fuller would further argue that this charter does not have the force of law, because it is inconsistent with parts of his King Rex moral tale. For example the 6th failure of King Rex was, he enacts contradictory rules. This is relevant to the Charter of Québec Values because it is contradictory or opposing the basic principles of fundamental freedom in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  As I mentioned above the government cannot on one hand guarantee rights like freedom of religion and on the other hand implement the Charter of Quebec Values, it is a contradictory law.

Finnis on the other hand would further label the Charter of Quebec Values as not valid law. Finnis would do this because it does not further human flourishing. For instance, this charter can certainly cause unemployment for several religious public servants and limit them to thrive in life which in essence would suppress human flourishing (35). Finnis would additionally say it is not valid because it limits the value of religion and spiritual experience. The Quebec government is directly targeting religious beliefs and viewing these public servants as a threat to the public, even though they are peacefully practicing their spiritual beliefs. Finally Finnis would say it is not law because it reduces knowledge for its own sake, for example it decreases public knowledge of religion and increases ignorance in society. The public may not directly know why these public servants wear religious symbols or headwear and might view them as a threat if the government views them as a threat.

Although Fuller would argue it is not a valid law, the arguments of Finnis are much stronger because his seven forms of human flourishing directly included religion and spiritual experience in them. Finnis also provides a more effective way of determining what a just law is. A key weakness in Finnis’s work is he argues that sometimes it is important to follow an unjust law because the overall legal system does not become weak (36). In conclusion, the Charter of Quebec Values is unjust, both Fuller and Finnis would agree with some of the arguments I made above. It is unjust law because it’s not for the greater good of society and is not fair to religious and honest individuals working in the public sector.

Links:

Here is a link of  another attack on religion by the province of Quebec. The soccer federation wanted to ban turbans  from soccer.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-soccer-federation-reverses-turban-ban-1.1319350

Charter of Values

http://www.nosvaleurs.gouv.qc.ca/en/propositions/3

Sources:

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and society redefined . (pp. 30-36). Toronto : Oxford University Press.

3 Comments

by | September 22, 2013 · 6:08 pm